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Ah, Rust. I haven’t even played the game, and yet I find it fascinating. Why haven’t I played it, you ask? Well, mostly because everything I’ve heard about The Way Things Work in the world of Rust scares the tonsils off of me. I own the game (although I’m not sure how or why I came to have it in my possession), but I have zero interest in being kidnapped in a virtual world and having someone force me to lotion up, lest I get hosed down again. No thanks!

But! It sure is mesmerising watching the bizarre happenings Rust generates from the comfort of the outside. Designer Garry Newman (creator of Garry’s Mod) has been transforming the multiplayer survival game into something of a social experiment, and to this end the game was previously updated to randomly (and permanently) pick every player’s race and penis size upon loading it up. Now, the same is being done for gender. And naturally, it’s causing a bit of a stir.

The update in question introduces female characters to the world of Rust for the first time and, in keeping with Newman’s dream of completely randomised player characters, it quickly became apparent that once your gender is assigned, it’s locked to your Steam ID and cannot be changed.

“We understand this is a sore subject for a lot of people,” says Newman on the game’s devblog, where you can read more about the update. “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.”

That last sentence actually made me laugh out loud as I read it. People stared. Newman has previously shown much joy in seeing how players react to changes such as this. Read this interview with Polygon from last year and you’ll see what I mean.

“I don’t actually believe people behave differently to different races in game right now, because there’s no minorities and people are segregated — everyone is scared of everyone else,” said Newman to Polygon. “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.”