Some players of multiplayer survival game Rust are logging into the game only to discover that their avatar has a new gender. Developer Facepunch Studios, which originally launched Rust in 2013, has just recently introduced female character models to the game — previously it was a virtual world of just men — and as part of the update, the studio is assigning gender to players at random, based on their SteamID. In other words, if you play Rust, you have no choice on whether you play as a man or woman.
"Technically nothing has changed."
"We understand this is a sore subject for a lot of people," the studio explains. "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."
Male vs. female character models in Rust.
The decision may sound very different from most online games, which often have robust customizable avatars, but it's perfectly in keeping with Rust's development. Last year the game introduced different races to the virtual world — previously every character was white — and similarly assigned players new skin tones at random. "Just like in real life, you are who you are; you can't change your skin colour or your face," designer Garry Newman said at the time. Later the game randomized each character's penis size.
In each case, the random nature of the new additions came largely as a surprise to players. "I'm not a fan of talking about things much before implementing them," Newman told Polygon last year.