The moderators of Reddit’s popular r/Games subreddit are using April Fools’ Day to protest bigoted and “awful” comments. The subreddit, which boasts 1.7 million members, is closing for the day. Posts and comments are locked. In an announcement, the moderators highlight what they call a growing problem with discrimination, harassment, and vitriolic attacks.
“This April Fools’, we decided to take things a little more seriously and shed some light on a growing, pervasive issue that has affected the community of r/Games and gaming communities as a whole,” the moderators wrote in a post. “What has been intended to be a forum for the potential spread of knowledge and involvement in video games has instead become a battleground of conflicting ideas ... when that argument descends into vitriolic attacks between individuals on a regular basis with no chance at deescalation, that’s when, put simply, something’s got to give.”
Specifically, the moderators say r/Games commenters are regularly demonizing and deriding women, people of color, Muslims, and other groups that have been disenfranchised or marginalized. A page of deleted comments highlights one poster justifying the mass killings of Muslims in New Zealand, several others complaining about the inclusion of gay or transgender people in games, and volumes of people using racial slurs to attack other users (in one case, by telling anyone bothered by the slurs to “kill yourself”).
“Our community is becoming increasingly responsible for perpetuating a significant amount of these combative and derogatory schools of thought,” the moderators write. “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.”
The moderators note that this isn’t just an issue within games. It’s part of a society-wide culture war instigated by people who see diversity as a threat to their communities and interests. But the gaming community is huge, and it’s home to some particularly virulent strains of harassment, including persistent attacks on developers, potentially deadly swatting hoaxes spurred by gaming rivalries, and the anti-diversity campaign Gamergate.
The r/Games subreddit isn’t Reddit’s biggest gaming community. It’s known for having a quality filter that the 21 million-subscriber r/Gaming lacks, and temporarily shutting it down is a noteworthy statement. (It’s also a lot more meaningful and less irritating than your average April Fools’ prank.) The subreddit’s rules already ban inflammatory language, inciting harassment, “low-effort” comments, and posts that don’t fit the goal of “informing and discussing” topics involving games.
Polygon reports that r/Games’s moderators will post a “meta” thread discussing the decision later today. The shutdown post doesn’t discuss just how they’ll change the subreddit going forward, but it seems to point toward a zero-tolerance policy for “regressive ideas” and harassment. “Preventing the cultivation of bigotry means giving it no ground to go to, and as a whole leave only space for those who would respectfully participate.”
For now, the post encourages readers to donate to a list of charities like Able Gamers and Life After Hate. It also calls out people making positive contributions to r/Games. “You’re what keep us going,” it says. “You’re who we want to see more of, and you’re everything that is the potential for a strong, open community for those who love and enjoy video games the way we do.”