Rust Players Divided Over Unchangeable Character Sexes

Rust Players Divided Over Unchangeable Character Sexes

Steam survival hit Rust is adding women characters, and you won't get to choose whether you're a guy or a gal. Some players love the idea. Others, not so much.

(Warning: some of the media in this post is NSFW.)

Rust's character creation isn't like other games. You don't play as a pre-made character, but you don't get to choose your physical characteristics either. Instead, the game randomizes your appearance (including skin colour, facial features, limb length, and, er, penis size, if you're male-bodied) and permanently ties the outcome to your Steam ID. Angelically lithe or mighty, mighty meatball person, it's you — forever, no matter what server you play on.

The feature's been slowly improving over time, beginning with a primordial soup of same-dudeliness and slowly adding the aforementioned variations. The lack of an option to choose physical sex characteristics has caught some players off guard, as exemplified by a host of reactions:

Rust Players Divided Over Unchangeable Character Sexes
Rust Players Divided Over Unchangeable Character Sexes

Some even consider it a deal-breaker despite the fact that they were a-ok with randomised skin tone, height, penis size, and whatnot.

Rust Players Divided Over Unchangeable Character Sexes

Granted, before now women players had zero chance of ending up as a character who matched their own physical characteristics. Truth is, there never was a choice. The lack of choice just favoured dudes, as far as appearances went.

And then, of course, there are the numerous players who want Rust's lady character to be more attractive, which is, well, revealing, if not exactly unexpected given Rust's primarily male audience.

While Rust lead Garry Newman acknowledges that there's been some outrage, he thinks people are beginning to embrace the lack of complete control. His philosophy — real life doesn't let you pick everything from nose width to toenail clipping density, so should every game? — has started to catch on.

Rust Players Divided Over Unchangeable Character Sexes
Rust Players Divided Over Unchangeable Character Sexes
Rust Players Divided Over Unchangeable Character Sexes

"I wasn't expecting so much of a backlash," Newman admitted to me. "We have got a few emails. Angry emails, confused emails, pleading emails. But the majority of people do seem to get it. I think at this point most people see the merit in doing things differently instead of doing what is normally done."

Newman added that he wasn't expecting so much of a reaction to appearance randomization in general. He told me that he's seen players line up to compare penis sizes. He's also seen plenty of videos like this one (NSFW):

There's also been in-game racism, something Newman and co have decided to confront head-on rather than disallow. As he told me previously: "Seeing this kind of thing play out made us realise that these aren't just 'real life' issues that we need to block. They're issues that we need to invite into the game to let people explore." There is room to learn and grow, after all. It's not a stretch to imagine that this will happen when some people step into the shoes (or, er, total lack of clothing) of women characters, too.

As for the anger, Newman thinks it doesn't always necessarily come from fear of difference — of being a woman or someone of a different skin colour or something. While that can certainly motivate some people to recoil in revulsion from Rust's boundless sunny vistas and dong forests, Newman believes expectations also play a role:

"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. Newman, however, also hopes it will come from their actions.

"We wanted to lock people to an identity so they could be possibly recognised for their misdeeds, just from their avatar," he explained. "The idea being that eventually we'd take away player names, and emergent stuff could happen like mistaking someone for a friend, impersonations, etc."

Ambitious stuff, and Newman admits that character models still need some work on the art side of things — "less weird, more unique," as he put it — before that kind of pie-in-the-sky approach is viable.

For now, though, people will squabble and gnash their teeth, and some may even quit playing. Ultimately, though, things will shake out, and Rust will likely be an even more interesting game for it. Unlike in some other games where, as Newman puts it, it feels there are boundless customisation options because "the publisher had a list of features that needs to be on the side of the box," Rust has found purpose in limitation. The development team isn't backing down from that.

"I'm happy with the choices we made," Newman said. "After making games for over 10 years, one thing I've realised is that if someone isn't angry at you, you're doing it wrong. The more one group of people hate what you're doing, the more another group of people will love it. Being beige doesn't get you anywhere."

You're reading Steamed, Kotaku's page dedicated to all things in and around Valve's stupidly popular PC gaming service. Games, culture, community creations, criticism, guides, videos — everything. If you've found anything cool/awful on Steam, send us an email to let us know.

To contact the author of this post, write to [email protected] or find him on Twitter @vahn16.


  • This comment is not available. This comment is not available. This comment is not available. This comment is not available.

    This comment is not available.

