QWOP Creator is NYU Professor


Sarah Park

Professor Bennett Foddy explains the tools he uses at NYU for game deisgn.

Yeho Hwang, Staff Writer

Millennials might remember the animated runner — legs moving haphazardly — in QWOP, a four-letter Internet game from 2008 that is also available in app stores. The objective of the game is to guide an Olympic runner to the finish line of a 100-meter race by controlling his thighs with the keyboard letters Q and W and his calves with O and P.

Just across the Brooklyn Bridge from the NYU Manhattan campus is the game’s creator.

Bennett Foddy joined the NYU Game Center as Assistant Arts Professor in game design in 2013. He teaches Prototype Studio, Games 101, Game Studio 1 and 2 and a thesis course for Games Center MFA students.

Before joining NYU, Foddy was a research fellow at Oxford and Princeton, where he studied and wrote several articles about the intersection between philosophical methods and scientific research.

“I had a major project on understanding drug addiction, but also looking at emerging medical and life extension technologies, placebo medications and genetic modification,” Foddy said.

Foddy also discussed his different careers, including his time as a bassist in an Australian electronic band called Cut Copy.

“I think it’s healthy to have a change of focus once or twice in your life,” he said, adding that he doesn’t see himself returning to philosophy. “I also have the opportunity to come to NYU to teach game design, which is great for me right now. I feel like I’ve written enough philosophy articles for my whole life.”

Foddy’s games have been featured in numerous media outlets. Kill Screen’s “Arcade” event in MoMA showcased QWOP in 2011. YouTube stars such as Ray William Johnson and popular television shows like “The Office” have featured QWOP as well.

The inspiration for QWOP came from Foddy’s childhood interest in straightforward athletics games.

“I really grew up on things like track and field,” he said. He added that he had originally thought of QWOP as a more serious and stimulated design. “But it’s much easier to make somebody fall than to make them run.”

The first game that Foddy created, Too Many Ninjas, came out in 2007. But in 2006, the game was designed in the midst of procrastination. Foddy has also created GIRP and CLOP, which, like QWOP, both involve manipulating characters with keyboard letters.

“There’s a counterculture about games as a medium,” Foddy said. “It’s a particular flow of energy that comes out of the feeling that you should be doing something else instead.”

As a native Australian, coming to a New York City campus was a refreshing change for Foddy. He believes that students at NYU tend to focus more on youth culture and exploration than students at Oxford and Princeton.

“By virtue, having students in New York City, I think you can’t avoid having that sort of energy,” Foddy said. “Students are more engaged with the arts and fashion, and with new ideas.”

For game-makers and innovators who are in the midst of a more competitive world, Foddy suggested taking advantage of NYU’s and the city’s resources.

“First thing is, enroll. Get involved with making, and continue to practice,” Foddy said. He added that NYU is in a great location to start getting involved even for people who are not formally trained in game design.

“There’s nothing holding people back,” Foddy said. “New York is becoming a hub of opportunities. We also have this great program at NYU for formal education.”

A version of this article appeared in the Monday, March 21 print edition. Email Yeho Hwang at [email protected].