By Lynn R. Mitchell
Commemorating the 155th anniversary of the Pony Express, today’s Google doodle is a miniature version video game that takes the player through three legs of a Pony Express route. I found it easier to to work on the laptop than on my phone, dodging bandits, snow slides, boulders, trees, rivers … all the creation of animator Nate Swinehart. Along the way the rider picks up letters with a tally at the end of how many letters out of 100 were collected on the journey.
Google explained further (see 155th Anniversary of the Pony Express):
The notion of triumph through adversity is so inspirational. So when William H.Russell, Alexander Majors & William B Waddell founded the Pony Express on April 3rd, 1860, they set in motion a wonderful yet daunting method of communication. What a concept–riders with letters on horseback racing from California to Missouri and vice versa to deliver mail on time! True to their word, the first mail arrived on April 14th. The Pony Express felt like a great game concept to us at Google. We’ve made time-based games in the past so our new idea was simple. Collect letters, avoid obstacles and aim for the ultimate 100 letter delivery! We know everyone is busy these days but the Pony Express needs YOU. And ultimately, whatever happens in life, what’s more important than earning trust and respect from a horse?
Though the Pony Express was short-lived, lasting only 18 months before the telegraph put it out of business, it lives on as a symbol of the Wild West and a time when 80 young riders and 500 ponies delivered the mail over 1,800 miles of sometimes-hostile country.
As to the game, I only collected five letters while playing on my iPhone but increased that to half of the 100 letters the first go on my laptop, receiving applause from the horse I rode in on. Test your skills and may the google gods be with you.
See also a more in-depth article by Michael Cavna at the Washington Post (155th anniversary of Pony Express: the art of a letter-perfect Google Doodle game).