It might not sound like a lot on first glance, but the 36 extra seconds that the average Google.com visitor spent there last Friday playing Pac-Man adds up to a massive 4.8 million of wasted hours.
According to a study by RescueTime, Pac-Man on Google--the playable version of the iconic game that the search giant replaced its home page logo with on Friday--cost the economy a total of 4,819,352 man-hours and a whopping $120,483,800 in lost productivity. As RescueTime put it, you could hire every single Google employee, including co-founders Larry Page, Sergey Brin, and CEO Eric Schmidt, and get them for six weeks for that much money.
Google's Pac-Man doodle
Still, it's hard to get too worked up over 36 extra seconds of time someone might have spent on Google. After all, how much time does the average person spend not doing work when other time-sucks come along, like presidential elections, sports championships, "Lost" finales, the death of celebrities like Michael Jackson, and so on. Clearly, that number is an average, and so it masks that fact that some people probably lost most of their day Friday to Google's remake of the 30-year-old game.
What's more interesting to me is how much time people lost because other people were playing Pac-Man, or because they couldn't figure out how to stop the game from running automatically and playing its theme music.
After I wrote about the release of the remake, I got a flood of e-mails from people complaining that they couldn't figure out how to shut off the game, and the music. Later in the day, Google modified the game so that the sound could be turned off, but before that happened, a lot of people certainly struggled with that. And some companies and government agencies surely had to figure out how to disable Google's home page because of policies banning game playing at work.
Still, I suspect that many, many more people had a great time with the Google experiment, and I bet even most businesses didn't mind too much. After all, having happy employees is a good thing.