Following on from the last column, which focused on a small part of the indie gaming world, this week Art Perspective takes a look at another independent games creator. Dr. Bennett Foddy teaches bioethics at Oxford during the day and makes brilliantly simple yet progressive and thought provoking game in his spare time. Through his website; foody.net the doctor releases free to play flash games that are unlike any other.
QWOP is perhaps the most well known of the Foddy titles having reached meme status on the interwebs. A simple rag-doll physics-based flash game, that is the hardest game you will ever play. The player takes control of a sprinter attempting the 100 meters, an easy enough task seen in such games as Track & Field and more recently Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games. But in this game, instead of button-mashing one or two buttons, the player must rhythmically control the movement of each of the sprinters leg muscles. These controls are set to Q & W for the left and right thighs and O & P for the calves, hence the straightforward name QWOP. Even this explanation makes the game sound elementary, but trying to get your sprinter to cross the start line is problem in itself.
In QWOP the player must relearn something that most of us take for granted; the ability to put one foot in front of the other. This game reminds us of the power of the human brain and its ability to be trained and to learn new actions. We all learn to walk a long time ago and now it seems easy, but in fact it is a series of complex brain and muscles functions that come together seamlessly. QWOP challenges the player to learn to run again, apply their actions through the keyboard. This is realism in gaming in its truest form.
It is possible to complete QWOP, but this takes a lot of practice and patience. There are various speed runs online that are very impressive to anyone that has played it.
GIRP is the spiritual successor to QWOP but takes a different route to inviting the player to think about their movements. In GIRP the player takes control of another ragdoll character, this time faced with the task of climbing a cliff. With the water rising beneath, the player must navigate up the cliff using the keyboard; each handhold is represented by a letter on the keyboard, with shift used to flex muscles. The beauty of this game comes with the difficulty in progressing upwards. Playing GIRP you’ll find yourself staring at your own hands on the keyboard, trying to not let go of the wrong key, sending your climber crashing into the ocean below.
There are many other free to play games on Dr. Bennett Foddy’s website, which are well worth a play through. LITTLE CRICKET MASTER is another ragdoll game that allows the player to enjoy the hitting of a cricket ball, more rewarding than QWOP. WINNER VS LOSER is a two player hurdle game in which each player must press one button with rhythmical precision in order to beat their opponent. There are other titles on the site as well as an interesting blog. Also it is worth looking out for what Foddy will create next as the brilliantly thought provoking ideas just keep coming.
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