On Reddit, Moderation, and VR

On September 27, 2017, less than a month before the release of our second VR-exclusive game, I was banned from /r/vive, the second-largest VR-dedicated forum on Reddit.

This isn’t an uncommon occurrence on /r/vive — early in its history, corporate entities at HTC (makers of the Vive VR HMD) had a large presence on the forums. After the Vive’s launch in 2016, moderators began to put the hammer down on promotional posts to reduce astroturfing. It was a noble initiative to keep the subreddit independent and unbiased, and was ultimately a good decision that lead the subreddit to become nearly VR-agnostic despite the Vive namesake.

I’ll be clear right here: Banning spam is good. It’s important for the integrity of a community to be able to trust its users and what they have to say.

Here is the history of what lead to my ban.

Incident #1, September 29, 2016:

My first removed post. The reasoning in the flair was for self-promotion. It made a ton of sense — it was a link post to an article written about our game and studio. It was self-promotion. Life goes on, and I continue to post on the subreddit normally.

Incident #2, October 6, 2016:

Our first game had received some criticism at launch for its pricing. It was a common topic on the subreddit — whenever the game came up, people talked about the price. This time, I had posted the announcement that we were permanently reducing the price of the game. It seemed pertinent to the community, but the moderators didn’t agree, removed it from the subreddit, and I ultimately deleted the post. Then I received the above with more information about self-promotion and an ask to not to delete posts when they’re removed. Noted. I go back to posting normally.

Incident #3, September 26, 2017:

This was a doozy. Almost a year after the last incident, our second game had been delayed, and conversations about when it was going to be released were common on the subreddit. People were genuinely curious within the community, so I recorded some new gameplay footage and put together an FAQ based on the major questions from the subreddit up to that point. It fit the rules per self-promotion and was in-line with other posts I had seen from other devs at the time. This time, the post wasn’t removed for self-promotion, however — it was removed for “price promotion.”

I had included a link to our first game which was on sale at the time. I was wrong to do that, and the post was removed. This was the first time that I had been warned about “price promotion,” but the moderator explained I had done it before, calling out an example of this mega-thread I put together as being in “bad faith.”

I noted the reason for removal, resolved it (removed the links to the store pages), and re-posted the announcement.

In the time that it took me to communicate with the mod and resolve the issue with my first post, someone else had posted the announcement. My fixed post (the source post) was removed immediately with the reason “already covered.”

In the other person’s post, someone asked where my original post went. My response was pithy, but explained the removal as being promotional:

And then I was banned.

“Spam + Misrepresenting moderator actions.”

The above was the first time I had ever written publicly about the moderators. The above is the extent of my spam reports by the moderators. I was trying.

I can’t vouch for every banned developer’s actions, but I can imagine what the experience was like for them.

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The VR industry is small.

Mainstream and gaming press are hesitant to cover VR. VR storefronts struggle to this day with discoverability. VR developers and players alike will tell you that right now the VR industry is a community. This is not corporate astroturfing. We are what is essentially grassroots, relying on word of mouth and forums where we can band together as developers and players, share what we’re working on, and support what we like. We don’t have marketing teams to pay for advertisements or the market size to afford one.

We are people working on games in a burgeoning industry. We need a home for dedicated VR discussion and a platform for our voices the same way almost any other industry or medium has already. Some of the best VR content right now is stuff nobody’s heard of because how could they when they’re driven away from forums by a single moderator.

Reddit, as a community, is unique for this. The upvote/downvote system is built around facilitating conversations and posts that its community finds valuable. If a developer is spamming and self-promotional, they will get downvoted and they will lose their voice in the subreddit based on the community’s agreement.

This is not an appeal for the ban. I’m sure that bridge is burned. This is a call to the people who love and support this industry and want it to thrive and bubble up from the bottom. The people who are risking their livelihoods to make games for a challenging market. The players who buy new games and share their experiences.

Every interaction we have with the community could be accused of self promotion. But we just love the VR community and want to support it and be a part of it. Full stop.

VR is on the verge of something big this year. Be open to new experiences and new voices. Talk with the developers of your favourite games, and talk to the players of your software. Let’s drive this one home.