You may have noticed that all of our games have a topic in the Violence & Gore subsection that asks the question “Does this game contain ‘ragdolling’ corpses?” Now, some of you may be wanting to know, what on earth is ragdolling?

Ragdolling on GameHub
Ragdolling on GameHub

The short answer is this is ragdolling:

Ragdolling is a way of dealing with death and injury in video-game animation. Ragdolling is a process whereby, on impact with an object, such as a bullet or sword swipe, the target object,(in this case a human form) responds in accordance with physics. Rather than falling flat to the floor and vanishing, or displaying one of a specially crafted set of “death animations” the body of the character reacts to the force applied to it –  a small shove may cause a topple, but a big hit could cause them to go flying. If no new forces come into play, the body just crumples into a heap. If the character or object is large and heavy, the player may not be able to move it, but if the object is smaller, or is not capable of creating a powerful enough resisting force, impacts may cause it to fall or move a long way. This is particularly relevant when a character dies, and all the physical forces attached to them as a living object, standing upright and exerting control over their body, are suddenly lost. If that loss coincides with a big new pressure on their form, such as a grenade hit or baseball bat swing, the resulting jangling of simulated physics can cause some fairly visually interesting and unexpected results.

As it can produce comedic results, ragdolling is a favoured tool of developers making light-hearted games, such as Goat Simulator. Gifs and images of silly ragdoll physics mishaps often “go viral” on social media

whilst the modding creation tool Gary’s Mod allows players to play with ragdoll physics to create games, animations and films.

Ragdolling can sometimes cause parents some concerns. The affects of physical forces on the characters’ bodies can sometimes look quite visceral

or extreme

or, when things go wrong, downright disturbing!

If a game contains ragdoll physics, we record that fact in the GameHub report, so that you know what kind of things you are likely to see. Ragdolling is a popular gameplay feature amongst gamers, and a prominent feature of games such as The Elder Scrolls Skyrim and Goat Simulator.

Parents should be aware that some players will take advantage of ragdoll physics to pose corpses in compromising positions, such as simulated sex acts. This is a player-created action and thus is not covered under age-rating systems such as the ESRB or PEGI. These boards also do not cover modding, where ragdoll physics systems are often exacerbated or enhanced for player entertainment.

Some players will dispassionately kill a character many times in a row, displaying a kind of morbid fascination with how the ragdoll physics system works, or trying to set up an amusing shot to share with their friends. As ragdoll physics is at its most extreme when there are strong dynamic forces acting upon a body, this often entails hurling a character from a high height or into fast-moving machinery. This activity, when viewed as an observer, can be extremely alarming to watch a player do over and over again. In video-gaming’s often disappointingly seedy early history, Lara Croft, built like a Barbie doll with long gangly limbs and more weight assigned to the chest and upper thigh areas, would often be a point of fascination.

The designers of the more modern Lara Croft games worked around this uncomfortable issue by giving Lara personalised death animations, whilst retaining some ragdoll physics for enemy characters. These new, gory, personal and at times distressing animations encouraged the player to aim to preserve Lara from bodily harm by their actions, rather than treating her a ragdoll toy to throw into painful situations.

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