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Google Maps: An 8-bit Adventure

As far as April Fools jokes go, Google’s bait-and-switch video of an 8-bit version of Google Maps must rank among the best.

A true MapQuest. Also, Dragons.

Check out the transformation for yourself by clicking on the Quests filter on Google Maps. (May be time limited.)

Spreading misinformation might have been good enough for most companies but not for for Google. They took the tomfoolery one step further, launching an actual Quest overlay across the Google Maps service, covering the virtual earth’s surface with 8-bit tile sets among other bouts of fan service, all inspired by the long-running Dragon’s Quest franchise.

Characters from the enduring Square-Enix series litter each continent. Slimes are taking up residence outside the publisher’s merchandise shop in Tokyo. There are reports of alien outbreaks stemming from Roswell and Area 51. Sasquatches and dragons roam free in the mountains. Troops of Google-employed doppelgangers mark their company’s expansive reach just outside each of their operations. The feeling is that either Google’s taken over the world or they’ve given their organizations priority for unique markers. And maybe it’s a bit of both.

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Perhaps most interestingly, the retro overhaul carries over into all kinds of national landmarks. It highlights the recognizable places that Maps is meant to check without ever leaving home. Further, the presentation even follows through in street view, with modified color filters transforming once familiar places into harder to look at versions of those places.

And there’s something intrinsically satisfying about viewing your neighborhood and natural surroundings through an 8-bit lens. It’s an almost surreal, connective experience. Google Maps uses familiar tech to give perspective of the palpable widespread influence of JRPGs on a literal global scale. Also, it’s just an amusing prank but that’s not to take away from the energy put into it.

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This promotion comes as a clever kind of cross-marketing that benefits both Square-Enix and Google but also draws consumers into using the service in the way it’s intended. And maybe that’s the real brilliance of this April Fools punch-line: either way, Google still wins.

The author of this fine article

is an Associate Editor at Thunderbolt, having joined in July 2007. Get in touch on Twitter @Calvin_Kemph.

Gentle persuasion

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