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Clumsy Simulator

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This work is a proposed Trope, Tropers can vote and offer feedback in the comments section below.
Proposed By:
YamiiDenryuu on May 2nd 2014 at 8:01:11 PM
Last Edited By:
yamiidenryuu on Apr 10th 2018 at 8:34:36 AM
Name Space: Main
Page Type: Trope

(I keep finding games that seem to fit this mold, soooo... lets see how tropey this is.)

A particular type of simulator that simulates less the activity it's centered around and more the sequence of individual actions needed to perform that activity. Another common trait is the ability to interact with objects in ways that don't necessarily relate to ganeplay, usually in the form of rampant destruction caused by you flailing around trying to play the game.

Popularised (as far as I can tell) by games like QWOP and Surgeon Simulator 2013, they could be described as the Centipede's Dilemma made into a game. Usually involve bafflingly difficult control schemes. Usually end up being hilariously stupid and nothing like the thing being simulated, deliberately.


  • QWOP is one of the earliest examples, along with related games GRIP and CLOP. It has you controlling a man's thighs and calves individually in an attempt to run... or, most of the time, just limp awkwardly along.
  • Surgeon Simulator 2013 gives you control of an (alleged) surgeon's hand and fingers.
  • Probably Archery applies this to archery.
  • Tabletop Simulator isn't quite as insane as some of the others, but it's in quite the same vein- instead of the actual games, you're given the relevant game pieces to use properly, screw around with, steal, and throw at your friends as you see fit. There's still some abstraction on some actions, though- you shake a stack of cards to shuffle it, just throwing a coin will flip it, and Flipping the Table just requires a button press.
  • Octodad is a non-simulator example, where you have to manually switch between "feet mode" for moving and "hand mode" for interacting with objects, among other things, and you mostly end up flailing all over the place. Justified in that you're a squishy, boneless sea creature trying to pass yourself off as a human—that's probably not going to work out too well.

Feedback: 40 replies

May 2nd 2014 at 8:12:44 PM

Pretty sure Octo Dad qualifies, but I've never played it.

May 2nd 2014 at 8:53:46 PM

Some Youtubing later, Octo Dad definitely looks like an example. Not a simulator, but hey, tropes is flexible. Or I could redefine the trop to focus more on the type of control scheme...

May 4th 2014 at 3:36:11 AM

  • Added blank line(s) for readability.
  • Added a line separating the Description and Examples sections.

May 4th 2014 at 8:32:04 AM

Perhaps this could be considered a deconstruction of the simulation genre?

May 5th 2014 at 3:35:14 PM

Should we consider Crazy Climber to be an early example, a game in which you climb up a building using two sticks to control your arms?

May 19th 2014 at 4:26:12 PM

Oh look, I forgot this existed! ._.

@Needsanewhobby: That actually sounds about right. Deconstructive Parody, perhaps?

@Bitemytail: I think this a more specific and distinct trope, though. Subtrope?

May 20th 2014 at 9:51:25 AM

^ How is this distinct?

May 20th 2014 at 10:48:32 AM

Not sure if you will count this out not but
Real Life:

  • At drunk driving awareness events you may find literal beer goggles that distort vision to simulate being severely drunk. Walking in a straight line is virtually impossible with them on.

May 28th 2014 at 11:15:31 AM

^^^ It seems like Some Dexterity Required can be about completely arbitrary difficult controls, while in this trope the control scheme is directly tied to the action being taken (and making said action as difficult as possible), hence most of them being simulators. Actually, thinking about it, it's like the abstraction with the controls is taken back a level or two compared with normal simulators. I guess that's how you could put it.

Misaimed Realism sounds about right, since the games end up being more difficult than the action being simulated would be in real life.

^Not sure that's an example, since being drunk is apparently actually something like that.

v Yes basically that

May 28th 2014 at 1:06:59 PM

Some Dexterity Required is related, but I really don't think it's the same. That's more controller inputs being incredibly arbitrary, like fighting games with incredibly complex inputs.

Jul 13th 2014 at 2:34:10 AM

Might be Too Rare To Trope, at least at the moment...

Jul 20th 2014 at 9:22:53 AM

I can kind of see that... I've found a couple of other games that fit the bill, but they're both little indie things. There's definitely a current of Follow The Leader going on, but if there's not enough examples for an entire trope, I can can this for now.

Aug 18th 2014 at 9:37:01 AM

Octodad wouldn't pass as Some Dexterity Required, since the controls are simple. This is for controls that are too low level, having direct control of limbs instead of executing more abstract commands like "cut with knife" and such.

Dec 1st 2014 at 12:56:22 PM

Mount Your Friends resembles QWOP with the Macho Camp shot through the roof.

