The Game for Today!

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Whac-a-Mole (aka Gopher Bash!)

Today’s game is based on the popular arcade game Whac-a-Mole invented in 1971 by Aaron Fechter of Creative Engineering, Inc. Fechter designed the first Whac-a-Mole and sold it to a carnival operator who sold it to Bob Cassada (owner of Bob’s Space Racers). Fechter was a young inventor who didn’t realize the value of his new game and unfortunately didn’t patent his design.

Cassada understood the value of Fechter's game and trademarked the Whac-a-Mole name. Bob’s Space Racers copied Fechter’s game and even took molds off the pieces Fechter sculpted of the first Whac-a-Mole creatures. Cassada invited Fechter to the Bob’s Space Racers facility and asked him how the machines electronics, but Fechter refused to divulge the secrets behind the machines inner workings. Since Cassada already had a working machine, he was able to reverse engineer Fechter’s electronics too.

Ironically, Fechter later started entertainment pizza chain Showbiz Pizza Place with business partner Bob Brook. Their new company bought more Whac-a-Mole games than any other single customer.

Whac-a-Mole has remained popular throughout the years and can be seen at arcades around the world. In the 1990’s, Bob’s Space Racers introduced smaller versions for juniors and toddlers. In 2004, the company released a SE (special edition) model with updated graphics and moles wearing hardhats.

Bob’s Space Racers has also licensed Whac-a-Mole to other companies for production of consumer products. In 1999, Whac-a-Mole was released as an electronics board game by Toy Biz, now a division of Marvel Entertainment, Inc. In 2004, the game was released by Hasbro, Inc. There are also variations of Whac-a-Mole for cell phones, handheld video games, and home video games. Nintendo has even released versions for the Nintendo DS and Game Boy Advance platforms.

You can visit Bob’s Space Racers and see the Whac-a-Mole SE.

The phrase Whac-a-Mole (or Whack-a-mole) has also become a part of modern vocabulary meaning a repetitious and futile task. In the computer and networking industry, it is used to describe the occurrence of fending off persistent hackers or spammers. Each time the attacker is "whacked" or kicked off of a service, he only pops up again from another direction.

Whac-a-Mole is also used in the military to refer to opposing troops who keep re-appearing: Whack the mole here and it dies, but another pops up in a different spot. This use has been especially common in the Iraq War in reference to the difficulty of defeating the Iraqi insurgency.


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