The /r/games subreddit is home to 1.7 million subscribers and sees upwards of 20 thousand active users at any given moment. It's billed as a more focused forum for gaming news and discussion than more popular videogame subreddits, the quiet cafe to /r/gaming's combination Chuck E. Cheese Dave & Buster's.
But for the mods of /r/gaming, placing an emphasis on civil discussion hasn't been enough to curb the influx of "combative and derogatory schools of thought." To make their stance clear, the /r/games mod team has shut down the /r/games subreddit for April Fools' Day, leaving a detailed statement of intent pinned to the top of the subreddit.
The statement opens by saying that a casual forum for checking out news and chatting with fellow hobbyists has "become a battleground of conflicting ideas," and that even though argument is a natural result of these discussions—I mean, Metroid Prime is better than Super Metroid—they tend to devolve into "vitriolic attacks between individuals on a regular basis with no chance at deescalation…"
Marginalized and disenfranchised cultures and communities bear the brunt of these often racist and bigoted attacks.
The mods posted a string of images (content warning: transphobia, homophobia, islamophobia, racism, misogyny, pro-pedophilia, pro-rape language) demonstrating what they see in a given day, and that's just the stuff they catch.
It isn't surprising. Browse just about any mildly popular gaming subreddit (or comment section) and you'll see the same sentiments.
For the /r/games mods team, this means taking action. "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 statement reads.
It also reminds us that gaming is more surprising and diverse than ever. "Though the industry as a whole has suffered a great deal of trials and tribulations, we also are fortunate enough to be at a point in time in which there seem to be a glut of fantastic games, from major AAA titles down to near-anonymous indie projects that come out of nowhere."
It's true. Steam sees dozens of new games a day, while Epic is curating an entirely new digital marketplace (even if its methods are hotly debated). Itch.io is overflowing with experimental, diverse approaches to design, while the big publishers are having an incredible 2019 so far. Great games like Apex Legends, Warframe, or Fortnite, are completely free to play.
The fundamental idea that any particular group of disenfranchised people is 'ruining games' is wrong. There is and never has been reason to resort to bigotry and vitriolic speech in videogame discourse, or any discourse for that matter. The closing paragraphs of the /r/games statement captures it succinctly:
"Our differences in experiences comprise the diversity in the content that we consume, and by allowing ourselves to appreciate those differences, we change our perspectives and interpretations; this applies not only in games, but life as a whole."
The /r/games post closes by listing a host of charities that support groups regularly targeted in the worst comments. We're sharing those links here, too.