Home Gaming Rust tackles race issues in gaming in an extraordinary way

Rust tackles race issues in gaming in an extraordinary way

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Race and gender representation has been (and still is) a very contentious argument taking place in the gaming industry. An increasing number of gamers are vying for better, more equal representation of lead characters that we get to play as – so that the diverse crowd of people who enjoy games can, just maybe, connect with characters representative of their race. Rust, believe it or not, actually nails this in an incredible way.

Highlighted in a brilliant video by the guys and girls over at Extra Credits, Rust presents a rather interesting experiment on identifying with avatars in game. The game (which is still in rebooted early access), is a first-person hybrid between DayZ and Minecraft where the only goal is survival. Having played it in copious amounts last year, I soon realised that Rust wasn’t only about staying alive, but also about realising just how truly terrible a person you can become when you can trust no one. It’s incredibly engrossing, but also manages to pull off another important social experiment.

You hardly see your own character in Rust (being first-person and all), so it’s sometimes surprising to have racial slurs thrown at your character for no apparent reason. See, as soon as you start the game, Rust rolls a character for you – determining your race without any input from you.Β This character is then tied to your Steam account, meaning you can’t change it if you tried. You’re forced to identify and deal with whatever race the game has thrown at you – and endure the pleasure or hardship it brings. Much like real life.

And it extends further than maybe having to face slurs that you perhaps dished out online to others at some point. As Extra Credits points out, some Rust players are struggling to identify with their characters because of the race discrepancy. This, again, in a game where you don’t even see your character. That in itself speaks louder than most words when talking about how marginalised minorities could feel when solely represented by predominantly white leads in most video games. It’s an actual, tangible way to express how that can, and often do feel.

It’s an incredible risk that Rust takes too, because it no doubt scares some potential customers away. It is, however, the most progressive form of teaching gamers why more equal representation is a good thing – through a means that doesn’t also hold the actual game in a vice grip. You could play Rust for hundreds of hours and not even realise the impact of its character creation. But for the thousands that are, it’s changing perceptions on why maybe, just maybe, there should be a more even spread going forward.

“A game doesn’t have to be about race to teach us about race”. That’s the best argument I’ve heard so far.

Last Updated: May 28, 2015

51 Comments

  1. In Rust I am an odd looking Asian dude now. πŸ™‚ I preferred brown/black since you stand out less when sneaking around. (camo wise)

    Reply

    • Spathi

      May 28, 2015 at 11:50

      I play as a black dude in Arma as well for the same reason.

      Reply

      • 40 Insane Frogs

        May 28, 2015 at 18:27

        That’s Racist! πŸ˜›

        Reply

      • HairyEwok

        May 29, 2015 at 09:44

        We think the same way XD I see colour not as a race but as a camo.

        Reply

  2. Uberutang

    May 28, 2015 at 11:39

    Oh and this is fairly new. At the very start of the game alpha release we were all really white dudes. They added the ‘race roll’ thing only fairly recently.

    Reply

  3. RinceTheElfRoot

    May 28, 2015 at 11:43

    NICE. This I think is clever.

    Reply

  4. Caveshen Rajman

    May 28, 2015 at 11:43

    Racial issues are, as far as I’m concerned, a far, far bigger issue in gaming, that should be discussed more. So, yeah, this is a great thing.

    Reply

    • Pariah

      May 28, 2015 at 11:44

      Not just in gaming.

      Reply

    • RustedFaith

      May 28, 2015 at 12:08

      Racism will only go away the day when there is only 1 person left on the planet. Apartheid we whites were racist now all the blacks are racist.

      The next ethnic group on top is also going to be racist because now they can get payback for all the years you suffered. Its a cruel circle that humans have been perpetuating for centuries.

      Its engrained in our dna to discriminate … try and put a Stormers and a Bulls supported in the same pub …. humans looks for a click/cause to latch on to and discriminate with anyone who doesnt agree or thats different.

      Im generalising of course but its a human trait … to make your own groups stronger and trample on other minority groups etc.

      Reply

      • RinceTheElfRoot

        May 28, 2015 at 12:11

        Nah. Wait for a thousand years where we’re all mixed and everyone is slightly yellow and brownish.

        Reply

        • Blood Emperor Trevor

          May 28, 2015 at 12:12

          But if we’re all the same basic colour how will I be able to tell people apart? Faces? Please. That’ll never work.

          Reply

          • ReaperOfSquirrels

            May 28, 2015 at 12:16

            Don’t be a tintist.

          • RinceTheElfRoot

            May 28, 2015 at 12:37

            Now you’re being silly!