      I don't understand why you would care? I get when given a choice you pick your preference, but if it's not up to you does it really make a difference? What about games like Metroid, Tomb Raider etc, when the lead is a female?

        It's a valid point when you look at it from either gender. I've already heard one person in real life say the game became more interesting to her because 'she could play as a woman finally'. When I told her she didn't get the option and it was random, she said 'Fuck that then'.

        Some people find it empowering to play as their own gender, some it's a fetish and some just outright like it. Some appreciate playing as the opposite gender.

        It's flawed logic to say 'You never had a choice'. The fact is, you do to a degree. You can change steam accounts, repurchase the game etc. That's choice. It's expensive choice, but it's still choice. I don't get to shoot myself in real life, then choose another body to inhabit with my so called 'soul'. Again, I know some will say 'But you have to repurchase the game!' Yes, you do, and that's an expensive choice to make, and again it's random, but you're choosing not to accept the combination of looks given to you. It's an expensive choice, but it's still a choice.

        The one thing I'm truly glad for though, is that your sex does not define your traits. Males and Females are the exact same in the game in terms of strength and ability.

        Last edited 21/07/15 4:41 pm

          Im wondering, what if you buy the game, hate the character your given and thats tied to your steam ID but then you use the refund policy and remove the game, if you were to rebuy later on would you be generated a new character or stuck with and if that is the case the refund policy covers you if you create multi accounts until you find a character you like.

          The one thing I'm truly glad for though, is that your sex does not define your traits. Males and Females are the exact same in the game in terms of strength and ability.

          I know the whole "don't complain about realism when you can respawn or fight dragons or whatever" argument could debunk my argument here, but that's not how it is in the real world. Men are physically stronger, 9/10, unless a woman goes to great lengths to change that. That's a fact.

          I agree, level playing field is good, but what might be cooler, in the interests of randomness and no choice, is randomised stats within set parameters as well. Like a woman might spawn stronger than a man, but men in general have a higher average to strength, women with a higher average for a different stat, or something like that.

          But i've never played the game so I don't even know if there are stats.

            There may be one day but at this point, stats are kind of moot, it's more about progression through creation of items etc. Maybe it will be one day that you spawn with different strength levels etc beyond your control. However, I'd love to be able to change that, improve it as such as you go.

            While it could be interesting, I doubt it will happen in Rust. It would be far to likely for players to start overpowering women (characters) and regress a few hundred years of social evolution.

            Interesting thought, but I'd save it for another game.

          Fancy running into you on here.
          But i can't help but wonder how the nudity in game will turn out. QUE all the Pornhub rust movies.

        Would you say that to a female player asking for the option to play as a female player? People have preferences when it comes to avatars that don't automatically align with their preferences when playing scripted characters like Lara Croft or Samus Aran. Some people like to craft a character, some people like to play as themselves, some people just like to make something that's fun to look at in third person.
        Personally I'm happy to play as a female character, even a female custom character in something like Saints Row or Sunset Overdrive, but if it's just a raw avatar or it's used to interact with other people I feel like a creep using a female.

        You say it's ok to switch genders and race because the game doesn't give you an option, but a lot of people like @zeitxgeist aren't complaining they might have to be women as much as they're just saying 'I'd rather play a game where I can customise my avatar than some social experiment'. Rust is taking away an option people want - the ability to choose their own avatar. That's really the core of the issue for a lot of the players.

        I do like the idea of locking players to an identity but the way they do it seems to drive a wedge between players and their avatars.

        Last edited 21/07/15 5:04 pm
      • This comment is not available. This comment is not available. This comment is not available. This comment is not available.

        This comment is not available.

          There are loads of games that offer all the customisation you are looking for. This is clearly not one of those games. They are making a big point that this is how the game is.
          At some point you need to either get over it or play something else.

      I just feel like this sort of thing is a bit like backwards compatibility on consoles. You might think you care about it, but once you have it (or in this case once you're a woman in a game), you realise you didn't give a shit after all.

      It's like a child who is a fussy eater. If you let them say "I HATE TOMATOES" without ever trying them, they will hate tomatoes. What you're rebelling against isn't something you don't like or don't want, but the challenging of you never having to move outside your comfort zone.

      Last edited 21/07/15 4:38 pm

        Tomatoes are disgusting, I don't see how this analogy works at all?

          Haha I hate them too. But it's not the taste, it's the consistency!

            Its like you are eating a slimy seedy ball of evil.

