How a game where a Yeti smacks a penguin with a club
turned into an Internet phenomenon
In January of 2004, an unusual yet addictive Flash demo took the Internet by storm. It is a version of Home Run Derby where a yeti wielding a club attempts to hit a penguin as far as possible across an icy field. Aside from the inherent humor in a yeti smacking a penguin with a club, the game's simple, addictive play caused it to spread across the internet like wildfire, as players repeatedly tried to beat their highest score. No one was certain at the time who the author of the game was, where it was originally hosted, or even what it was called. The only text in the game is a cryptic message written on a rock, reading "1978 Reinhold + Yeti."
The game has been referred to by various names, including Pinguin, Pingu, Smack the Penguin, Yeti & Penguin Baseball and others. It turned out the mysterious game was a demo for the first game in the Yetisports series. Chris Hilgert, from the Austrian game company Edelweiss Medienwerkstatt, is the inventor of Yetisports. The original demo was created in 4 days and was intended for Chris's membership game site at 1moregame.com. He showed the demo to a few friends, and one of them posted the link to a .Net mailing list on January 18, 2004. The traffic brought Chris's test server offline several hours later.
The next day, links to the game started appearing in blogs, forums, newsgroups and websites across Europe. Two days later, the game had spread across the pond to America. Dozen of sites hosted the demo, and many soon went offline as the traffic consumed their bandwidth. The game's addictive nature disrupted office productivity at many workplaces, if the emails in my inbox were of any indication. ;)
Shorly after, hacks of the demo started to appear which altered the physics of the game to make the penguin fly farther. Edelweiss Medienwerkstatt released Yetisports 1: Penguin Throw on January 22, 2004. Since then, the Yetisports series has turned into a profitable franchise for Edelweiss and a virtual worldwide phenomenon. As of this writing, a dozen sequels have been released, mobile phone versions are available, and there is even Yetisports merchandise for sale. (Europe only)
This particular website was created to document the various hacks of the original Yetisports 1 demo. The popularity of this meme peaked around March 2004, and the original page at penguin.omnihosts.net got Farked on March 5! Two years later, thousands of visitors still come to play the original demo and its various kooky hacks. Click here to go play the games!
1978 Reinhold + Yeti
The mysterious phrase inscribed on the rock, "1978 Reinhold + Yeti" refers to the legendary mountain climber Reinhold Messner. In 1978, Messner was the first to climb to the summit of Mt. Everest without supplementary oxygen – a herculean and dangerous feat. In 1986, he claimed to have seen a yeti, otherwise known as the abominable snowman – the Himalayan version of Bigfoot. He spent the next 11 years trying to solve the legend of the yeti, and in his book, My Search for the Yeti, he comes to the inevitable conclusion that the yeti is a large brown Himalayan bear.