        • Speely

          May 28, 2015 at 17:31

          That’s what I’ve been saying. Only one way to get rid of the race/racism problem in this world: f***ing. Everyone f***s everyone until we’re all the same color.

          Then people will have to find some other excuse to hate someone.

          Reply

      • Caveshen Rajman

        May 28, 2015 at 13:24

        You’re right, we can’t not have conflict. That said, it can’t be used as an excuse either. And we certainly should never fall behind “all X are racist”, just like how we shouldn’t say “no X is capable of racism because they’re the victims here”. It’s tough, and it’s complicated, and games like Rust have the effect of introducing the sorely lacking empathy for many who just don’t get what it means to be of race X.

        Reply

  5. RinceTheElfRoot

    May 28, 2015 at 11:50

    LOL to those who are like ‘white!’ but can’t see their character has ginger hair! Wait 0_O

    Reply

    • ReaperOfSquirrels

      May 28, 2015 at 12:06

      You’ll know you’re a ginger because people will either:
      A. Run away from you screaming that you should not take their soul.
      B. Try to kill you with fire shouting that you will not take their soul.
      C. Be drawn to you as they’re gingers too.

      Reply

      • RinceTheElfRoot

        May 28, 2015 at 12:11

        I’ll take A B and C please!

        Reply

      • Captain JJ Hack&Slash&Dodge

        May 28, 2015 at 12:12

        If “C” really does happen Rince could build himself an army O_O

        Reply

      • RinceTheElfRoot

        May 28, 2015 at 12:13

        PS. So you’re saying the game ISN’T named after the colour of our hair?

        Reply

        • ReaperOfSquirrels

          May 28, 2015 at 12:17

          I can’t confirm or deny this.

          Reply

  6. Captain JJ Hack&Slash&Dodge

    May 28, 2015 at 12:10

    This is pretty cool. Haven’t gotten around to playing Rust yet though, The Forest is taking my survival-game hours already.

    Reply

  7. Hammersteyn

    May 28, 2015 at 12:10

    But I’m a black man trapped in a white mans body πŸ™

    Reply

    • Sageville

      May 28, 2015 at 13:23

      FIXED: “But I’m a black man trapped in 2 white men’s bodies :(“

      Reply

      • Hammersteyn

        May 28, 2015 at 13:44

        Stop spying on me in the shower!

        Reply

        • Sageville

          May 28, 2015 at 13:57

          Hey, you are the one who put up the webcam!

          Reply

          • Hammersteyn

            May 28, 2015 at 14:05

            But not for you! O well, we all have our thing. Yours is watching men shower it seems πŸ˜›

          • Sageville

            May 29, 2015 at 10:22

            Only you Hammer, only you *Creepy snicker….

          • Hammersteyn

            May 29, 2015 at 10:31

            O_o

  8. Uberutang

    May 28, 2015 at 12:17

    The biggest thing in rust is not this race thing (maybe it is an issue to Americans etc, but in SA we meet and greet all races daily)

    The big thing is you spawn naked. This makes a HUGE difference. Let me explain why:
    Any other survival game you spawn into: see other player: they kill you, regardless of what you have.
    Rust: See other people: they run up to you and give you pants to wear.

    Reply

  9. Geoffrey Tim

    May 28, 2015 at 12:19

    I think this is really clever stuff. I think for a lot of white men, they don’t realise how much the fact that they’re /the default/ counts towards their immersion, and that even when they aren’t it’s such a relatively rare thing that it can actually be a plus.

    It’s very different when its the other way around. I didn’t. I generally didn’t find that diversity in games mattered much, but that changed when I played through Sleeping Dogs and there was so much in the game that I genuinely identified with, that it boosted my own immersion in the game. It was a small thing, but it made me feel *good* – and that’s something I think games should be able to do for everyone.

    Reply

  10. Deceased

    May 28, 2015 at 12:26

    I might take shitload of flak for what I’m about to say, but you know… zero fucks given and all that…

    So, this race-roll was implemented in Rust to add more diversity to the game, which I’m all for, which I honestly think is great… But I’m not going to be pretentious and say:

    “yeah, this will change the way we interact with each other in game and learn more about how the misrepresented minorities feel in games”…

    If you honestly believe this will make us learn anything from the gaming experience in the sense of a “safe” area to feel what it’s like to be someone other than a “white male” in gaming then I’ve got sad news…
    The only thing I can see coming from this is people being more okay with having racial slurs circling the gaming community…

    A scenario to prove my point:
    Imagine, playing a black male character, wandering off, finding a bunch of white males building a town somewhere and all of a sudden they start attacking you, spewing toxic slurs and gun you down…
    Next life you spawn as a white male and join said community of white male characters – a black male character pitches up…
    I’m asking you, what do you think is going to happen, and how will you respond?

