There’s a computer game I’ve been playing called Rust. It’s basically this barren island full of harsh rock formations and sparse forests, littered with a few hundred players from around the world.
Each has nothing but a stone and a flaming stick, to see better at night.
Hacking away at trees and caving in the skulls of wildlife (with the stone) give players scant resources to craft together some rudimentary rag clothing and perhaps a couple of primitive tools.
Those willing to invest enough hours will start making places to live, chests to store items in and otherwise make something of a life out of their meagre existence.
As you can imagine, meeting other players is a daunting experience.
A naked man sprinting towards you swinging a large stone at your face is about as alarming as it sounds. Three masked Kevlar-wearing Russians wielding automatic rifles is even worse.
Everyone can communicate to each other, through voice or text, and death means you drop everything you were carrying and will rebirth perhaps many miles away from that location, naked, penniless and alone.
With so much to lose, any human encounter is understandably tense.
In this cruel world, communities can emerge. Yelling ‘friendly!’ upon meeting a stranger usually results in an arrow to the neck, but occasionally you meet other peaceful people.
Working together to find wood, stone, metal and other materials means that building somewhere secure to live and staying alive is far easier.
The stories that play out in this digital post-apocalyptic Lord of the Flies nightmare are a sad reflection of human nature. All too often a polite crossing of paths will result in death, and the majority of Rust’s citizens are out for number one.
Few seem to have any moral battles over blasting a poverty-stricken nude fellow to rob him of his pathetic three bits of cloth and a hunk of raw chicken.
Yet among this heartless Hades exists a sliver of humanity. One player was kind enough to reward my brother – who also plays the game – with a revolver and full set of clothes. He was also welcomed into his well-protected home and was fed.
Four other people were given similar shelter, thankfully proving not everyone is so selfish out there. That they were all kept naked in his basement makes the situation somewhat funnier, but each was well genuinely looked-after.
Other tales from the world of Rust include a community-built facsimile of Walmart, a Wild West style city of wood, a project to build a 1000ft tower into the sky, a (hilarious) 20-strong gang of ‘penis brothers’ and even a simplistic version of KFC.
In my own experiences, thanks to some real-world friends, I was able to help construct a sizable home, secured with a robust series of metal doors to ward off would-be raiders. Part of the tale of its construction involved a young boy named Billy, or GamingIdiot11 in Rust’s world.
The poor sap needed some support and we were happy to help. Well, in truth, we actually stole the foundations to his house by breaking down the door and rebuilding parts, but when he returned the next day, we ultimately lied to him about what happened and allowed him to live there with us.
Annoyingly he knows all of our codes to different doors in the house, and he often dies and otherwise loses our valuable belongings.
After a few days, his constant pestering for more guns to replace those he lost, which are expensive to produce, made us collectively decide to change the codes to the doors and send him on his way.
But guess what? We couldn’t do it.
We changed the locks and were all set for our parting of ways, but then he logged in and started knocking on the door. ‘Guys? What’s the code? What’s going on?’
Even though it’s just a bloody game, I thought it was too cruel. We told him the new codes and let him continue to be a liability to our existence.
Am I needlessly ethical? Am I overly concerned about others’ welfare? I hope not.
I love seeing people share a can of tuna with a hungry stranger.
I think it’s quite touching when someone altruistically shares their possessions with someone they’ve never met before, or instinctively trusts someone in otherwise perilous circumstances.
This makes it similarly frustrating when I’m axed in the back for no good reason. It’s utterly fucking devastating to lose hours of resource-gathering and crafting when some prick shotguns you to the face while you’re minding your own business.
It’s even worse seeing itemless and poor new players relentlessly slain by those rich with experience and weaponry. The shittest thing of all is being instantly killed by hackers – pathetic players that have played with the code to jump super high, or automatically snipe hapless bods through walls from a mile away.
They’re doing it just for the thrill.
It can be so demoralising, and I think it’s exactly the kind of pointless, heartless, selfish wankstain behaviour that many humans exhibit when given half the chance.
Isn’t it a shame that so many people are opportunistic, self-centered bastards? I was going to write about the parallels to real life, and all about capitalism, corporations and other ‘treat others as you would yourself’ bullshit, but you know it all already, don’t you?
In any capacity, from the meat industry and international conflicts to exploitative businesses and petty crime, plenty of humans – most humans – take what they can whenever they’re given an opportunity to. We do what we want, because we can.
And that’s sad. What a horrible bunch of souls we really are.