On the internet, April Fools’ Day is usually an occasion to make bad jokes about impossible projects, or an excuse to prank everyone with something that should exist. But the moderators over at r/Games, a subreddit with over 1.7 million subscribers, decided to take a different approach this year. According to the people who oversee the community, it’s time to talk about a pervasive problem poisoning discussion on the internet at large: comments. The subreddit has closed down for April Fools to bring attention to the issue.
Over the last few years, the gaming community has gained a stigma of contempt against marginalized communities, with discussion of topics such as race, gender, and class unfairly relegated as concerns of “social justice warriors” who apparently only want to destroy the hobby. “Politics” has become a dirty word in the space. Either people don’t want to talk about real-world issues in video games, or they can’t discuss it civilly without concerns about doxxing, swatting, and harassment campaigns. Video games have felt like an angry, intolerant space for a while now, especially against vulnerable fans.
Much of this aligns with the wider condition of the internet at large — everything has become divisive, or palpably hostile against marginalized communities no matter where you go. While this isn’t a Reddit-centric problem, the social media site has become the face of this shift within video games thanks to communities like r/KotakuInAction, where hateful movements such as Gamergate flourish. It’s a problem that has trickled across Reddit, where many gaming communities gather and discuss their interests. This is where r/Games comes in.
“In recent times, it’s come to our attention that 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,” the moderators said in an announcement post pinned to the top of the forum. As overseers of the community, the moderators have noticed that much conversation involving the marginalized intensifies until there’s no room for de-escalation. And today, the leaders of the subreddit are taking their community to task.
“At r/Games, our community is becoming increasingly responsible for perpetuating a significant amount of ... combative and derogatory schools of thought,” moderators say. “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 dilemma isn’t just that discussion feels impossible under a cloud of toxicity, it’s that the gaming community on Reddit has become too insular and closed-off.
“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 post reads. “Whether it’s misogyny, transphobia, homophobia, racism or a host of other discriminatory practices, now is the time to stymie the flow of regressive ideas and prevent them from ever becoming the norm.”
The moderators go on to say that issues around marginalized communities are often minimized by Redditors, or made into tasteless jokes — some of which have been compiled into an album by r/Games leaders to showcase how the problem manifests itself on Reddit.
Through the admission that places like Reddit can harbor harmful attitudes, the caretakers of the subreddit hope that they can cultivate a more “wholesome, accepting community” that comes together around video games, rather than using the hobby as a ground zero for hateful ideologies. The post ends with a list of charities that readers can donate to, but more importantly, with a powerful message about where r/Games wants to go next. The announcement shares such honest, accountable insights that despite its existence on April Fools’ Day, the whole thing is worth your time.
“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,” the post declares. “We must closely examine our own communities, in an effort to encourage acceptance and inclusion, to foster a healthy community in which we value empathy and respect.”
The moderators at r/Games declined to comment, but told Polygon that they will be discussing the topic further in a “meta” thread about the post scheduled to go up later today.