|Manufacturers||TOGO (Mogura Taiji) |
Bandai (Mogura Tataki)
Bob’s Space Racers (Whac-A-Mole)
|Years active||1975–present (Mogura Taiji) |
1977–present (Mogura Tataki)
Whac-A-Mole is an arcade game, originally known as Mogura Taiji (モグラ退治, "Mole Buster") or Mogura Tataki (モグラたたき, "Mole Smash") in Japan. A typical Whac-A-Mole machine consists of a waist-level cabinet with a play area and display screen, and a large, soft, black mallet. Five holes in the play area top are filled with small, plastic, cartoonish moles, which pop up at random. Points are scored by whacking each mole as it appears. The faster the reaction, the higher the score.
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 anyone 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.
Mogura Taiji was invented in 1975 by Kazuo Yamada of TOGO, based on ten of the designer's pencil sketches from 1974. TOGO released it as Mogura Taiji to Japanese amusement arcades in 1975. It became a major commercial success in Japan, where it became the second highest-grossing electro-mechanical arcade game of 1976 and again in 1977, second only to Namco's popular arcade racing game F-1 in both years. Mogura Taiji was licensed to Bandai in 1977. Bandai (now part of Bandai Namco Holdings) introduced the game to the Japanese home market as a toy in 1977, called Mogura Tataki (モグラたたき, "Mole Smash"), which became a major hit by 1978, selling over 1 million units. In the late 1970s, arcade centers in Japan began to be flooded with "mole buster" games, where players used a foam mallet to hit plastic moles that popped out of the machine. Mogura Taiji has since been commonly found at Japanese festivals.
Mogura Taiji made its North American debut in November 1976 at the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) show, where it drew attention for being the first mallet game of its type. Gerald Denton and Donny Anderson saw the Japanese game, and decided they wanted to adapt it into a carnival game by putting it in a trailer, with Denton also showing it to Aaron Fechter at the same show. Denton assigned Fechter the task of building their own version of the game, with Fechter coining the name "Whac-A-Mole" and adding air cylinders, "so that when air pushed up the moles, the air acted as a cushion." Fechter developed the prototype in 1977, with Denton and Anderson presenting it to the founder of Bob's Space Racers, Bob Cassata, the same year. After Bob made further refinements to the game, Bob's Space Racers made its first sale of the game in 1977. In 1978, it debuted at a midway exhibition show, where it was the most popular game. The following year, it debuted at pinball parlours. In 1980, it was sold in the carnival, amusement park and coin-op arcade markets. Whac-A-Mole has since become a popular carnival game.
Back in Japan, Namco, who were beginning to shift towards arcade video game production with hits like Galaxian (1979) and Pac-Man (1980), noticed arcade centers in Japan were flooded with "mole buster" games. To capitalize on their popularity, Namco began work on a similar game with a unique motif to help it stand out from other similar games. Sweet Licks (1981) was originally designed by TOGO, who had originally named it Mole Attack. Namco purchased the rights to the game and re-skinned it. Sweet Licks was designed by Yukio Ishikawa, a mechanical game designer for Namco. The game was themed around cake and pastries to help attract women. It used an LCD monitor to keep track of the player's score, being the first arcade game to employ such a concept. Sweet Licks became popular in Japan, and was subsequently released in North America in April 1982, and then in Europe where it became popular in the 1980s.
The original Whac-A-Mole game inspired the first genre of games with a violent aspect as central to their user experience. Researchers have used Whac-A-Mole and its variations to study the violent aspects of these games.
The Whac-A-Mole game trademark was originally owned by Bob's Space Racers but since 2008 has been owned by Mattel. 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.
Mattel Television currently is partnered with Fremantle to develop a game show inspired by the game, which has yet to debut. The show will be an elimination-style, unscripted series to determine the "Whac-a-Mole Champion." The competition will involve a life-size version of the game, as well as obstacle courses and other "surprising twist[s]."
The moles are mounted on rods and raised by a lever and crank system. When the user strikes the mole, a microswitch is activated by a pin housed within the mole and the system lowers the mole.
The timing of the moles was originally controlled by tones from an audio tape which then drove an air cylinder system.
The term "Whac-a-mole" (or "Whack-a-mole") is used colloquially to depict a situation characterized by a series of repetitious and futile tasks, where the successful completion of one just yields another popping up elsewhere.
In computer programming/debugging it refers to the prospect of fixing a bug causing a new one to appear as a result. In an Internet context, it refers to the challenge of fending off recurring spammers, vandals, pop-up ads, malware, ransomware, and other distractions, annoyances, and harm.
In law enforcement it refers to criminal activity popping up in another part of an area after increased enforcement in one district reduces it there. In a military context it refers to ostensibly inferior opposing troops continuing to appear after previous waves have been eliminated.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Whac-A-Mole.|
- Official Whac-a-Mole website maintained by Bob's Space Racers, Inc.
- Whac-A-Mole Flash Game – Bob's Space Racer's Flash version of Whac-A-Mole[dead link]
- Whac-A-Mole at the Killer List of Videogames
- Museum of Hoaxes article refuting the etymological link claimed between Whac-A-Mole and "guacamole"