Customize or Randomize: Gender Issues in the Gaming World

Recently in the survival game, Rust, many players are frustrated by the randomized generation of gender and appearance for their characters. The gaming world has gotten fired up on many outlets like Reddit, and the website for Rust about this, and has many people angry.

The developers responded to the outbreak with:

“We understand this is a sore subject for a lot of people. 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. The only difference is that whether you feel like this is now decided by your SteamID instead of your real life gender” (Frida Garza, April 2016).

They told the gaming world that the option to customize wasn’t available to gamers and they would have to play with what was given. They are essentially playing God and giving assigned info to each character that a gamer needs to help survive.

I have mixed feelings about this. I always loved being able to customize my gender and my appearance in a lot of games. However, the concept of playing with what you are given in a survival game seems to fall within the exact theme of surviving.

Gender and appearance is really important in most games. It is important to make the characters relatable, important, and defined in their roles. Gamers like to be able to customize their characters if they can and have a long standing relationship with the protagonist. Bethesda’s Elder Scrolls is a perfect example. Gamers can customize the entire appearance and gender of their character and Bethesda spent a long time fine tuning this.

It didn’t prove that male gamers only play male characters or anything like that. It just gave the audience an opportunity to create a character worth making a hero or villain out of, and what skill sets the character has.

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Skyrim Customization Screen, Hubpages, 2016.

All of this brings out the bigger issue about gender in games. Being able to choose or not, not everyone wants to affiliate with one but they are forced to through customization. And when it comes down to it, is it really that bad for the gaming world if companies play with options–random assignment, customized, or no assigned gender? Why is there this huge argument with the gaming community and the creators who are trying new things?

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Tomb Raider, Definitive Edition, 2014.

In this survival game random assignment seems totally fair to test the gamer on how to play a character to its skills, body type, etc. In other games it seems good to be able to pick skill sets to hone if the gamer wants to do that. Other games have a completely predetermined character, like how most Assassin’s Creed games have male assassins. It’s all part of the same artform where people have to try new things to keep the audience hooked.

The gender issue is always going to happen if people can’t keep open minded and give it a shot. If you’re gaming you might need to pick certain aspects and stick to them if you can’t play with randomly assigned character info.

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About Jenn Kilgallon

I am a millennial professional seeking out good, healthy habits while still committing to my geek life. I am a proud life optimizer, and a spiritual person of many practices. I want to share that with you! "Always maintain the attitude of a student. If you think you've done learning, bitterness sets in, but if you have more to achieve every day, in any arena, that makes each morning's awakening full of potential and cheery portent."-Nick Offerman Geek. Writer. Artist. Genius. Tea Drinker.

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