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Participatory Cultures of Digital Games: The Double-Edged Sword of Being a Reddit Community Moderator


Volunteer community moderators are at the centre of a multitude of conflicting views in the media and society, while being continually exposed to inappropriate content and risking their mental wellbeing. On Reddit.com, their specific interest in a topic drives them to volunteer for moderation responsibilities to nurture the participa-tory community; however, this puts them in the uncertain position of being neither a member of the community nor a representative of the social media platform tied to the community. By adopting Nico Carpentier’s concept of participation as a site of political–ideological negotiation, this article explores the precarious conditions and expectations of community moderators around digital games after the 2020 COVID-19 struggles, with more people turning to social media, which increases demand for platform moderation. The study is based on semi-structured interviews with community moderators associated with online media communities (subreddits) of different games on the social media platform Reddit. It draws two conclusions: Firstly, the field of subreddit moderation involves multiple actors, such as content creators, content generators, moderators, and game studios. Here, moderators hold an assumed absolute power in two processes of decision-making: (1) ensure that content abides by the sitewide rules and subreddit specific rules; and (2) promote content that is sensitive to the subreddit’s cultural context. In decision-making moments, the tools that are afforded to moderators from the Reddit platform put moderators at a disadvantage, as they are forced to implement their decisions using negative reinforcement as opposed to achieving change in the subreddit through positive reinforcement. Secondly, community moderators exist within a participatory process of checks and balances, making any moderation actions a double-edged sword where any intervention by moderators can result in backlash or disagreement from content creators and content generators, and material advantages largely determine actors’ involvement in these participatory processes.