Rust – Representing Race in Games – Extra Credits

Rust – Representing Race in Games – Extra Credits


so I want to talk about rust if you haven’t seen it before it’s sort of a Minecraft Meets Daisy multiplayer survival game but I’m not really here to talk about any of that I want to talk about one particular design decision they made in the earliest moments of the game character creation it’s something that has absolutely no in-game mechanical effect and yet has had a profound effect on the way players play I want to talk about the fact that you get no input whatsoever in how your character looks yep the game randomly rolls what your character looks like and that role is tied to your steam ID so you can’t just reroll or try again you are who you are and you’re stuck with that and that happens to include your race and I’m not talking fantasy races here like Nord or khajit I just mean the color of your skin what race you are in this multiplayer game isn’t a matter of choice it’s what you’re born with this is forcing a lot of people to face a lot of things and it’s making a lot of players pretty uncomfortable and that’s a brave design choice this wasn’t a fiscal decision in fact this choice has almost certainly lost the company money but they made it because they felt like it was the right choice they made it because they felt like without taking anything away from the game they could use design to give us another opportunity to better understand who we are and if this game makes you uncomfortable that’s okay sometimes art is supposed to make us uncomfortable it’s the discomfort that comes from getting out of our normal boundaries that helps push the limits of who we are but personally I found this fascinating as a sociological experiment I’ve seen on message boards players talk about the fact that playing this game was the first time they suffered racial discrimination that they had never had racial slurs used against them before that they were white males who had never felt what it was like to have terms of racial hate leveled at them I even saw discussion about what it feels like to play a minority from somebody who self-avowed was the type of person who threw around the n-word in multiplayer games and rust creators have talked about the fact that they’ve chosen not to automatically filter racial slurs because they feel that part of the strength of games is that they give us the opportunity to safely experience a part of life we might otherwise never get to and through doing so come to a greater sense of empathy as the lead designer said when a friend of mine was interviewing him I would love nothing more than if playing a black guy in a game made a white guy up appreciate what it was like to be a persecuted minority there’s still work to be done so consider this just the boilerplate of an idea for now but it’s quite pleasing to see different races working together in game and makes you realize how arbitrary race is that is a powerful statement a perspective on race only games can bring it shows how we can use this medium to advance the dialogue even if it’s in painful sometimes uncomfortable ways and it goes beyond just the bounds of the game itself if you read many of the steam reviews you’ll see complaints from people saying that they just can’t get immersed in the game because they don’t have a character that looks like them that’s the best argument for more diversity in games that I’ve ever heard time and again I’ve seen people say that they don’t feel like games need to be more diverse that they hate how diversity is being pushed into the games industry but if you can’t get immersed in a character that doesn’t look like you in a first-person game okay but just imagine what that means for all the players who are minorities who are drastically underrepresented in games who almost never get to play a character that looks like them think about how many people lose out on the immersion that many of us take for granted just because we share a skin color with link or Mario or Marcus Fenix we should be able to give that to everyone my only complaint with the diversity in rust is that right now they’ve only got one character model and it’s male but as it’s a survival game where you start out completely naked I unfortunately understand the choice it’s pretty depressing that not giving players a naked female character model because of what it would do to your game makes sense but there it is I hope they can find the solution but despite that I think there’s a lot to learn from rust because rust shows us just how much impact a game can have on our understanding of society and each other without hitting us over the head with the message without even impacting play a game doesn’t have to be about race to teach us about race or to get us to better understand ourselves and to better understand one another instead it only has to just give us the tiniest taste of what it can be like to be somebody else see you next week

100 thoughts on “Rust – Representing Race in Games – Extra Credits

  1. If the different skin color was random for every character you made I would like it

    But since it's tied to your steam id I don't like it

  2. kids these days are spoiled that they get to create characters at all. in my day, characters on screen didnt resemble ANYONE. they were fucking stick figures for chrissake. so stop yer goddamn whining about "I cant make the character look like me". GOOD! I purposefully go out of my way to make characters who DONT look like me, because the character IS NOT ME. its a fictional character in a game. I try to make all my characters look like Raiden from Metal Gear Rising, or like Drizzt from D&D, neither of whom look anything like me.

  3. If you can only connect with a character because of race, maybe it's not the industry that has to change.

    Maybe it's you.

  4. I'm going back and rewatching all these videos, and I have to say, listening to you talk about hope and the future and how good people can be makes me want to cry. I can only watch so many videos at a time because my heart gets so full of empathy and love that I can't take it in the best way possible. I am the self proclaimed queen of the happy cry, but still! You guys are the best, and I hope you keep making videos for a very long time. My sincerest thanks for all that you do.

  5. I dont play Rust, but I do play Ark, and I love the option to change my skin color for camouflage purposes. I know i would be mad if i was given a snow white skin color that you could spot and snipe from a mile away. Other than that reason, I would not care if they made me bright pink.