      That's crazy. Why should your in-game gender stop you from enjoying a game? Especially when it's first person?

      I understand having preferences (I choose female characters in any game I'm given the choice) but to say you wouldn't play a game if you were given a female character seems rather...childish.

        Out of interest are you a male or a female? And why do you choose females characters? I’m a male and must admit I have always chosen female characters where the choice is available. My friends have always asked why and when I was younger and this sort of question seemed to matter for ‘cool points’, I used to say that if I was going to have to look at someone for the whole game I’d rather it be a chick. In reality, now that I’m a little older and a little wiser I think the reason I have always chosen females is because I was always brought up with the understanding that females haven’t always had things easy in the fairness and equality department, and to see a female hero or protagonist outside of a feel-good romantic comedy is a pretty cool thing. I think because of this I always want to see a female become the big game winning Hero. It probably helps that I also never see myself as the main character in a game, or in the game at all, I will never try to model an avatar on myself. I see myself as a manager of sorts, a guy that’s watching and helping direct the character rather than actually being that character.

          I'm male. I've never really thought about why I prefer to be a female. You raise a good point though, I think part of my reasoning is what you mentioned - females tend to have it tougher in games and it's nice to see a female protagonist in games other than Metroid and Tomb Raider.

          I find online encounters as a female character are different as well. Sometimes you'll get picked on and singled out, in which case it's all the more satisfying to come out with the victory as a female character. On the other end of the spectrum you have people that obsess over you being female. I remember playing Test Drive Unlimited 2 as a female and whenever I went to the casino I would have people following me around everywhere I went.

          I definitely think it's more interesting than another generic male character.

          Really though, it doesn't bother me what my character looks like. The idea of not playing a game because I am limited to a gender is simply ridiculous.

          It's good to hear someone else feels the same way.

    I've heard more about not being able to change your character in Rust than of the actual game itself. In fact, I have no idea what the game is other than it's pissed a lot of people off as they can't choose their character

      You build stuff, you kill things and when you logout your character lays down on the ground and goes to sleep so people can kill you while you're away from the game and fuck your shit up.

        Which is the only reason I won't play it. I understand it might help to avoid griefing like people in Day Z who disappear when they quit, but it opens the door for people to grief you.

        The randomness of the avatar's characteristics make me want to play the game in spite of the persistentness of it.

          Yeah I got sick of the game pretty quickly after a couple of times of finding our base destroyed and all our loot gone after logging in.

            You should give PvE a try then. Indestructible buildings and no PvP means you can focus on exploration, gathering, farming and building.

              But I want the pvp, I just don't want my stuff stolen/destroyed when I'm not around to defend it. Spend so much time gathering/building just for it to be destroyed when you're offline.

    I fear that many players will create new accounts until they get male characters, then all gang up on female characters and create some humorous 'rape' videos.

      I love that you used quotation marks for 'rape' and not 'humorous'.

      It's the internet, it wouldn't surprise me.
      Like that "shockingly realistic" gta online rape vid.
      Well aprt from my dude having a tiny dong, i hope that i get made a female just to tea bag people.

    Do people complain when the main and only playable character is female?

    How is getting randomly assigned sex/skin colour/penis size an problem?

      It's a big difference when it's a single set character for EVERYONE... Like your Lara Croft, Nathan Drake or the likes. Add to it that usually those games are designed around it, with a crafted story, etc.

      The problem here is that Rust didn't start this way off the bat with randomized genders and such, and I don't think there was any hint that it was intended to be this way from the beginning either. Rust has gone through such major changes its kind of insane, but the fact remains they're simply changing things after people have already paid for and been playing the game.

      It reminds me a bit of the paid mods for Skyrim scheme... They tried to change something that was already well established and the internet exploded.

      The difference with Rust though is that the devs don't give a shit about the bitching and seem to charging straight on through with their plans. Good on them for sticking to their guns, so far anyway.

      • This comment is not available. This comment is not available. This comment is not available. This comment is not available.

        This comment is not available.

          Nah, there's no difference. People feeling like there is doesn't make it true. They're scratching and clawing for the closest excuse they can find. The devs aren't letting up because they know it's stupid of players to try and rationalise their obvious ignorance.

    I don't care about random character generation at the beginning, but random race/sex changes mid play when you're attached to your persona are a bit shit. What's the point of even having a fixed character that doesn't change? Why not just randomise it at each login if that's the case?

