Some games let you spend hours tweaking the look of your character before you even start to play the actual game. Not Rust. Rust is an online survival game where each player starts naked and alone, with no say in how they look at all. But until recently, there was one thing that players could count on: Their randomly generated character would be male. Well, not anymore!
As of last week, Rust’s entire world was reset and updated, and each player’s appearance was regenerated. And this time, in addition to randomly selecting things such as the arm length, skin tone, and facial features for each player, the game also chooses the gender.
So how are players reacting? Some players were so enraged by the change that they’re threatening to quit Rust. Others peppered Rust’s subreddit with suggestions for coconut bra tops, or some asked the developers to add hair to the (entirely bald) characters so that the women don’t look like “a lesbian pornstar with a shaved head.”
As Motherboard’s piece on some of the outrage noted, many of the worst comments responding to the change have since been deleted from a particularly active thread on Reddit’s Games section, comments that one of the moderators described as “mainly racist jokes and comments like ‘muh misogyny’ or ‘inb4 feminazis'”
But others — in fact, a large segment of Rust’s players — are taking the whole thing in stride. This is, after all, a game that (for male avatars) randomly assigns you a penis size, a feature that pretty much every player can see and comment on until you manage to acquire clothing. This is not a game for players who want to, deity-like, design a character in their own image. Instead, Rust is a game that plays God with you.
“It’s not even controversy IMO. It’s a survival game,” one player wrote in the Reddit debate on the topic. “The focus is on survival. You aren’t born with a choice of where you live, how tall you are or what is in-between your legs. Life isn’t fair and Rust is definitely not fair. People crying about this don’t belong on rust.”
Administrators have had the female models available to them for a few months now, when the developers first announced that gender variation was coming to Rust. So many players had time to come to terms with the change, the very idea of which prompted an earlier round of complaints and arguments last summer.
Game developers Garry Newman and Taylor Reynolds anticipated that the actual roll-out of the changes would still upset some players — specifically, some men who were now assigned female avatars — and addressed it in a note accompanying the update:
We understand this is a sore subject for a lot of people. We understand that you may now be a gender that you don’t identify with in real-life. We understand this causes you distress and makes you not want to play the game anymore. Technically nothing has changed, since half the population was already living with those feelings. The only difference is that whether you feel like this is now decided by your SteamID instead of your real life gender.
Rust’s community has gone through this before, the last time that Newman and his team moved the character’s appearance away from a “default” white male. Some of Rust’s players who had been accustomed to playing a character that looked like them suddenly found themselves playing a character who didn’t, and there was outrage and complaints in the days after the change. But eventually, that controversy calmed.
Newman, in an interview with Kotaku at the time, said he found that some of the racism being directed at the nonwhite characters was handled in a typically Rust fashion: “What we found was that when someone was being racist they were always in the minority and more often than not the other members of the server stepped in and took action (i.e. they all worked together to hunt him).”
It’s been just days since Rust’s world acquired gender diversity, so it’s a little too early to tell how it will play out long term among the game’s dedicated followers. Meanwhile, most players seem to be going about their usual business in Rust, building stuff so that they don’t get murdered by the other survivors.
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