  6. Me being the sarcastic asshole, I will probably make jokes about myself no matter what I get, so I don't mind. XD

    And honestly, I think they should have female models, just so people can get a smack dab punch in the face about why feminists are so pissed.

    I don't agree with all their points, I am an egalitarian, but I do understand why they are pissed off, and I think a lot of people miss that subtle detail that really is the heart of the matter. Being judged for your body and nothing else.

  7. I truly love your narration. I'm not certain if it's Jame's writing, your speaking or the amalgamation of the two, but I find this channel and everything that comes from it emotionally impactful. I aspire to that ability to create emotion and empathy through my voice.

    To that end, voice acting episode when?

  8. I don't mind so much that' I'm a 400lb naked black woman, but can we have a little bit of customisation? Perhaps chose hair or tribal tattoos or something, or just some way of customising things that you aren't stuck with like in real life.

  9. I've never played rust but I've never found race or gender to be an issue relating to charectors, gta San andrea and urban chaos are two of my past favourites that spring to mind. Though the game I found most emerging was modern warfare 1 where you was Soap, sas that's about all you know of the charector.

  10. I haven't played Rust yet, but I may check it out. That said, I wouldn't care about playing as someone of a different race; I try to see race as an irrelevant feature in determining my views on people. I don't think racial slurs would unhinge me too much either. I've had anti white slurs thrown my way before, including people just spitting out the name of my race "white" as if it's a deplorable thing to be.

  11. Ive never understood gamers who think a little diversity is a bad thing or the concept is being "forced upon them" You know what else has been forced on gamers for years whom werent white, straight and/or male? White straight male protagonists.

  12. I always hear that people don't feel represented in games. maybe it's just me but I never cared or noticed until people brought it up, and I still don't. I don't care what race my character is as long as they're intresting.

  13. Mafia III was probably the first game I saw that had a character that looked like me. It was a weird feeling, because usually I don't put myself in the shoes of the character.

  14. Am I the only one who can empathize with characters who don't look like me? I can put myself in the shoes of any person, any color, any gender, as well as animals and even on some occasions inanimate objects. Being someone or something different doesn't break my immersion.

  15. I don't think people understand that when a video talks about how a game is finally using race in a positive way, and that video gets significantly more dislikes then normal that we have a problem. But no let's make games great again. By keeping them white. If half the people in this comment section would be honest about there racist opinions instead of shrouding them in deeply flawed logic of "racism doesn't exist! I would know! I'm a white male" then we'd have a much more accurate reflection of what our society actually thinks of minorities.

  16. you guys have done a video on this before but you have stated that things like diversity shouldnt be shovelled into video games like ticking off a checklist. It can ruin the storytelling. Thought you guys would address that in this video though.

  17. I can't get immersed if the character is not crafted by mine own hands. I don't really care if it looks like me or not, depends on what kind of character I'm going for, but it matters that it is my choice how the character looks. It's a video game, I expect to be able to have some freedoms outside the realm of reality, like choosing my character's appearance and skills. I don't care if other people around me look like me or not. I'm happy that they can make a character that, most of the time, is their choice, whether it looks like them or not.

  18. i actually would not mind if women were in the game. being nude for a man should be no different than being nude for a woman. if men were also randomly selected as female as well and end up being targeted, it would show the struggle women would have to face. women aren't treated as people in game even in society. it is sad to say the least maybe this will help people to understand that women are more than just objects.

  19. I guess those dudes who didn't identify with their character did the same with games where the main character was a woman or even another species (like Star Fox, Ratchet & Clank or Sly Cooper).

    Otherwise it would be pretty hypocrital 😉

  20. the reason I don't like Rust is because I dont build characters after me. I build them as their own characters. often I play different race characters in games like Monster Hunter

  21. I prefer to design my own characters, not to look like me but I just get more connected with a character I design myself, this is why I prefer games like skyrim rather than games where you're playing as an already made character. Idgaf about race and I think randomly generated character design isn't a bad idea but I'd dislike it

  22. This is just a minor point but I think that people are fine with playing characters that don't look like them if the character is the same for everyone that plays the game. I haven't played Rust, but I'm sure many people who say that they can't get immersed because the character doesn't look like them is because the opportunity to choose what you look like was so close to being an option. At least, that's my view on the situation and could be wrong.

  23. I'm a little confused…so you can't choose what race you are in the game, the game will choose someone who looks like you based on your Steam account? Or the game will choose someone who doesn't look like you in order to give someone a sense of empathy?

  24. I like how some of these boys who got female character complains about playing as girl. It is just a small chunk of feeling "gender dysphoria". Everytime i see one of these posts i am happier.

