Once again, an interesting talking point was raised over Massively Overpowered, but that’s hardly surprising as that is their schtick, so to speak. This time round the subject being dissected was Reddit and what happens when a gaming community finds more traction there than anywhere else. The thing is with Reddit is that it’s nowhere near as moderated as official forums and can in certain circumstances become a thorn in the flesh of a games developer, rather than an invaluable community resource. It was an engaging talking point that eventually started expanding into the more nebulous question of “how do you solve a problem like Reddit?” or thereabouts. I think this latter conundrum if worth pondering because Reddit as a platform isn’t going anywhere fast. Most games will have an official or unofficial presence there and love it or loathe it, such places are often a useful repository of information, if you can navigate the choppy waters therein.
From my own perspective, I find Reddit a nightmare to navigate, compared to bog-standard forums. I have the Reddit Enhancement Suite installed in my web browser, but I still struggle to find threads and keep up with them. I often have to use an external search facility to track down what I’m looking for. However, regardless of my personal likes and dislikes, Reddit seems to be the go to platform for online interaction and establishing communities. It’s appeal with the gaming community lies in the fact that it can provide an independent forum for debate, although some games publishers have elected to officially maintain a presence there. This freedom from corporate moderation is a double-edged sword and the source of many of Reddits problems. Contributors can be as measured or excessive in their discourse. If the majority choose to turn their online portal into a virtual latrine, then that is their prerogative. However, the matter becomes more complex when irrespective of its tone, a sub-reddit becomes the de facto place to go for news and information on a particular game. Some gamers will consider this a Hobson’s choice.
From what I’ve seen of Reddit based moderation, it all too often seems to be couched in going along with the perceived consensus of the site, rather than being impartial and fair. But then again, what can you expect from volunteers, drawn from a fan base who by nature are myopic about that which they love. Thus, the risk of creating a prevailing group think is high. That is why you will find sub-reddits that have become “echo chambers” although I do consider this a problematic term in itself. However, it will suffice for the broad point being made. Conversely, those official gaming presences on Reddit can be equally problematic. The need to control the narrative and temper an excess of criticism can effectively create the same problem only pointing towards the opposite end of the spectrum of views. Then you have the problem of the zealotry of the party faithful instead of that of the heretics.
For those people who do take a firmer moral stance, the other main issue associated with a presence on Reddit, is that even if you support just one particular sub-reddit, you are by association supporting the platform itself per se and thus all the unseemly content that it contains. As this puts some folk in an impossible moral position they effectively end up having to boycott the platform and so again miss out on a wealth of practical resources. It can also be argued that the Reddit community potentially misses out on their participation as well, and the moderating influence they could supply. Irrespective of whether it is true or not, Reddit has a reputation that proceeds itself and some folk who are ambivalent about forums to begin with, will just elect not to get involved in a community if they see that Reddit is the online portal of choice.
It is also worth considering that there may be a bigger issue here and Reddit actually may only be a symptom, rather than a cause. Rather than looking at the issue of partisan environments such a Reddit as being the thing that needs to be changed, perhaps we should take a step back and reflect upon whether its actually gamers that need fixing? Gamers are an ageing population who have had their views and opinions shaped by the times they’ve lived through. A lot has changed in my personal gaming lifetime. Business models, content delivery as well as gamer demographics themselves. Where I may recognise that things have moved on, market forces drive content creation and the basic fact that gaming is not my personal “bat and ball”, a lot of others haven’t. Change is not always popular or welcome and history shows there is always some form of pushback. Perhaps the unpleasant quarters of Reddit are simply manifestations of that? May be the entire phenomenon of angry sub-reddits (at least of the gaming kind) will dwindle in time, as the player base becomes filled with a new generation who less emotional baggage and prejudices?