Exactly how male gamers react when they are forced to play female characters

A controversial move.
A controversial move.
Image: Courtesy of FacePunch Studios
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The only objective in Rust, a popular online video game, is to survive in the wild. But now, some players will have no other choice than to survive as female characters. Plenty of fans, voicing their discontent on Reddit and video game forums, are not happy about it.

In the newest update that the developers launched last week (April 7), Rust players are randomly assigned a male or female character based on their SteamID, which is a string of numbers received when players open an account on Steam, the website for playing desktop video games. The assignment is permanent; users don’t have the option to change their gender, or anything else about their appearance. Even when a character is killed then born again, he or she will look exactly as before.

As Motherboard reported, some players are complaining on Reddit and Steam. The game’s developers, Garry Newman and Taylor Reynolds, anticipated this and wrote in their video game development blog:

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.

The update follows an early feature of Rust, which randomly assigns a character’s race, also based on the user’s SteamID. When announcing that feature, Newman wrote in the Rust blog that, just like in the real world, users would not be able to change their skin color or the appearance of their face.

Newman also seemed aware that the update may come off as racially insensitive, adding that seeing white video game characters in darker skin tones may just look like blackface. He assured players that the Rust team would work with the game’s graphics to reduce that. “It’s quite pleasing to see different races working together in game, and makes you realize how arbitrary race is,” he wrote.

Many of the angry Reddit comments about female characters have been taken down by moderators, noting that, “certain users don’t know to have a civil discussion without resorting to threats, harassment and insults.” Reynolds told Quartz, that while some users may feel like choice has been taken away from them, they “never really had a choice in the first place,” since their character’s gender is tied to their SteamID.

Playing as a female character could be a teaching moment. One Reddit user now playing as a female wrote that “the only thing bothering me is all the creepy rape comments I get.”