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Rust update randomly, permanently assigns players a new gender

It's a feature, not a bug

Charlie Hall is Polygon’s tabletop editor. In 10-plus years as a journalist & photographer, he has covered simulation, strategy, and spacefaring games, as well as public policy.

Last week online multiplayer survival game Rust published a rework of the in-game character models, adding a female form for the first time. However, designer Garry Newman (known also for Garry's Mod) is not giving players a choice in their physical appearance. As such, genitalia have been randomly — and permanently — assigned to all players.

To those paying attention to the game's development this should come as no surprise. Newman has mentioned his desire for this kind of randomization in the past. It adds to the growing list of player model attributes, including race and penis size, that are immutably locked to a player's Steam ID.

"We understand this is a sore subject for a lot of people," Newman wrote on his blog. "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."

For his part, Newman seems to delight in the little social experiment he's running inside Rust.

"I don't actually believe people behave differently to different races in-game right now," he told Polygon this past June. "There's no minorities and people are segregated — everyone is scared of everyone else. I am pretty confident that if we found a way to separate races into different villages, then gave one race power over another, we'd start to see some events closer to the world we live in.

"Similarly, I'm more interested in seeing what happens when we add the female model. Whether women will get attacked more because they're perceived as weak, or whether they'll get attacked less because they're perceived as vulnerable. That stuff is interesting to me."

We'll follow up with Newman in a few weeks to see what he's learned.

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