Last night, /r/Games, a subreddit with 1.7 million subscribers, announced it would be closing on April Fool’s Day to shed light on the bigotry in the online gaming community.
“Not April Fool’s,” the post begins. It continues:
“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...Though certain memes (such as “gamers rise up”) surrounding gaming are largely viewed as a humorous interpretation of a mindset, at the core of the humor is a set of very serious issues that affect all gaming enthusiasts. By showing disdain or outright rejecting minority and marginalized communities, we become more insular. 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. 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.”
At the end of the post, after noting that bigoted language in /r/Games is “not an infrequent occurrence” and citing several instances of transphobia, homophobia, islamophobia, and misogyny, the moderators call on users to celebrate the diversity of others’ backgrounds. Then, listing several charities for LGBT+ individuals, people of color, and women, the moderators say, “this April Fool’s, we’re also asking you to take into consideration the idea of helping these organizations out.”
There is a lot of support for the subreddit’s move on Twitter and gaming forums like ResetEra.com. One user acknowledged that “I am not a fan of that subreddit but I am really impressed that they took a stand like this.” On Twitter, one user said, “And this day filled with jokes, its [sic] nice to see something serious and heartwarming.” Others reacted negatively, referring to the move as “virtue signaling” or “going full blue pilled and cringe.”
Kotaku reached out to the /r/Games moderators last night asking them to explain their decision, the timing of the post, and whether they’ve reflected on how their own moderation tactics played into the subreddit’s culture. One moderator responded to say that “This is not something we have done for publicity. We believe the post itself presents the combined thoughts of the moderator team and we have no further comment at this time.” They added that moderators will be answering the community’s questions in a meta thread this evening. The subreddit remains closed as of this post’s initial publication.
Updated: 4/2/19, 9:20 a.m. ET: Last night, the /r/Games moderators described their reasoning behind temporarily closing the subreddit on April Fool’s Day in a separate post. The moderators clarified that their initial post was not a joke and explained that they published it on a day where they typically see higher traffic. After coming up with the idea for the post one month ago, the moderators write, most of them were in agreement about its sentiment and implementation.
The moderators say they want the subreddit to reflect their ethics and ideals. “We’ve recently increased the moderator headcount, and have been constantly iterating on and recruiting for our Comment-Only Moderator program to improve how effectively we can manage our ever-expanding community,” they explained. Answering users’ questions about why they “brought politics into /r/Games,” they responded, “Asking people to be nicer to each other and engage with respect and dignity is not politics, it’s human decency. Along the way of conversation and the exchange of ideas, that decency has fallen on the list of priorities for some commenters. Our aim with this post is to remind commenters to not let the notion of civility and kindness be an afterthought in the process.”