The Internet may have already begun exploding due to April Fools’ Day pranks, but one site’s April 1st gesture is decidedly not a joke: the temporary closure of Reddit’s “r/games” channel.
An 8pm ET post on Sunday confirmed a united front by r/games’ moderation team to shed light on the “condescending, dismissive, vindictive and pessimistic attitudes we see in our day-to-day activity.” Instead of being able to create new topics or post comments, the community’s 1.6 million subscribers will be left reading a locked moderator post that describes an average day’s discourse on the site—along with the mod team’s hopes for change.
“By showing disdain or outright rejecting minority and marginalized communities, we become more insular,” the moderation team wrote after describing the community’s “vitriolic” state in general. “In this, we lose out on the chance to not only show compassion to these people, but also the chance to grow our own community and diversify the demographics of those involved in it.”
The mods came with plenty of evidence in hand: a NSFW gallery of 71 bigoted, transphobic, racist, misogynistic, pedophilic, and otherwise hateful comments that the r/games team has moderated over a span of roughly six months (if its timestamps are to be believed). “These kinds of comments occur on a daily basis,” the moderators wrote. “From bigotry to vitriol, this merely scratches the surface of the magnitude of the problem.”
This disturbing gallery is rounded out by the mod team’s thanks to existing members who have previously deescalated angry comment threads or added a positive spin, along with a reminder that r/games is far from alone in terms of questionable user comments. But the team also adds that these poisonous trends are found “frequently in communities that center around the discussion of games.”
“The issue still persists”
The r/games one-day shutdown comes with an apparent understanding that the usual game of moderator whack-a-mole isn’t cutting it: “We remove those comments, we ban the perpetrators, but the issue still persists at a fundamental level: the notion that it’s okay or acceptable to ridicule and demonize traditionally disenfranchised and marginalized members in the gaming community.” This is followed by a list of non-profits and resources for women’s health, people of color, and members of the LGBT+ community—and a call for r/games members to “revel in what’s available to us, and also appreciate the myriad of backgrounds that we as gamers come from.”
Reddit’s moderating teams are famously run by unpaid volunteers, and previous examinations of the state of Reddit moderation have focused more on abuse aimed directly at moderators themselves. Sunday’s r/games post focused squarely on hate and bigotry directed by users at marginalized communities, as opposed to the site’s moderators. It did not include any indication that the team had requested specific resources from Reddit at large.
While Reddit hosts a “resources” page for moderators, its “tips for having a welcoming and engaged community” page is pretty thin and offers no advice for managing existing or growing communities of users.
The r/games community was formed in 2008, roughly one year after the site’s significantly larger r/gaming subreddit (which boasts a subscriber base of over 21 million), as an alternative Reddit destination for “informative and interesting gaming content and discussions.” Its moderators loudly remind users to head to r/gaming for “lighter” content such as image-leading posts. As of press time, r/gaming had not posted anything that resembled an April Fools’ joke or post. Neither had Reddit itself, which last concocted its own official April Fools’ experiment two years ago—one that had designs on reducing hateful speech, to boot.
Reddit representatives did not immediately reply to Ars Technica’s questions.