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Why I love ragdoll physics


My fondest gaming memory: half a dozen boys squeezed tight into a uni halls bedroom, gathered around a monitor watching two boxy men stumble and push each other over, in endless loops. We’re losing our minds, laughing so hard that we gather a crowd from the fl ats above and below. 

The game is Sumotori Dreams, a free .exe I’d downloaded off the internet on a whim. Imagine a Virtua Fighter game set outside a kebab shop – a face-off between two cubist combatants with incredibly poor control over their bodies, so that every movement risks sending them tumbling to the ground. These fighters, they get knocked down, but they get up again. Or at least, they try to. Just standing up is a challenge, and that’s before you factor in the slight curvature of the ring edge and the box man also trying to right himself a few inches away. It’s almost inevitable that the pair will collide, tumbling to the ground entangled in each other’s blocky limbs like lovers. 

That perfect half-hour was well over a decade ago now, but on its strength alone, Sumotori Dreams would probably still rank in my all-time top 100 games. It opened a door, one that led me to a world of slapstick games. I can’t be sure that Sumotori was the first, historically speaking, but that combination of ragdoll physics and unreliable controls spawned an entire genre, encompassing everything from QWOP to Surgeon Simulator, Gang Beasts to Overcooked. 

Human Fall Flat

(Image credit: Curve Digital)

As many googly-eyed warriors as my CPU will allow, all rushing to the centre of the battlefield to clash in thick clouds of primary-coloured flesh. The advance of technology is a beautiful thing, sometimes.

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