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Reddit’s r/Games Shut Down for April Fool’s Day Because Toxic Hate Speech Is Not a Joke

Reddit games subreddit logo.

Yesterday, the popular subreddit r/Games was temporarily shut down. This may have happened on April Fool’s Day but it wasn’t exactly for April Fool’s Day–meaning it was no joke. As the moderators wrote in a post that appeared as the only page’s only available content, “This April Fool’s, 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.”

In a Q&A post published today, the moderators say the site traditionally sees increased traffic on April 1st, and they wanted to use that spotlight to discuss the site’s issue with toxic behavior and hate speech.

“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 post reads. “Ordinarily, this isn’t an issue; discussion by its very nature is certain to bring argument, but 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.”

The moderators describe the toxicity they see every day in the forum, even going as far as to compile an album of some of the horrible comments that have been posted (with the usernames removed), though as they note, it only scratches the surface. You can see that gallery here, although honestly, I don’t recommend it. You already know what’s there. It’s full of misogynistic, racist, homophobic, transphobic, and otherwise bigoted language. There are personal attacks and urgings of suicide. It’s gross and you don’t need that in your life.

“Unfortunately, this inflammatory content is not an infrequent occurrence,” write the mods. “The condescending, dismissive, vindictive and pessimistic attitudes we see in our day to day activity is troubling, especially when those interactions involve harassing or outright targeting regularly discriminated communities. It’s not uncommon for us to see the real issues surrounding these communities be trivialized, derided out of ignorance, or worse, for the sake of entertainment.

This isn’t an issue confined to just one subreddit, of course, but as the post says, “At r/Games, our community is becoming increasingly responsible for perpetuating a significant amount of these combative and derogatory schools of thought.” The mods delete and ban as comments come up (and are known for being quick to do so), “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 don’t lay out any sort of actionable plan for ridding the page of abusive content. Rather, this simply seems to be the declaration of a sort of manifesto, a clear statement that this subreddit is not the place for toxicity. It’s a place for inclusion and celebration of diverse voices and views in the gaming community. With 1.7 million subscribers, this is a far from inconsequential stand to take.

The post ends with a list of charities and organizations serving the groups frequently targeted in the sort of hate speech seen on the site.

Today, there’s a meta thread up for members to discuss their thoughts on the April 1st post. As you might expect, there’s a lot of pushback, and a lot of accusations of “virtue signaling,” as if it’s so inconceivable that the moderation team could actually believe the things they’re saying.

Many others are expressing anger or confusion, saying that there isn’t really that much toxic behavior on this particular subreddit. But while those who use hate speech might be the minority (and with more than a million and a half members, I would hope they are), they are an extremely vocal minority. They are also toxic in the truest sense of the word, in that their presence has the ability to poison an entire space full of otherwise enjoyable people.

That sort of behavior is so often just accepted as a part of the gaming world. Even in communities that don’t encourage those values, there’s a difference between purging it as it comes up and taking a strong stand against it from the outset. “It’s easy to downvote a comment or delete something that is inflammatory, but the idea behind closing the subreddit is to bring to light the normalization of this rhetoric,” the mods write in that Q&A post. Even with a supportive community and quick-to-act moderators, there is something great about standing up and saying, “These people don’t own this space. They won’t be tolerated and their gatekeeping won’t work here.”

So kudos to the moderating team of /r/games for taking that stand.

(image: r/Games)

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Vivian Kane (she/her) has a lot of opinions about a lot of things. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri with her husband Brock Wilbur and too many cats.