Fast Company

Did Google's Pac-Man Logo Gulp Millions of Hours of Lost Productivity?

How many man-hours were wasted on GoogleDoodle Pac-Man? According to calculations by the RescueTime blog, 4.8 million, with a very large price tag for employers.

google pacman

FTC--listen up: You should, nay, you must regulate Google. Not because of its monopolistic habits. Because of jokes like the Pac-Man logo last week. Seriously! It ate up millions of man-hours of time. Think of the economic impact!

The analysis of the probable impact of Google's celebratory (and actually rather wonderful) playable GoogleDoogle Pac-Man game last week has popped up on the RescueTime.com blog. The gaming Google Doodle was launched to commemorate Pac-Man's 30th birthday, and contained a full 256-level playable implementation of the arcade classic. It was delightful, clever, and fun.

And, according to the Rescue Time folk, a complete and utter distraction to many hard-working folk. Think about it: I know tens of friends and colleagues who were amused by it, who discovered the "insert coin" launch button next to the normal Google search window, and then played it for at least several minutes each--some a deal more than that. Multiply that up by billions of workers around the world, insert a little low-grade human laziness (those Jo Public's who'll have played it for an hour, and still clocked off at 5:30) and what you have is potentially a massive amount of lost man-hours.

RescueTime did the math, grounded on some very basic statistics, and totted-up a grand total of 4.8 million man-hours of time lost to Google Pac-Man. Assuming the average employee playing it had a business cost of $25 per hour, this amounts to over $120 million of revenue damage. Switching the hourly cost rate to that of the average Google employee pushes this figure up to nearly $300 million. I think RescueTime's math may even be conservative--people may only usually spend fractions of a minute on Google's home page, but discovering Pac-Man may have extended this significantly. Meaning the global economic knock-on may have been far more significant than you could imagine.

It's a subtle, but convincing argument. And when you add in news that Google's game misbehaved badly on Firefox browsers, resulting in such traffic to Mozilla's help servers that the entire system slowed down, it begins to seem like Google Pac-Man wasn't such an inert toy.

Except all of this is rubbish, of course. As that recent survey showed, being allowed to manage their own time and have free access to the Net is such a boon to workers that they'd even prefer these rights over higher pay (something management should note, as long as workers still deliver quality work on time). And a moment of genuine happiness spurred by discovering an unexpected trinket like the Google logo game will certainly have cheered up many a person's work day, and that can only have been good for productivity. So ignore naysayers, and throw a big power-pill in Google's direction as a thank you for Google Pac-Man.

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2 Comments

  • Jo Bo

    And RescueTime doesn't measure that might have been time spent texting, checking in with foursquare, etc.

    i.e. playing 1 level of Pac-Man may just have replaced some other equally non-productive activity that it couldn't measure on a computer, or does RescueTime run on smartphones? They calculated all the time spent on Pac-Man as time that would otherwise have been productive. Pretty big logical leap.

  • Giles Crouch

    Highly entertaining post...I might add that we did spend the first 100 years of the Industrial Revolution drunk on Gin as well. Cause we didn't know what to do with our free time. Then TV came along and we sat like daft mindless sponges watching soporific sitcoms and warbly soundtracks for about 50 years...