The Google homepage Doodle for December 1 is a set of create-your-own games inspired by the late video game engineer, Jerry Lawson. As today would've been his 82nd birthday, the mini-games serve as a tribute to the man who led development on the first home video game system.
Not only is it an affecting tribute, it's also a frankly pretty cool way to introduce someone to game development. With how much people look forward to Google Doodles, and with some of the robust tools featured here, it's an easy and free way to show what developing games can entail.
In the games, users control an animated Lawson through a path checkered with milestones of his actual life, which includes more games they can play. Each game has its own style and can be edited, allowing them to customize the title as he would've done.
Additionally, each game was designed by guest artists Momo Pixel, Lauren Brown, and Davionne Gooden, all three of whom are people of color.
In a video from Google, both Brown and Gooden briefly walk through the creation of their own games, and show them sketching out their ideas before using the game's toolset to bring them to life. For both of them, the hope is that their games will further draw attention to Lawson's story and drive people to look up his contributions to the industry.
Lawson passed away in 2011 at the age of 70, and is often credited as a pioneer of the modern video game experience. In 1970, he led a 30-person team that created the Fairchild Channel F, which was the first home console to use interchangeable ROM cartridges, which would later become implemented in the Atari and Super Nintendo.
He was also one of the very few Black engineers in the tech industry at the time. Following his passing, USC Games established an endowment fund named after him in 2021, for the purpose of increasing the representation of Black and Indigenous developers in the game and tech industries.
During that same video, Lawson's son Anderson discussed how it was important for aspiring game developers of color to see the Doodle and be inspired to pursue a career in the industry.
"I hope that some little kid somewhere that looks like me and wants to get into game development, " he said, "hearing about my father's story makes them feel like they can."