  25. I was surprised when I started RUST and it turned out my character is a woman. I love character customisation in game so I love games like skyrim where I get to make my character, but usually my character is male. I never thought of it until I played RUST, but when I jumped back to skyrim I realised all of my characters where male. Then I thought how many characters in games with out customization were males. That's why I think horizon zero dawn is a great step in history of gaming.

  26. Shit… i never realised how under-represented most cultures were in video games until you talked about this…
    Well this is a amazing channel.

  27. I hope animal crossing gets more diverse characters. I hadn't even noticed the only skin tone is white untill someone pointed it out, but i'm glad they did.

  28. I love how EC also makes the people in their vids have a random race and gender,

    I just thoght i should mention that on this video

  29. At first I thought "I don't feel like it changes my imersion or enjoyment to play as a different race".
    Currently I'm blasting through Shantae, a game about an arabian half-genie girl.
    But then I thought how much I'd actually appreciate it to see a Dutch (my nationality) character in my games and how much I would love to hear a Dutch accent among the general Russian, French, British and German that are generally just seen as 'the european accents'.
    Now I fully understand. It's not a lack of immersion, it's lack of intrigue this causes. You are immersed, but in a world that simply lacks that little bit of extra spice. A sudden nudge of familiarity that makes you all the more interested in that aspect of the game.

    Personally I would love to see, for example, Singed from LoL being voiced by a Dutchman with a heavy accent. Not only is it pretty unique and actually really quite fitting, but the Dutch are generally just ignored like 95% of the other countries. It wouldn't impact anything at all. He'd still be a chemist and the leader of Zaun, use chemical weapons and uses a trail of poisonous gas (luckily the Dutch accent is nothing like the German), it's just that his voice is more like mine and that's more than enough.

  30. Rust is hands down one of the best games I ever saw, from the cut throat competition, group play, dozens of hours trying to come up with the ultimate "unraidable" base, dedicate dev team…. it's fun all around.

  31. There are female characters now !
    Also I got a male character in game and I'm a transgender female IRL, so I find it really interesting to get the same experience of being a female perceived as being male as I get IRL 😁

  32. The irony is that some people are deliberately racist in favor of their in-game race, against all others including their real one.

  33. To be honest, I don't care what gender or race, the character that I play as, is. I had just has much fun playing Watch_Dogs 2 as I did playing the first Watch_Dogs game. In Batman: Arkham Knight, I sometimes had even more fun playing as Cat Woman or Harley Quinn over Batman himself (I even installed a free roam mod just to play as those characters in the open). After all, in my opinion, gameplay as the most important aspect (and in the case of real life, personality).

  34. 3 thoughts that arose from this video –

    1) This is why when you do the "baby project" in high school, they assign you with a "baby" of a different race. Just to see if you will treat it differently because of its race

    2) I experienced this, not with race, but with gender, and out of all games, it was with Guitar Hero Live. It felt odd every time that I, as a guy was playing in an all-girl pop band. I wanted to complain that it ruined immersion, but then I paused, and I realized how much it must suck for female fans of Guitar Hero/Rock Band to get stuck in a band with all men. Kudos to Guitar Hero Live for remembering their female audience.

    3) I now appreciate that Pokemon Sun & Moon allow you to choose your avatar's race even more than in the past because of this video.

  35. Honestly I'm alright with being given most character types as long as they don't look stupid. I'll have preferences but everyone does

  36. Yeah the part of Rust that makes me most uncomfortable and annoyed is when I have to search for programming advice on my favorite type-safe systems language and I get heavily armed naked people as the first result.

  37. I just wish Rust was split into two games, one where fresh start players wear modern clothes (e.g. T-Shirt) with armor effects that are equivalent to nakedness and can upgrade to more realistic/accurate clothes with better/more effective armor effects. The other one would be just the way it is now. This would allow a more sensitive audience to try the game without seeing all the graphics that the developers put in.

  38. A problem I think many games have when they try to approach the subject of race is that they tend to have a habit of preaching to the choir and therefore ultimately don't say anything that most of us didn't already agree with ('You mean racism is bad? I never realized that until now!') and can, by extension, grind on a lot of people since it can feel very much like being talked down to or treated like an idiot.

    Take, for example, the 'lynching' scene from the beginning of Bioshock Infinite, a scene where you find yourself amidst a jeering crowd all waiting to pelt an interracial couple held captive on a stage with baseballs and presenting you with a clear, well laid out choice of whether to join the crowd or pelt the presenter instead (a choice that was probably pretty straight forward and easy for most of us to make), I didn't leave that scene with any newfound sense of empathy for victims of racism because it just played upon attitudes that I already hold (that discrimination in all forms is wrong) and therefore didn't really call upon any kind of introspection or examination of my actions or the way I think about things.

