In dealing with the ArenaNet fallout over the last couple of weeks, I started giving serious thought to the Reddit problem in gaming, and I’m not just talking about the overt hate groups allowed to fester there. You know how one of the rules of thumb for MMORPG communities for the longest time was never go to the official forums because you’d come away feeling depressed and dejected, believing the game community was a hot mess and your class was most assuredly the most broken? Reddit is like that, only nobody there cares enough about fixing it to see it through, and so we’ve got a tragedy of the commons problem playing out in cyberspace.
When game companies owned their own discussion spaces, most of them at least made some modicum of effort to keep them respectable. Oh, sure, some took that way too far and deleted criticism, but most, barring the very biggest, tamped down on toxicity because that space reflected on them. They cared. This is how I feel about our own comment section, incidentally, because our team owns this site and cares about the conversations we have here, unlike many other sites owned by corporate groups that don’t even care if comments exist at all.
On Reddit, the volunteer, unpaid mods may care a little, but they don’t own it, and it’s hard to blame them when they won’t stick around long enough to put up with the abuse or the lack of support from Reddit execs. That’s why it’s a bit weird to see the player backlash against, for example, studio interference with moderation of subreddits, be it with Ashes of Creation, WildStar, or Black Desert. We instinctively think Reddit should be kept safe from studio manipulation and yet the very thing that makes it safe for criticism also makes it safe for toxicity, which wrecks the games at least as much as overzealous studio mods would.
How would you solve the Reddit gaming problem? What’s the right solution for MMORPG studios in particular in gathering their communities for constructive rather than toxic discussion?