Do you like a challenge? Do you enjoy being frustrated and amused at the same time? Can you perform complex keyboard interactions without thinking about them? If you answered yes, then QWOP and GIRP might be for you.
Made in 2008, and one of the simplest games ever created, QWOP and it’s counterpart, GIRP, are two of the most challenging, rewarding, and silly games ever created.
Both are free to play, have been around a long time, and are still popular! They are browser based flash games created by Dr. Bennet Foddy. (There is also now an iPod version but it costs two dollars, so doesn’t count as freeware) In this article we will be concentrating on the free versions available at www.foddy.net
QWOP is a game in which you don’t have magical abilities or guns or skills. In fact, the whole game is about re-learning a skill that most of us already have in real life: walking and running.
QWOP is played with only four keys on the keyboard, the Q, W, O, and P keys. Hence, the title of the game. The concept of the game is that you are an Olympic runner representing your country in a 100 meter dash. Each key will move one part of one leg on your runner. All you have to do is move the legs in the proper fashion to make the character on screen run. Sounds easy, right? It’s actually one of the most challenging flash games ever seen. Each key only moves a part of the leg and each key must be pressed for a certain amount of time and no more. Even a millisecond too long and your character over-balances, and falls to the ground, thereby losing the race. The concept is fairly simple, and in practice it can get rather frustrating, but when and if you finally find the right rhythm the sense of accomplishment is outstanding. There are tons of people who have tried the game and quit in frustration and a few who have managed to get to the finish line using unconventional methods. One that I know of actually managed to get the runner to do the splits and then, by tapping the keys in short bursts, got to the finish line in tiny little hops over the course of ten minutes. While this may count as a win in a technical sense, it doesn’t count as a win in the spirit of the goal. The idea is to learn how to get the character’s legs to run as a runner does in real life. So far I haven’t been able to do it for more than 5 meters or so, but I haven’t given up trying. One aspect of the game that makes it noteworthy is that while it can be frustrating, it can also be addictive. No one wants to admit that they can’t even manage a walk, and I think the connection between real person and cartoon character drives many of us to keep trying, even after we’ve been told it is futile. Even after we have tried a thousand times and still not gotten it right. It’s also something of a commentary, showing us that while we walk around in real life without even thinking about it, there are some complex forces at work there. I keep coming back to QWOP every couple of days, trying to get it down perfectly. I’ve made progress but still can’t seem to manage the whole 100 meters.
GIRP is also made by Dr. Foddy and is similar to QWOP in that it features a cartoon human attempting what appears to be impossible. In this case, rather than running, The character is attempting to climb up the side of an ocean side cliff. The water below him rises slowly, threatening to drown him, and there are also seagulls flying around, that will attempt to knock him down into the water. Each key pressed on the keyboard controls one arm of the character, and also represents a handhold that the character will reach for as long as the key is pressed. Again, it sounds simple, but in practice it is very challenging. I usually find myself moving on to GIRP after I have gotten my daily dose of QWOP frustration. GIRP, at least, is easy to progress through the first few stages, but it becomes harder and harder and eventually rises to what seems an impossible level of difficulty. The major difference between QWOP and GIRP, as far as controls go, is that GIRP makes use of the mouse, as well as a lot more than just four keys on the keyboard. I often found myself playing twister with my fingers on the keyboard, trying to make the seemingly impossible reach to the next key. But I never give up, not for long, anyway. I always come back to it and try again, eventually.
Both games offer something that the average gamer and the hardcore cyber-athlete will often seek out: an impossible challenge. Dr. Foddy assures us that the goals in each game are not, in fact, impossible, just very difficult. Additionally, there are many people who claim to have had success and won each game. This, combined with the fun, love/hate relationship we have with the characters, keeps us going back time and time again to keep trying. I’m not giving up until I get at least 50 meters! The games have become such an underground hit, a cultural icon, that there are folks walking around wearing T-Shirts with the QWOP logo on them, purchased from the web site or home made. What makes these games so popular? Why are they so addictive? Perhaps their simplicity combined with their challenge brings out the best in us as humans. In either case, QWOP and GIRP both are worth trying, if only for the experience, and so you can brag about the 5 meters you managed along the track or up the cliff. Best of all, these games are so simple and can be so much fun that they offer a bridge between the casual gamer and those who consider themselves more ‘hardcore’. It’s something we can all enjoy, and compare our results. I’ve even had my laptop running QWOP and/or GIRP at a party, and watching my friends try to make it up the cliff or down the track while they laugh and have a good time was worth every moment of my own frustration with it. I hope you’ll try them out too, and perhaps even comment here on how well you were able to do. Until next time, my friends!
Tested on: Chrome (5.0+) on Windows 7 Home Premium 32-bit.