This walking app let me whack my co-workers with a baseball bat

Photo of the stompers app on an iPhone
Stompers, where hitting your co-workers will not end in an HR violation. | Photo by Victoria Song / The Verge

Violence is never the answer. That said, it was fun when I opened a walking app and whacked a Verge editor with a baseball bat and made another slip on a banana peel. After, I continued on my peaceful commute home. A bit later, one of my fellow writers walloped me not once but twice with their own baseball bat. I wasn’t actually mad, but it did prompt me to go on a walk around the block so I could hit them back.

That, in a nutshell, is the appeal of Stompers — an iOS app that encourages you to whack, trick, and out-walk your friends (or colleagues) in a Looney Tunes-like race.

The app is the creation of designer Soren Iverson. You may know Iverson from his “unhinged UI” design series, in which he posts conceptual app mock-ups for features that no one asked for but secretly want. For example, this Slack screenshot of co-workers who message you on nationally mandated holidays getting a SWAT team called on them. In all of them, there’s a thread of absurdist whimsy.

In-app screenshot of Stompers app when someone gets hit by a baseball bat
Screenshot: Stompers
This was after I got whacked twice, so all’s fair in love and stomping.

That whimsy is in Stompers, too. Some of that is the cartoony, meme-like art style. That, Iverson says, is intentional. The app’s art is by Jim Soper, who’s done character designs for Looney Tunes and The Cuphead Show. Instead of using profile pictures, you create a Stomper avatar. (At The Verge, a disproportionate number of us decided to have fuchsia skin.) There’s also little section where you can see how many Danny DeVitos you’ve walked in a day or how many steps you have left before you reach the Moon. Everything feels like an app circa 2015, but with a healthy dash of irony poisoning.

It also wouldn’t be an Iverson project if Stompers wasn’t twisted in some way.

“The work that I do is often about taking things and flipping them on their heads, or just questioning a core principle,” Iverson tells The Verge. “What if step count could be messed with by someone else? It’s really weird [because] it defeats the purpose in a way.”

The end result is sort of like Looney Tunes meets Mario Kart. As you “race,” you can pick up items to mess with your friends. You can send friends on a fake shortcut, halving their step counts for a 30-minute period. There are rockets that shoot you forward 1,000 steps you didn’t actually take. The baseball bats knock you back 500 steps. The bananas have a 50 percent chance of knocking you back or propelling you forward 500 steps.

Screenshot of Stompers app showing Victoria Song winning like a boss.
Screenshot: Stompers
Just so everyone knows, I won on Tuesday.

As a fitness tech reviewer, futzing around with step counts is a fun thought experiment. I’m guilty as anyone for getting too obsessed with metrics that don’t really matter. Sometimes, I pout that my final step count in Stompers doesn’t reflect what I’ve actually done in real life. But that’s also challenged me to question why getting credit matters so much when I’ve achieved my goal of being more active.

Iverson says the game’s ultimate purpose is to connect with friends. It’s not the same as catching up on a call, but it’s a low-effort, easy way to check in. In the past week, I’ve found that to be one of the game’s charms. While pacing in my office over a troublesome draft, I laughed when a colleague DMed me to say, “Please, stop moving.”

Stompers is still new, having just launched last week. Even so, Iverson and his co-founder Josh Rozin already have big plans for the app going forward. Rozin told The Verge that an Android version is in the works — much to the relief of the Android faithful on staff. He also noted that the team is discussing a potential single-player version of the game. Both demurred as to what the roadmap looks like beyond that, but Rozin says Stompers has “huge potential beyond fitness.”

Whatever lies ahead, I’ve enjoyed Stompers’ slightly bonkers approach to competition. Sometimes, I’ll be rotting on the couch, doomscrolling TikTok, when I get a notification that someone has wronged my Stomper avatar. Occasionally, that will motivate me to go for a walk so I can get my revenge. Other times, I’ll chuckle because joke’s on them: I’ve got a four-mile run planned for the next day. Either way, I’m taking the steps — might as well have some low-stakes fun to go along with it.

Source: The Verge This walking app let me whack my co-workers with a baseball bat