Rust Experiments With Racial Empathy, Randomly Assigns Skin Color

Developer Gary Newman fascinated by the response from players after implementing an update that randomly assigns skin color and facial features.

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In a recent update, the post-apocalyptic MMO survival game Rust got a few unusual changes. The game now randomly selects player's skin color and faces, tying them to each player's Steam ID so that they cannot be changed.

Lead designer Gary Newman detailed the changes in a blog post last week saying "Everyone now has a pseudo unique skin tone and face. Just like in real life, you are who you are – you can't change your skin colour or your face. It's actually tied to your steamid."

Previously, players were all identical young people, but the developers wanted to shake that up. "There's a lot of skin colors in the world," Newman added. "It's really easy to appear racially insensitive when doing this. This is compounded by the fact that everyone is really used to seeing this guy as a white guy, so when you see him as a black guy it feels like he's just 'blacked up.' So we're spending a lot of time trying to lessen that effect."

So far, the response has been mostly positive, but as PCGamesN reports, comments on the game's steam forums have been pretty nasty (gallery below). Some people aren't happy about the fact that they aren't white men anymore. Apparently that's also been accompanied by a surge of racially-charged language. In an interview with Kotaku, Newman quipped, "It makes me wish I'd set up some analystics to record how many times the N-word was used before and after the update. It was used quite a bit from what I've seen."

Newman wanted to take action against the players using that kind of charged language, but other players began stepping in. "What we found was that when someone was being racist, they were always in the minority and more often than not the other members of the server stepped in and took action (i.e. they all worked together to hunt him)."

Newman hopes that this will teach people about empathy and what other people have to deal with on a regular basis.

"I would love nothing more than if playing a black guy in a game made a white guy 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. It's quite pleasing to see different races working together in game, and makes you realize how arbitrary race is."

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