Here's Why the Designer of 'QWOP' Likes Making People Mad

'Getting Over It' is another piece of Bennett Foddy's legacy of frustration.

by Cameron Kunzelman
Sep 28 2017, 8:00pm

All images courtesy Bennett Foddy

Bennett Foddy has announced a new game and, well, it looks like a nightmare. Getting Over It puts you in the cauldron-torso body of a mountain climber whose only tool is the hammer that he uses to traverse the rough terrain in front of him. In what appears to be a game of maximal frustration, the player is going to be flailing the hammer around a lot in an attempt to garner some marginal benefit to their mountain traversal abilities.

Motherboard's Emanuel Maiberg had this to offer on the game:

"The only thing that matters is moving from left to right with these arbitrary, ludicrous means. It looks incredible difficult. Foddy knows that players will come to this wanting to bash their heads against the wall. He's teasing them.

"I could have made something you would have liked, a game that was empowering, that would save your progress and inch you steadily forward," Foddy says in the game's trailer. "Instead, I must confess: this isn't nice."

It isn't surprising that Foddy has created a game that deals in frustration and anxiety. He was, after all, the person who made QWOP, in which you attempt to make a person run by exclusively controlling the muscles of their legs. Despite being nearly a decade old, QWOP feels as fresh today as it did then, and that says something about the power of gameplay that is based on deliberate fiddly controls that are deployed under situations that cause the most duress.

In a fairly famous talk from a few years ago, Foddy spoke about some of the design assumptions that are put into the purposefully difficult and wonky games that he makes. "More than anything else, what I love about games, what I love about making games," he said, "is griefing the player. And I think players like being griefed, too." Foddy's design process, at least at the time, was based around exploring the full space of how you can put hurdles (sometimes literal ones) in front of players in order to see what they will do with the clear controls and capabilities that the designer has given to them.

Foddy's GDC talk also talks about frustrating precedents to the games that he has made, and he suggests that the history of games is chock full of frustrating games with lessons in how to design difficult, yet engaging, experiences for players who have the strong desire to overcome the challenges put before them. His attention to this history has been so focused, in fact, that it's allowed him to create a rough taxonomy of frustration in games.

Getting Over It looks to be an intensification of the kinds of things we've seen in Foddy's games before, and thematic and gameplay references to the wonderful Sexy Hiking suggest that Foddy's mountain climbing game is going to be one that will spark the interest of those of us who loved to be "griefed" by games in the past and those of us who yearn to be in the future.

Bennett Foddy
experimental games