Why a Google Doodle is celebrating the iconic French game of pétanque today
Google is celebrating the quintessential French outdoor sport of pétanque with a special interactive Doodle on Sunday.
The game allows users to cast their boules with the click of a mouse, competing online either with their friends or random players around the world.
If you’ve been on holiday to France, the chances are you will have seen people playing pétanque at some point – here’s everything you need to know about the sport and today’s Google Doodle.
Pétanque is one of a group of boules sports which are popular in many European countries, as well as former French African and Asian colonies.
Their origins lie with the Ancient Greeks, who played their own games tossing flat stones and, subsequently, stone balls. The Romans then added a target ball, establishing the basic rules which endure to this day, before bringing the game to France.
In its modern form, pétanque has existed since 1907, when it originated in Provence, France.
Before this, a version of boules known as jeu provencal was popular after rising to prominence in the late 19th century, which involved players either rolling their boules or running three steps and then throwing them.
A café owner called Ernest Pitiot tweaked the rules of the game to remove the running element in order to make it accessible for his friend Jules Lenoir, who was affected by severe rheumatism.
Pitiot reduced the length of the pitch by roughly half, and had the players throwing their boules while remaining stationery.
It was originally known as “pieds tanques” (meaning “feet planted”), which eventually evolved to give the current name of “pétanque”.
The rules of the game remain simple: players throw, toss or toll their metal boules in a bid to finish closest to the target boule over a series of rounds, with the first team to reach 13 points victorious.
Opposing players can try and smash their opponents boules out of the way of the way of the target, a tactic known as “shooting”.
Pétanque is generally played on hard dirt or gravel – it is a familiar sight in town squares across France, but can also be played in dedicated arenas called boulodromes.
While best known as a leisure activity, the sport is also played competitively, with international tournaments between the world’s best players, such as the Mondial La Marseillaise in France and the La British Open in England.
How to play the pétanque Google Doodle
The Google Doodle give you the chance to immerse yourself into the lives of a series of anthropromorphic olives playing a game of pétanque, all set to a whimsical soundtrack (which you can mute if it becomes a bit much).
After a quick tutorial explaining its rules, players are given the chance to take to a baguette boulodrome and face off against friends or random opponents on the internet (or hone your skills in practice).
The controls, like the real-life game, are simple enough, with players using the mouse to drag and direct their toss towards the target.
However, like previous Google Doodle games such as the Rubik’s Cube and Pac Man, its addictive nature definitely has the potential to keep you occupied for most of the day.