    I would say that if a game wants to tackle the subject of racism and make a real impact on others it needs to be a lot more subtle and insidious, it needs to lure the player into a false sense of certainty and confidence about their actions before holding a mirror up to them and fairly pointing out the reality of how they've acted so they can judge themselves accordingly, it would need to be a game in which you subtly encourage the player to be racist/bigoted, get the player implicated in this so that when you have that moment of judgement and reflection you strip away the ability to just palm everything off on an evil NPC or plot point, you have to look at yourself and only yourself.

    For this to work you'd also need to make the targets of this treatment in your game a group of people for whom many people don't really think about in regards to this subject, to echo back to my previous point on Bioshock, when I saw that interracial couple at the beginning and was presented with that choice my mind immediately kicked into my conscious attitude of 'I believe mistreating people from ethnic minorities is wrong', I was consciously aware that my actions and the way I was thinking had a racial element to it and it's possible that would influence my choice.

    Everybody knows what it's like in one way or another to be the one against a crowd, we all know we don't like it and as such it's not especially enlightening, what few people will look in the mirror and confront themselves about is the times when they join the crowd, when they're the one doing the victimizing.

  39. I mean… the general idea of labels, outside of those relating to talents, professions and honors (as in Sir, Doctor, Professor, Cop, etc.), is kind of dumb in the first place. No one corresponds 100% to any label.

  40. I was told that the character models DID make a difference. Again 2nd hand, but the best roll you can hope for is a skinny short, and ahem less than endowed male. It gives you a smaller hitbox

  41. That’s an interesting discrimination aspect they built in, why is it ok to represent undressed guys running around?

  42. Something I really want to praise you for is taking an uncomfortable question and making it approachable. Almost everyone else I've seen talk about this goes the high-handed holier-than-thou route, but you're honestly patient and courteous. Your videos never feel like a personal attack, just that you want people to learn, and that makes the process a lot easier. Thank you.

  43. I just feel like this prospect is a bit too community based. What if we lived in an ideal gaming world and this just becomes a minor annoyance? What if we lived in an really bad gaming world and all the racist, sexist, xenophobic, etc people never learn? What then? Even now, this is barely brought up! Rust nowadays is all about raids on bases.

  44. I do think that this was an interesting choice by the designers, but at the same time, the object of character creation is to express yourself, even if you're not making someone who looks like you, the entire point of creating a character is still in some sense self-expression. Characters in a crafted narrative don't really have to fall under this category, but if you're making a character, and the game decides everything for you, it ends up kind of sapping all of the fun out of it. You end up not being able to engage anywhere near as much in a core aspect of games, which is self-expression.

  45. Honestly I'm guessing the decision to have all players start out naked may have hurt them more than randomly assigning race and gender.

  46. This is fascinating because the game Wizard101 does have different "races" (skin colors) and I purposefully chose a dark skin color, just to experiment. I don't think I've ever encountered people being mean-spirited towards minority races in the game. Granted it's a game for 10+ kids and so is pretty heavily monitored, but once you're past level 60 or so the game becomes more for adults than kids — more complex mechanics, more complex story/characters/etc. I have my "black" character almost to her max level and not once have people been mean to me about that. In that game, 99% of any abuse players suffer in game is because of their magic school, not the color of their character's skin, and even that is pretty slim in occurrence because — well, no-one really likes assholes in that game.

  47. This is great for White players but what does this do for minority players? I'd like to also hear more about people of color forced to play White and others who play their race and have to deal with the same slurs they hear irl because they can't filter them.

  48. I Know this is likely a long shot, But this got me to thinking about how my buddy gifted the game to me, and how we have the same character model. I Think what has happened, is when he bought it, it tied the character model to his steam ID. I Wondered if it would be worth a shot maybe talking to the devs or some higher-up to see if they could tie my character model to my steam ID Instead?

  49. Nudity for women shouldn't be treated as more or less taboo than nudity for men… Kinda lost me there. They had the choice to help dispell the oversexualization of female characters and females in general and they backed away from it. That's not something I find understandable or something I consider a minor flaw at all. That's something important and it's important to call it out more bluntly and really look into the effects it has on the gaming community and society as a whole.

  50. When I play games with clothing customization but no character customization I always would seek out the most feminine clothes (ex: Gourdo clothes from botw). I don't wear feminine clothes irl besides a bra and female jeans (if you consider them feminine) because I don't have time to get ready in those clothes and wear them to school. But its important to me since I can attach better to that character, especially since I am trans and when I was younger I couldn't wear really any female clothes. It was important enough I would play the crap that was dress-up games because I needed something. I think character customization is important, but if that's impossible for a story then allow for opposite gender clothing.

  51. In my experience, it didn't matter what the color of your skin was or what you have hanging off of you. The only thing that matters in Rust is what you're wearing and what you got in your hands.

  52. In skyrim if you play as a khajiit or argonian they refer to you as cats, or lizards, and guards refer to you as sneak thieves, there definitely is racial tension depending on what race you pick.

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