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QWOP is a Flash-based video game created by independent game developer Bennett Foddy, in which the player attempts to run down a track to cross a finish line. The game is known for its intentionally frustrating control system, with each limb being controlled individually.
According to an article in the gaming blog Gamasutra, Bennett Foddy began learning how to create video games while procrastinating from completing his dissertation in philoshophy. On November 10th, 2008, while working as part of the faculty at the University of Oxford, Foddy released the game QWOP on his website Foddy.net. The game featured a player-controlled runner named “Qwop”, who is competing in a 100-meter sprint. The players legs could be controlled by pressing the keys ‘Q’, ‘W’, ‘O’ and ‘P’, with each key manipulating either a calf or upper leg. To complete the game, the player had to jump over a hurdle at 50 meters before crossing the 100 meter mark on the track.
On November 10th, 2008, the game was posted on the community blog MetaFilter, which included the description “QWOP is difficult. How far can you run?” On November 19th, the first Urban Dictionary definition for “QWOP” was submitted by user capzorz, which described the game’s protagonist as a mentally disabled African Olympic runner. On April 4th, 2009, the game was posted in a thread on the Genmay gamer forums, which urged other members to try the game and post their high scores. On December 2nd, 2010, YouTuber penguinz0 uploaded a video titled “The Most Difficult Game Ever Created Gameplay and Commentary”, which included his increasingly frustrated narration while playing the game on camera.
On December 6th, YouTuber Ray William Johnson included a clip of the game in an episode of his web series “=3.” On December 13th, the Internet culture blog Urlesque published an article titled “QWOP is the Hardest Game on the Internet”, featuring an embed of the penguinz0 video. The same day, the news blog The Independent mentioned the game in an article about popular queries on the Google search engine. On January 7th, 2011, a QWOP iPhone App was released on the iTunes App Store.
Several parody videos with actors portraying the game’s protagonist have been uploaded to YouTube.
On March 28th, 2011, Foddy released the game “GIRP”, a climbing game in which the player ascends a cliff by pressing keys corresponding to their respective climbing rings.
On July 27th, 2011, QWOP was featured at the Musuem of Modern Art in New York City as part of an event called “Arcade” hosted by the videogame art and culture company Kill Screen. The event was covered in an article in The Wall Street Journal that mentioned QWOP as a standout in the exhibit:
The “QWOP” game, in which the objective was to control the runners thighs and calves to cross a finish line, was particularly popular.
Search queries for “QWOP” spiked in December of 2010, the same month a YouTube video titled The Most Difficult Game Ever Created Gameplay and Commentary was uploaded. The video has received 4.4 million views as of August 4th, 2011.