After years of lurking quietly, original r/battletech subreddit creator ddevil63 returned to action over the weekend to shut down forum moderators who were deleting Pride-related posts and establish a new set of content rules for the subreddit based on a simple premise: "Battletech is for everyone."
Subreddit moderators have been deleting images of mechs painted in Pride colors for some time now, according to redditor LiquidAether, but their actions went largely unnoticed. That changed when users started posting about the Battletech Pride Anthology 2023, a collection of five short stories "from LGBTQ folks for LGBTQ folks and people hoping to read more queer oriented stories set in the Battletech Universe."
Those posts were also being deleted, but because of the anthology's higher profile, people noticed and complained—and also started to become aware of the earlier deletions. In response, the moderators acknowledged that they had been removing Pride-related posts, which they justified by invoking the subreddit's long-standing policy against the discussion of real-world politics, or current events after 1988, the year Battletech was first released.
This did not mollify the community, which apparently took exception to the suggestion that the existence of LGBTQ people is "political," and so the moderators doubled-down by taking the subreddit private.
Around that time, Battletech publisher Catalyst Game Labs became aware of what was going on, and created an all-new subreddit, r/OfficialBattletech, as an inclusive, CGL-sanctioned home for Battletech fans. Community and marketing director Rem Alternis said Reddit hadn't previously been one of the company's community-building priorities, but "our community had an urgent need for our presence, and our support."
Shortly after that is when r/battletech creator ddevil63 got involved. "I have not been active as a moderator or contributor but I regularly read posts and comments," they wrote on r/battletech. "Yesterday was when I became aware of the removal of the Pride Anthology post and the rightfully deserved backlash. I have no moderation or community management experience but I'm trying my best to right any wrongs.
"Effective immediately, Rule #1 of r/battletech mirrors Rule #1 of r/OfficialBattletech, 'BATTLETECH IS FOR EVERYBODY'. The previous rule, 'All posts must be Battletech related', and its 1988 stipulation have been removed. The current moderation team has been removed. I ask that you please be respectful to them. I sincerely hope they remain a part of this community. Tensions have been extremely high and I'm saddened by the things that have been said in public and in private. Please bear with us while we work to figure this out as a community."
There was some uncertainty about where things would go from there: Author Russell Zimmerman, who had been selected by Alternis as the lead moderator of the OfficialBattletech subreddit, expressed appreciation for ddevil63's actions but said that the path forward—whether the subreddits would be combined, operate separately as "official" and "unofficial" forums, or something else entirely—would ultimately be up to "the powers that be," presumably meaning Catalyst Game Labs.
Yesterday, the decision was made to drop the OfficialBattletech subreddit and return to r/battletech, which will be operated under new community standards established by CGL. Ironically, discussion of real-world politics remains forbidden, but so is the behavior that sparked the uproar in the first place.
"BattleTech is for everybody. Make sure everyone feels safe," the new rules state. "Bullying of any kind is forbidden, and degrading comments about things including, but not limited to, race, religion, culture, disability, career, sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity will not be tolerated.
"There is a zero-tolerance rule in effect for the use of slurs for any of the identifiers listed above, including things like “r*tard,” “cu*k,” etc.). Attempts to dodge moderation by using euphemisms will be considered a violation of the no-slur policy. If you have to ask if a term is considered a slur, do not use it."
Zimmerman noted that the rules are still in a "draft" state, and said CGL will continue collecting feedback from the community before finalizing them. He added, however, that "we ARE very much, as a community, picking a side, and being hostile to bigots."
Speaking to Polygon, Alternis, CGL's community manager, said essentially the same thing. "There’s an opportunity here to show who Catalyst is on the inside," Alternis said. "To be able to say, 'Hey, this is who we are. BattleTech is for everyone, and respect is a right.' And that's how we’re going to operate our communities.
"Hateful people that were building their own brand ... under the name of a company's flag — whether it's Warhammer, or Games Workshop, or Catalyst or whoever—they're gonna realize that [we] don't care what your stances are, your opinions are. If you can’t be respectful of other human beings, you're not welcome in this community."