      The whole point of having a characters' look tied to your account is so people can tell who you are just by looking at you.

        Which if you were male last week, and female this week, works how?

          It doesn't randomly change mid-play, you're misreading it.

          It's intended to be a random character generated at the start, and then you're stuck with that character for good. That's what people are bitching about. Not getting to choose ANYTHING.

          Being early access however, wouldn't be surprised if there are resets and full character wipes for a good while to come yet.

            I didn't realise it was early access, which explains why this stuff is constantly changing. The risks you take with a paid beta.

    Randomisation is ok with me, but I couldn't possibly condone the result being permanent. It's a video game people.

    I kind of like this idea, like life, you get don't a choice of gender, race or country of origin for your birth. I think this would be interesting to see if this has any impact as to how you're treated in the game world. Is the game mostly set in 1st or 3rd person?

    I understand that most people play games for the fantasy aspect and to embody their ideal character of their choosing but I think this would make for an interesting social experiment if nothing else. It reminds me a lot of that blue eyes/brown eyes experiment from the 70's-

      The problem with that argument though is that while you personally may not have chosen, there was likely plenty that people could predict before you were born.

      Race, country of origin, etc. Actually all predictable to some degree based on factors as simple as who your parents were and such.

      As far as I'm aware the only thing really that can't be predicted to some degree is gender.

    If a game has a set character whose story I'm witnessing, then I don't care if they're female or male as long as the tale told is good. But when it comes to open-world games where my character's personality, professions and progress is what I make it, you'd better give me customisation options.
    Rust's idea of pure randomness in the generator is interesting, but it's also a huge detraction from the game and why I never touched it. Some may say, "What's the big idea? It's just an avatar." but to me it's like Dungeons and Dragons. Give me the tools to build a character and I'll brainstorm something I'll enjoy that can synergise. Give me a premade character that I've had no input in yet I'm told to think as if I was them, and I'll fail. I just will not have any attachment.

    There was a game released for PS3 a few years back called "Beyond: Two Souls". It's an action adventure game which revolves around player choices and interactions with other NPCs, causing branching story lines which reflect your choices. A bit like modern Tell Tale Games, if you like.

    The main character you play is a young girl who has a guardian spirit / shadow / supernatural element who seems to be tied to her somehow. The entity will not always have your best interests at heart, say for example ruining a friendly conversation with someone else by throwing things around, but the young girl is still tied to the entity through thick and thin.

    There is a scene in the game where the character is reflecting back to when the main girl was let's say between 7 and 10 years old, and not in full control of the entity. A top secret lab has had a major catastrophe, and explosions have occurred, things have leaked out and people have died.

    They tried sending in emergency personal. They tried sending in the military. A lot of good people are either trapped or more likely dead.

    In desperation, they send the little girl in. Maybe the entity with her can help contain the situation.

    Lab explosion / crisis is an often used trope in video games. But normally you are a buff military commando or a genius military scientist, come to blast aliens and save the day.

    In this game, you are a scared little girl, confronted by death and freaking out. The girl does not really want to go in there, and there is no guarantee that she will succeed. The game presents it as a flashback, so the character cannot die, but if she stuffs up, that will have an impact on the present.

    The thing is, I'm not a small girl. I'm male, I'm self confident without being arrogant, and I have never had to fear for my own safety walking down a dark alley.

    This game though made me think. What is it like to walk down a street and not know how safe I am? That someone bigger and stronger than me could jump out of the shadows, easily overpower me, and there would not be a lot I could do about it?

    That's not my reality, but this virtual world made me stop and think what it is like for other people, which I think is a good thing. :-)

    I've drifted off topic a bit though. I could not really care about Rust. Early access games and survival games don't really interest me.

    I personally like player choice, but most of the time I choose reflections of myself in character creation, including being male.

    If I was forced to be a specific gender, build, and race? Would I care?

    It would not be easy, but at the very least I would hope it would make me think about identity and empathy.

    TLDR: Other games forcing gender / race choice for story purposes I am all for. I don't know how I would feel about it if the choice was forced upon me, just to be an avatar in an emergent game play setting. :-S

    Not that I think Rust will usher in a new stage in social progression, but I think if more games did this people would start caring less and less. Look at Call of Duty, up until the more modern Black Ops and later games, you were a totally random character model, sure it was out of a set list and all male, but still random. If you're ok running around as another race, why not another gender?

Join the discussion!

Trending Stories Right Now