comScore Steam's Rust Explores Race and Gender | The Mary Sue

Steam’s Ambitious Game, Rust Explores Race and Gender By Not Allowing Players to Choose Either

So... it's like real life, only with more lives.

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Many gamers turn to video games for escape; to leave the mundane world behind and pretend to be all-powerful in a world (and a body) of their own making. Many games fulfill that need by allowing you to choose everything from your gender, to your skin tone, to your hairstyle, outfit, and cheekbones. It’s like plastic surgery without the recovery time. Other games don’t give you a choice at all (and the default is usually a white dude). Rust on Steam provides an alternative to both of those scenarios. It gives you plenty of choices, then makes your choice for you.

According to Steamed, Rust is adding female characters! Yay! It’s a survival game, right? So…let’s presume that some women survive so that we can continue the human race, n’est pas? What’s interesting about this, though, is that players won’t get to decide their gender. That, like all other character traits in Rust, will be randomized. What’s more, the result is permanently tied to your Steam ID so you never get to change it, no matter what server you’re playing on.

Needless to say (I wish I had to say, but it’s totally needless, am I right?), not everyone’s happy about this. Despite the plethora of other games in which you can damn near choose a character’s damn eyelashes, having your character be completely random in this one game is apparently too much to bear! What? You expect me to be a girl? Or a black guy? Or *gasp* a BLACK WOMAN?! HOW WILL I LIIIIIIIVE?

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Now, some people bring up the idea that eliminating choice on the basis of “realism,” but not eliminating the entire ability to respawn, and they make a fair point.

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Then again, by specifying “I have to be a fucking black guy until the end of time?” when you probably wouldn’t have the same complaint if you “had to be a fucking white guy until the end of time,” you must see how that’s not only a teensy bit racist problematic, but also a big reason behind why Rust lead, Garry Newman, created the game this way in the first place. According to Steamed:

“It’s not so much [about] being ‘them,’” he said. “It’s that a choice exists, but they don’t get to choose it. By presenting a choice and choosing for them we’re saying to them ‘you’re a black guy’ and they’re saying back ‘no I’m not’ and we’re saying ‘look at your hands’ and they’re saying ‘fuck you, I don’t want to be black’ and we’re saying ‘DEAL WITH IT.’”​

But that’s the whole point, says Newman. He wants players to have to deal with the ramifications of who they are. Some of that, as it depressingly does in the real world, may come from their appearance, the physical characteristics they have no control over.

It’s pretty amazing that there’s a game like this that actively wants to explore issues of race and gender this way. And to those that are “going to Rust‘s competitors” in protest? Great! Go! Because there are plenty of us who want to play this game as-is. Who knows, I may even be randomized as a white dude and get to survive the game via total and complete privilege. Wouldn’t that be something?

Next up? Trans and genderqueer characters. Go!

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