Survival game Rust has been making players uncomfortable lately by messing with their appearance, but based on discussions online, the recent decision to randomize players' gender hasn't gone over as catastrophically as you might imagine.
In Rust, players spawn into the wilderness naked, and must survive by building shelters, crafting armor and weapons, and cooperating with or fighting against other players. It's a survival and crafting game much like DayZ and Minecraft, but also a social experiment, which much like the internet, shows us both the best and worst of human behavior. If everyone decided to work together everything would be fine, but that's never what happens.
When Rust launched in Steam Early Access in 2013, all players entered its world as white men. Over the last few months, developer Facepunch Studios, led by Garry's Mod creator Garry Newman, has started randomizing player appearance. In March, Rust began randomizing players' race by assigning a skin tone derived from their Steam ID. Last month, it used the same method to determine a player's penis size.
That last detail is not going to be an issue for a lot of players now, as the latest Rust update similarly started randomizing player gender.
"To clear up some confusion, when it does go live you won't get a choice of whether you're female or male," Rust developer Craig Pearson said in a blog post. "We're not 'taking the choice away' from you. You never had a choice."
Pearson also preemptively addresses complaints from players who argue that, since Rust allows voice chat, players should be able to choose a gender that matches their actual voice.
"A man's voice coming out of a woman's body is no more weird than an 8 year-old boy's voice coming out of a man's body," Pearson said.
Obviously, some players really wish they could choose their gender, but plenty of players are supporting the decision. Much like online discussions between Sim City players about homelessness, the conversations people are having about the latest Rust update reveal a lot about players' gender identity politics.
It's nice that a lot of players are sticking up for the decision to randomize gender. On the other hand, now that they might be forced to play as women, a lot of players want the female player model to be more attractive.
Facepunch said that it is still finalizing the female player models, though that doesn't mean players will get what they want, which seems to be a guiding principle for Facepunch when designing Rust. You don't get what you want. You get what you get and you have to learn how to deal with it and survive.
Rust is available from Steam Early Access for $20.