Today's Google Doodle - the daily, sometimes-interactive twist on the search engine's logo - offers up a handful of arcade mini-games to play with in your browser. They're simple novelties, but there's also an edit button on each one that allows you to tinker with them so you can plop down your own walls, enemies, switches and keys. The Doodle has been built to celebrate Jerry Lawson, a Black video game pioneer and the engineer who led the team that designed the first home video game console to use cartridges.
A post on the Google Doodle blog gives the background on the project and on Lawson's work at Fairchild Semiconductor in the 1970s. It was there that Lawson "led the development of the Fairchild Channel F system," explains the post. "This was the first home video game system console that featured interchangeable game cartridges, an 8-way digital joystick and a pause menu. The Channel F paved the way for future gaming systems like the Atari, SNES, Dreamcast and more."
After leaving Fairchild, Lawson founded VideoSoft, making it "one of the earliest Black-owned video game development companies."
Google worked with Lawson's children on the project and also produced this four-minute documentary about Lawson's life and career:
You can give the Doodle's games and editor a try yourself by visiting Google.com. There's a simple platformer, a Breakout clone, and other classic genres to play with. You can also switch the pixel art styles on the games to flip through different eras of design. It's a toy to mess around with, but it does let you make things without needing to learn a complicated interface or having to program.