Dec 28th 2014 at 8:31:23 AM

I'm thinking of renaming this something like "Wacky Physics Simulator", after Vinny called them that on a Vinesauce stream. Speaking of which, I Am Bread (from the makers of Surgeon Simulator, no less) qualifies. (I also found Mount Your Friends through Vinesauce, but I see someone's beat me to mentioning that.)

Jan 15th 2015 at 7:35:16 PM

Add later when I'm actually working on this:

  • Probably Archery was apparently described by the creators as "a combination of QWOP and Surgeon Simulator".
  • Ragdoll Olympics- drag around your limp, ragdoll self with the mouse to complete olympic events. This trope comes out fully in the Soccer, Volleyball and Basketball events, where you have to move the ball through nothing but sheer force of floppiness.
  • Realistic Summer Sports Simulator- sport player through nothing but dragging your character (and most other objects) around with your mouse. Simpler than some of the other examples, but I still feel it counts.
  • Double Hitler- You play as Hitler who is actually a Totem Pole Trench.

May 4th 2015 at 3:03:00 PM

  • I Am Bread has you play as a slice of bread. That wants to be toast.

May 5th 2015 at 6:58:36 AM

I'm pretty sure the number of examples to make it a trope is three. We've got QWOP (deliberately insanely difficult — its pony edition probably doesn't count as a separate entry for this purpose), I Am Bread, Octodad, and multiple simulators, all of which have been understood by many people to fall into the same category: Where other games either try to make their controls easy and useful, or fail at this for whatever reason, these games are balanced around bizarre controls and the contortions you have to do to manage even basic tasks such as walking or picking up objects.

Thus, a trope. Even if it's a subtrope of another trope. It's also the trope I came here to propose, so I'm glad someone got there first (and that I thought to check).

It does fall under Some Dexterity Required, but is distinct enough:

Some Dexterity Required (general case): You know, it would make more sense if they had made these controls this other way.

Some Dexterity Required (this specific case): I've just spent the last fifteen minutes watching my friend try to butter a piece of toast, and he's worn his swearing vocabulary down to inarticulate rage while my cheeks hurt from laughing this much. And the game is designed to provoke this reaction.

Given that Ragdoll Physics is a big deal with all the games I've seen so far, perhaps the term Ragdoll ought to be included? Clumsy Ragdoll Game?

May 7th 2015 at 1:01:34 PM

I think it is a genre, however new or small it may be. The defining element is that the player is present with a seemingly simple task, which is heavily impeded by the game engine's Ragdoll Physics. The latter isn't a result of bad game design, but rather an intentional gameplay mechanism, a challenge for the player to overcome.

There seem to be several subgenres. The first one is when you control a ragdoll-like character, using different buttons and/or the mouse to move its limbs or extremities. The second one is when you control one or two arms of the character in first person. And then there are outliers. But all of these fall under the same genre premises, nevertheless.

This genre could be perceived as an example of Post Modernism in game design, because it mimics clumsy and overcomplicated physics engine design and uses it as a core gameplay element.


Ragdoll character, you control extremities
  • QWOP (and its clone CLOP): You control an Olympic runner (or a unicorn), with different buttons controlling
  • Octodad and Octodad Dadliest Catch: You control an octopus masquerading as a human, with different buttons controlling his various limbs. Notable for being ones of the few games of this genre to actually justify the clumsy controls in-universe.
  • I Am Bread: You control a slice of bread, with different buttons controlling its sides.
  • Double Hitler: You control two little boys masquerading as Adolf Hitler, with different buttons and the mouse controlling their legs and an arm, as well as body balance. The game engine doesn't quite have legit ragdoll physics, but it's still a believable enough imitation. Another game that justifies its clumsiness in-universe.

You control one or two arms in first person

  • Surgeon Simulator 2013: You control a surgeon's arm, with different buttons controlling the fingers on its hand.
  • Probably Archery: You control two arms with a bow and arrows, with different buttons in combination with the mouse moving different parts of the arms.


  • GIRP: You control a ragdoll-like climber, with different buttons forcing him to grab onto different holds.
  • Some levels in Happy Wheels require you to master the characters' ragdoll-like body movements instead of riding on their vehicles.
  • Realistic Summer Sports Simulator consists of different tasks designed around dragging an object on an imaginary string with realistic gravity applied to it.
  • Ragdoll Olympics is based on the same principle, only this time the object you drag is always your athlete's ragdoll body.

May 9th 2015 at 6:38:26 AM

Just found Markiplier playing another one: Deputy Dangle.

I haven't gotten very far into the video but it looks like you would just hold down two buttons for his arms (to hold him upright) while alternating the other two buttons for his legs, but that means you couldn't use any directional controls. Markiplier seems to be just randomly pushing them and enjoying himself.

