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For the House episode, see Whac-A-Mole (House).
A woman playing Whac-A-Mole
Manufacturer(s) Bob's Space Racers, Inc.
Years active 1976–present

Whac-A-Mole is a popular arcade redemption game invented in 1976 by Aaron Fechter of Creative Engineering, Inc..

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. The quicker this is done the higher the final score will be.


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.

Current versions of the Whac-A-Mole include three displays for Bonus Score, High Score as well as current game score. Home versions as distributed by Bob's Space Racers, include one display to show the current score.

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.

Game play options have become more adjustable allowing the operator and or owner to selectively alter the high score, hits points, rate of progressive speed as well as the game time.


Whac-A-Mole machine for small children in Hainan, China

The Whac-A-Mole game trademark is owned by Bob's Space Racers.[1] Machines with similar gameplay are sold under other names. Whac-A-Mole has also been the basis for a number of internet games and mobile games that are similar in play and strategy.

Engineer Tim Hunkin built and installed a "Whack a Banker" machine at Southwold Pier in England[2] made from parts of a previous "Whack a Warden" machine.[3]

Colloquial usage[edit]

The term "Whac-a-mole" (or "Whack-a-mole") is used colloquially to denote a repetitious and futile task: each time an adversary is "whacked" it only pops up again somewhere else.[4][5]

  • It is used in the computer and networking industry to describe the phenomenon of fending off recurring spammers, vandals or miscreants.
  • In the military it refers to ostensibly inferior opposing troops who keep re-appearing.[6][7]
  • The term was used by the former US ambassador to Yemen Edmund Hull in describing fighting against terrorism in that country.
  • Nuclear scientist Edwin Lyman used the metaphor to describe the multiple simultaneous crises experienced in averting a meltdown at the Fukushima I nuclear plant.[10]
  • The Pirate Bay used a quote from the Wikipedia article to refer to the unsuccessful attempts by copyright holder organizations such as RIAA and MPAA to shut the website down.[11]
  • United States Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell referred to the process of identifying and targeting potential opponents as "the Whac-A-Mole period of the campaign."[12]
  • Comedian John Oliver used it on an episode of The Daily Show to refer to the scandal involving "sexting" by former Congressman Anthony Weiner. [13]


  1. ^ Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS), United States Patent and Trademark Office
  2. ^ "Bankers 'whacked' in arcade game". BBC News. 2009-12-13. Retrieved 2010-12-27. 
  3. ^ "whack a banker details". Timhunkin.com. Retrieved 2010-12-27. 
  4. ^ "Spambot Beware - Glossary of Spam Related Terms". Turnstep.com. 2003-03-30. Retrieved 2013-12-01. 
  5. ^ "What is whack-a-mole? - Definition from Whatis.com". Searchsecurity.techtarget.com. 2002-07-22. Retrieved 2010-12-27. 
  6. ^ Eleanor Clift, et al. "Refusing To Lose." Newsweek 150.4 (2007): 22–30. Academic Search Premier. Web. 7 Dec. 2011.
  7. ^ Rosenbach, Eric, and Aki Peritz. "The New Find-Fix-Finish Doctrine." JFQ: Joint Force Quarterly 61 (2011): 94–101. Academic Search Premier. Web. 7 Dec. 2011.
  8. ^ The Army and Vietnam (1986)
  9. ^ "From The Frontlines". Replay.waybackmachine.org. Retrieved 2013-12-01. 
  10. ^ "Testimony before the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources on Tuesday, June 7, 2011" (PDF). Retrieved 2013-12-01. 
  11. ^ "The Pirate Bay - The galaxy's most resilient bittorrent site". Thepiratebay.se. 2013-02-26. Retrieved 2013-12-01. 
  12. ^ Hughes, Siobhan (2013-04-09). "McConnell Claims 'Nixonian' Tactics in Ashley Judd Strategy Leak - Washington Wire - WSJ". Blogs.wsj.com. Retrieved 2013-12-01. 
  13. ^ "Special Edition - A Look Back at Thanksgiving | The Daily Show With Jon Stewart - Full Episode Video | Comedy Central". Thedailyshow.com. Retrieved 2013-12-01. 

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