    ( of course I’m referring to what the guy/kid in the video said, not necessarily in response to the article and/or what Alessandro said )

    Also, getting rather tired of the whole “you’re a white male so you don’t know what it’s like being discriminated against” bullshit – guess the fuck what – THAT’S RACIST DISCRIMINATION RIGHT THERE BITCH!!!

    Reply

    • RinceTheElfRoot

      May 28, 2015 at 12:30

      By pointing out that white people rarely suffer slurs for being white is not discrimination, it’s a fact.

      Reply

      • Spathi

        May 28, 2015 at 12:36

        No, actually that’s the definition of racism right there. You class “white people” as one group.

        If you really want to judge a whole race based on “facts”, African Americans are more violent and dishonest based on the crime statistics of the USA. Obviously, my statement would be racist? Judge people on a case to case basis, not based on their race, right?

        Reply

        • RinceTheElfRoot

          May 28, 2015 at 12:42

          When I tick the ‘Caucasian’ box on the national census that is not me marking myself racist, nor is saying that one ‘group’ of people has seen more discrimination than another. I sure as shit didn’t learn about white Europeans being sold into slavery on a mass scale at school because their ‘group’ were the ones doing it.

          Reply

          • Spathi

            May 28, 2015 at 14:53

            So we are in agreement it seems πŸ™‚

      • Deceased

        May 28, 2015 at 12:37

        Seeing it every single day on gaming-news-sites does not for rare occurrences make 😐

        Reply

        • RinceTheElfRoot

          May 28, 2015 at 12:48

          Really? You see/hear white people being spoken down to because they are white? I never do. In fact just off the top of my head I can’t think of a ‘hard’ racial slur used against white people and can think of 5 used against other demographics.

          Reply

          • Deceased

            May 28, 2015 at 13:05

            All of a sudden I have a craving for cracker bread 😐

  11. Krabby Paddy

    May 28, 2015 at 12:36

    I take offense if people think I relate to a character simply because they are white. The dude has black hair with an awesome tan and sounds like a jock and even though I’m a very pale male with red hair and not of the jock variety, I relate to him simply because he is also white. Also Mario, I might not be a fat Italian plumber but hey he is white so I must obviously relate to him. Add many other examples here …
    *this is meant to be light hearted.

    Reply

    • RinceTheElfRoot

      May 28, 2015 at 12:38

      Yeah, but we have no soul so no one cares πŸ˜‰

      Reply

      • Krabby Paddy

        May 28, 2015 at 12:41

        lol, damn this hair colour and lack of soul discrimination! I’m a person too … well kinda.

        Reply

        • RinceTheElfRoot

          May 28, 2015 at 13:15

          Don’t worry man, when the end of days come we will rise!

          Reply

          • Blood Emperor Trevor

            May 28, 2015 at 17:44

            Like what, damp?

    • Captain JJ Hack&Slash&Dodge

      May 28, 2015 at 13:09

      You do make a good point though.
      I always pick the big black dude (coach) when I play Left for Dead 2, simply because I think he’s the coolest character. Am I supposed to always pick the young white guy because for some odd reason I’m supposed to feel that I can relate to him?
      We’re South Africans it’s going to be difficult to find someone, regardless of the race, to really relate to in most games.
      On that note, I perfectly relate to Geralt the Witcher because it makes me feel good if I tell myself that enough times πŸ˜‰

      Reply

      • Deceased

        May 28, 2015 at 13:19

        Geralt is very relatable isn’t he πŸ˜€

        In the first game…
        * Spoiler *
        when Triss becomes all “bring me a ring an’ shit”, and Geralt (through your choices) was like, are you high woman?! At that moment I knew, Geralt is the most relatable character in gaming XD

        Reply

        • Captain JJ Hack&Slash&Dodge

          May 28, 2015 at 13:38

          Hahaha. Excellent.

          Reply

  12. Sageville

    May 28, 2015 at 13:20

    Personally, I play all my games as a lady and I mix and match the race depending on my mood.

    I do enjoy the character creation parts in all my games, I don’t like the idea of being forced a random character, but in the case of rust, where you don’t really see your character choice, that’s cool, but I see it more as an easy development choice as opposed to a groundbreaking Social Justice experiment.

    The correct way to address the issue is to make all the races, genders and orientations available at character creation, which would require a lot more work and assets. I haven’t played the game but it sounded like they are spinning a easy design choice as some sort of transformation experiment.

    Reply

  13. 40 Insane Frogs

    May 28, 2015 at 18:28

    I have to say, this is very interesting. I should reinstall Rust and see whether my little shack still stands.

    Reply

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