Rayman Raving Rabbids

The Rayman game series has never been known for realism. The main character doesn’t have arms and legs. Rather, his hands and feet “orbit” his body so his extremities are implied. This made him easier to render into games, and gives him a unique visual style. But with this latest game, Raving Rabbids, game designer Michel Ancel further pushes his creation into the world of the absurd.


This game skirts what is called in philosophy “absurdism.” Roughly stated, this school of thought indicates that there is probably no existential meaning to life or existence, and even if there were it would be beyond the comprehension of humans. Therefore, any attempt to reveal or discuss such a meaning is a pointless and almost humorous exercise. A genre of dramatic plays has arisen in response to this philosophy, perhaps most famously in Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot.

Much like that play, this game follows Rayman as he struggles, perhaps in vain, against what is perceived by the audience to be forces that are meaningless and bizarre. Much like the characters in Godot, the player, returns for “day” after “day” attempting to escape. In the case of Vladimir and Estragon, it is to finally meet with Godot and end their incessant waiting. In the case of Rayman, it is to be free of his absurd prison. In both cases, the goals are thematically the same.

Despite this loose discussion, much of this title remains steeped in “conventional” absurdity. Rayman’s tormentors, the Rabbids, are an army of  anthropomorphized rabbits who are both insane and sadistic. They seem to lack intelligence and mental clarity, and yet have many advanced technologies including fortresses, aircraft, mechas, space ships, and submarines. Their actions include screaming, shooting Rayman with spring-loaded plunger guns and assaulting one another. They are both entertaining and disturbing and add to the game’s unusual theme and mood.

Cultural References

This game is ripe with cultural references. Many of the individual Rabbids are meant to resemble characters from media. Some bear the armor and night-vision goggles from popular Tom Clancy games. One resembles Superman– complete with costume and spit curl. A lot of music in the game are Rabbid remixes of popular songs including “La Bamba” and “Girls Just Want to Have Fun.” This brings extra layers of depth and enjoyment to the game. Furthermore, Rayman’s appearance can be customized in various genres. While this is a pretty standard form of game avatar customization, this feature also draws from cultural referents by using styles such as “soccer” or “gothic.”

Ceci n’est pas une Carrotte

Like most mini-game compilations, this title is best used when played in groups, so other people can witness the existential tragedy of your absurd behavior and mock you like the French literary foil that you are. You don’t have to complete the game to get the sense that you’re struggling against an inept and dim-witted opponent. The Rabbids come to idolize Rayman for his/your success and the game seems to indicate that a sequel is ahead. Like other franchises, Rayman has moved beyond his original format and has done so quite successfully

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