Whac-A-Mole is an arcade redemption game. A typical Whac-A-Mole machine consists of a large, waist-level cabinet with five holes in its top and a large, soft, black mallet. Each hole contains a single plastic mole and the machinery necessary to move it up and down. Once the game starts, the moles will begin to pop up from their holes at random. The object of the game is to force the individual moles back into their holes by hitting them directly on the head with the mallet, thereby adding to the player's score.


Whac-A-Mole was 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's Space Racers. Fechter was a young inventor who didn't realize the value of his invention and therefore did not protect it with a patent. Bob's Space Racers even took molds off the pieces Fechter sculpted of the first Whac-A-Mole creatures. When Bob Cassada, founder of Bob's Space Racers, bought the game Fechter had built from the carnival operator, he invited Fechter to his facility and quizzed him about how the machine worked. Fechter refused to give up the electronic secrets that gave the game its timing sequence, but that was fairly easy for Cassada to get around, although with some loss of effectiveness. Fechter went on to start the entertainment pizza chain Showbiz Pizza Place with a Kansas businessman named Bob Brock. Their new company bought more Whac-a-Moles than any other single customer.


The mallet is approximately the size of a small bowling ball. The cabinet has a three-digit readout of the current player's score and, on later models, a best score of the day readout. The mallet is usually attached to the game by a rope in order to prevent patrons from walking away with it.

If the player does not strike a mole within a certain time or with enough force, it will eventually sink back into its hole with no score. Although gameplay starts out slow enough for most people to hit all of the moles that rise, it gradually increases in speed, with each mole spending less time above the hole and with more moles outside of their holes at the same time. After a designated time limit, the game ends, regardless of the skill of the player. The final score is based upon the number of moles that the player struck.

In addition to the single-player game described above, there is a multi-player game, most often found at amusement parks. In this version, there is a large bank of individual Whac-A-Mole games linked together, and the goal is to be the first player to reach a designated score, rather than hit the most moles within a certain time. In most versions, striking a mole is worth ten points, and the winner is the first player to reach a score of 150 (i.e. 15 moles). The winner receives a prize (typically a small stuffed animal, which can be traded up for a larger stuffed animal should the player win again).


Whac-A-Mole machines have been designed to allow vendors to replace the mole heads with other figures that may be more popular with certain audiences. For example, NFL helmets may be used to appeal to sports fans, or ghosts and witches may be used in the Halloween season. Often custom versions are produced for companies seeking attention at trade-shows or sponsored events. These versions may have custom heads and graphics.

There are also machines that have very similar gameplay to Whac-A-Mole, however since Whac-a-Mole is a trademark of Bob's Space Racers Inc., they are sold under other names. Whac-a-Mole has also inspired a number of Internet games and Mobile games that are similar in gameplay and strategy.

In the 1990's Bob's Space Racers introduced smaller versions in junior and toddler sizes. Some of the toddler games use A-B-C heads instead of mole heads. The toddler version also has only three mole holes and the difficultly level has been reduced for the younger clientele. In 2004 the company introduced the Whac-a-mole SE (Special Edition) with elaborate graphics and moles wearing hard hats.

Whac-a-mole has been licensed to various companies for production of consumer products. In 1999 Whac-a-mole was introduced as an electronic board game by Toy Biz, now a division of Marvel Entertainment, Inc. In 2004 the game was reintroduced by Hasbro, Inc. Currently there are also versions in cell phones, handheld video, and home video.

There are also two new variants of the game available on Nintendo's Nintendo DS and Game Boy Advance.

The Australian born chain of Arcades Timezone has every store fitted with a variant called "Hit a Croc".

At Chuck E. Cheese's restaurants, the game is called "Whac-A-Munch", featuring their band leader.

Colloquial usage

The connotation is that of a repetitious and futile task: each time the attacker is "whacked" or kicked off a service, he only pops up again from another direction. The term Whac-a-Mole, or Whack-a-mole, has been used in the computer and networking industry to describe the phenomenon of fending off recurring spammers, vandals or miscreants. 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 common in the Iraq War in reference to the difficulty of defeating the Iraqi insurgency.

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