May 9th 2015 at 12:54:52 PM

^ That looks like another example of the first subgroup in my list ("Ragdoll character, you control extremities"). Yeah, this all seems like a genre, even if it was formed due to Follow The Leader.

May 9th 2015 at 1:06:22 PM

I think this is distinct, but it needs a better name. It's not about simulating being clumsy. It's turning simple tasks complicated by making us do every step that's usually covered by biology and muscle memory.

May 9th 2015 at 5:16:02 PM

^ I think those names would limit this genre only to the "Ragdoll character, you control extremities" subgenre. As I said in my pre-previous post, the genre is broader than that, and its main definitive point is that ragdoll physics are used as an intentional gameplay element that serves as an obstacle for the player. So, I'd suggest something along the lines of Ragdoll Physics Challenge Game.

May 9th 2015 at 5:22:57 PM

  • I Am Bread is a simulator where you play a slice of bread striving to become toast with all the grace of a slice of bread. (Not much.)
  • Goat Simulator has you playing a goat. It's so full of bugs that they count as features, and the only point of the game is to revel in ludicrous ragdoll physics and explosions.

May 12th 2015 at 6:50:05 AM

Aren't all genres established through Follow The Leader?

The two common traits seem to be ragdoll physics and the fact that the controls make whatever you're trying to accomplish happen very clumsily, whether you're baking bread, trying to buy a ticket at the aquarium, or performing open-heart surgery. Or just walking down the aisle to your wedding without knocking over half the decorations.

...actually, I think one of the traits is also that the game doesn't penalize you for being clumsy in anything like a realistic manner. You can "succeed" at surgery after stabbing the patient repeatedly in the face with a scalpel. You can knock over three tables and end up sitting on the lap of a customer while delivering cake and still have the waiters compliment your surprisingly skillful approach. Clumsy is expected and you never really get to the point where you can avoid it, so you basically just play on through no matter how many weird things happen because your feet move in the wrong direction or whatever.

So I'm still in favor of Clumsy Ragdoll Game. Ragdoll Physics Challenge Game would be an acceptable second choice.

Also, QWO Peration Game is hilarious (though I agree it doesn't hit at the full genre).

May 12th 2015 at 8:05:55 AM

I feel like the fact that it's intentional should be big part of it; while I was reading examples what kept coming to mind was Intenionally Convoluted...something. I can't quite think of a name that manages to get Ragdoll in there. Intentionally Convoluted Ragdoll Torture, if I'm being flippant, which I often am...

Jun 24th 2015 at 4:33:40 AM

Was discussing this emerging genre with my best friend, who was convinced that the majority of these games are just weird platformers and that we don't need a whole new genre for them.

Not the first time I've disagreed with him strongly on a topic, but I did find it intriguing that he saw I Am Bread and Octodad and such as just weird 3d platformers with harder-than-usual mechanics.

Lythande, Intentionally Convoluted Ragdoll Torture sounds like something they'd be investigating on Criminal Minds... where the body would be in positions unfit for showing on television :

What all are we after, now, in bringing this toward completion? More examples? Better wording? Or is it just the name that's holding us up?

Jul 1st 2015 at 11:01:09 AM

Another game I just found: Undead Rider. You have to drive a motorcycle, but the rider is a dead body that behaves like a ragdoll.

Aug 4th 2015 at 1:11:01 AM

This hasn't been created yet?

Aug 4th 2015 at 6:57:10 AM

I definitely think this is a trope, just a relatively new one.

  • Tea Party Simulator
  • Baking Simulator
  • The potions class minigame in Pottermore operates on this, which is particularly strange since you'd think that spilling magical potions all over the place would be a very dangerous idea.

Oct 20th 2015 at 9:32:02 AM

Oh wow, you guys are still going at this.

Regarding titles, I think I mentioned before (or didn't :P) that the controls tend to be centered around de-abstractifying what you're doing... rather than "press a to cut", it's "press a, x, y, z and the other thing to curl your fingers around the knife and hope for the best"; rather than "press left to move left" it's "press asdf to contract your leg muscles and hope for the best". That seems to be the defining factor- even the ragdolling stems from that. "Limb Control Simulator" sounds good, although that leaves out things like the summer sports simulator, which is deabstracted in its own way... hmm.

Subdividing examples by type also seems like a good idea

qwoperation is great title tho

May 1st 2016 at 4:44:22 PM

Bump because some ignorant tried to make a duplicate

Aug 31st 2017 at 8:18:09 AM

[Post edited by moderator. Please, no offtopic comments.]

Apr 10th 2018 at 8:34:36 AM

There's actually a whole bunch of games that are like this. There is most definitely a trope in here somewhere. I also tried making a TLP but it got nuked.