Where does QWOP come from?
QWOP, pronounced like kwop, was created by Bennett Foddy in 2008. You play as an athlete named Qwop who needs to run down a 100-meter track, with distance and speed as important factors in progress. The player controls the runner’s thighs with the keys q and w, and the calves with o and p. If the runner falls, the game is over, and the player must restart to continue.
The QWOP controls make it very difficult to coordinate the runner. If the player doesn’t time the key sequence exactly right, the character will fall to the ground without having run at all, accidentally do splits, or bend in improbable ways.
On November 10, 2008, shortly after QWOP debuted, the community blog MetaFilter discovered the game when user boo_radley posted it. Comments about the game’s tricky control system followed. A few days later, an Urban Dictionary user submitted the term qwop as a term for someone who is very clumsy and “mentally retarded,” citing the game as inspiration.
The game grew in popularity, receiving image macros tributes, parody videos, homages, and comics. It enjoyed a spike in popularity in December 2010, perhaps because internet culture news site Urlesque covered it. It was well-known and well-liked enough to make it to the Museum of Modern Art for their PopRally Arcade event in the summer of 2011. Many players lined up to try the game at the event.
Who uses QWOP?
Thanks to the unusual method of locomotion in the game, to qwop has playfully extended to mean “to move awkwardly” or “kick during sleep.” Qwop itself can refer to a clumsy person, physical movement, or effort.
“Ok, so, theory: babies are actually super smart they're just *stay with me* stuck with QWOP controls”
@elledotdubs Twitter (April 18, 2017)
“I am doing a posess [sic] of the rare videos of Joshua practicing the noble [art] of qwop fu”
Dylan Adamoli Facebook (June 28, 2015)
“Manual Samuel is a QWOP-like thing where the player has to control all of Samuel's actions including his breathing.”
Brett Makedonski, “Human: Fall Flat's console release comes with another slapstick game for free,” Destructoid (April 25, 2017)