‘Freep’ Goes Whack with Hockey Fever

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By: Mark Fitzgerald

With the Detroit Red Wings ready to take on the Pittsburgh Penguins for the Stanley Cup in late May, Detroit Free Press editors were kicking around ideas of how to stoke fan fever when the paper’s graphic director, Eric Millikin, remembered a video game he killed time playing a couple of years ago.

It’s really a baseball game, but it’s set in the Arctic ? and the batter swings not at a ball, but a penguin. Thus was born “Whack -a-Penguin,” an instant Detroit phenomenon that can take its place alongside the ritual of throwing an octopus onto the rink.

“It’s crazy addictive,” Millikin says. “It’s gone viral and really taken off.”

The Free Press got the game from Chris Hilgert, who designs games at yetisports.org that all have an Arctic theme. The newspaper simply added a window showing a yeti in a Red Wings shirt, with a penguin flying by.

“I think a theme for other news sites to remember is, you don’t always have to make it yourself,” says Nancy Andrews, managing editor for digital media. Think of “Whack-a-Penguin” as the digital funny pages, she adds: “Some people buy the paper just for the comics and the crossword puzzle.”

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