July 11, 2023

The Last Moderator of VRChat's Subreddit Speaks Out

A final warning has been administered by Reddit to force r/VRChat back to SFW mode, says Nukemarine.

The Last Moderator of VRChat's Subreddit Speaks Out

Should VRChat's unofficial subreddit stay restricted to members 18 and over? That's the current issue up for vote by r/VRChat moderator Nukemarine, who's been at the helm of the unofficial forum since its inception. r/VRChat is one of many subreddits that have gone dark, and now NSFW, in protest of Reddit's new API pricing changes which have affected third-party apps.

For other subreddits, going NSFW hurts Reddit's wallet as an effective message of protest. For r/VRChat, though, it dredges up the old question of the minimum age to engage in immersive spaces. Not everything out there is kid-friendly, and users far below the age of 13 are found on VRChat regularly.

Four days ago, Nukemarine posted another poll to inform r/VRChat of Reddit's demand to take the subreddit off of NSFW mode, including a final warning he says he was administered. What happens next has yet to be determined. In the meantime, we asked Nukemarine for an interview.

An image of Reddit's Code of Conduct account asking Nukemarine to take the VRChat subreddit off of NSFW mode.
Reddit's Moderator Code of Conduct account asking Nukemarine to take the VRChat subreddit off of NSFW mode. (Source: Nukemarine)

How long have you been a moderator of r/VRChat? What drew you to using VR, and subsequently, VRChat itself?

My online username for over 25 years has been Nukemarine (originally The Nuclear Marine). While I participate is a wide variety of communities and interests, I've been in the virtual reality communities since the Oculus Kickstarter. I helped in what little way I could with beta testing and even some development of VR programs such as RiftMAX, Bigscreen, Janus VR, and VRChat.

I'm the original creator of /r/VRchat though at that time I made many subreddits for VR developers given the success we experienced with /r/janusVR (originally /r/FireBox) to help in development and community feedback. The subreddit was mainly run by the developers though things got complicated after Pewdiepie made VRChat video series which exploded the subscriber count.

r/VRChat used to have a team of moderators before the protest. What led to the other moderators leaving?

Due to Reddit Admin actions with many other subreddits and moderators in recent days, I removed the moderators (amicably) to protect them from potential fallout. If things calm down, and they want, they'll be welcomed back.

How have things been since you've been moderating on your own?

Despite the size and activity of the subreddit, there really is little active moderation so not much change. I performed some 90% of moderator actions over the last year with 7% being done by one other. Honestly, the VRchat subreddit community does most of the moderation in the form of voting (we purge 0 karma posts after a few hours), reporting, and using mod mail for feedback. It's a shame as Reddit's API shift will actually make hands off moderation more difficult.

I'll note that I'm not active in the VRChat program at all, so I depended on the other mods (TheKally and Owlboy recently) for issues related ingame as well as community outreach.

Reddit's final warning to Nukemarine to take r/VRChat off of NSFW mode, with a threat to remove him as moderator. (Source: Nukemarine)

There have been posts of protests against setting r/VRChat to 18+. Has there ever been a point in all this where you felt overwhelmed and wanted to quit as a moderator? How has the blowback made you feel?

I'll have to disagree with leading statement. I'm unaware of posts protesting the setting of the subreddit to 18+. What users mainly complained about when the API protests started was when I restricted the sub and spammed protest posts (in hindsight, they were 100% correct and I should have taken a different tactic that involved the community).

No, I've not been overwhelmed by moderator duties. I've twenty years of military experience including being part of the command platform for Operation Tomodachi (recovery efforts in wake of the 2011 Japanese earthquake and nuclear disaster). Put in perspective, nothing I've done on Reddit approaches any of my more stressful military experiences. However, those same experiences let me see all the heavy handed mistakes Reddit Admin has made in dealing with the thousands of volunteer moderators.

There's been less negative blowback and more positive feedback. Seems the community for the most part supports the effort and the moderation of the subreddit both now and prior to the protests.

The VR community has had many discussions on how platforms like VRChat and Horizons should be at least 16+ to use, let alone those who feel the minimum age should be 18. Where do you stand on that debate?

Things get tricky when you discuss what are appropriate ages for people between puberty (where Reddit settles on 13+ due to most laws), adulthood (usually 18+ but 20+ and 21+ in some countries), and full brain development (around 25). As I'm from the US, I'll defer to the 18+ to keep things simple.

Is there anything you'd like to impart to r/VRChat, the Reddit admins, or the VR community itself?

While this protest started as an "API Pricing" protest with what would have been a relatively pointless act (the subreddit Blackouts), it has evolved into something that is complicated.

Reddit is a platform similar to YouTube with regards to subs like /r/SrGrafo who only posts their content but allows user comments. Imagine YouTubers like that getting "NO, YOUR VIDEOS MUST STAY PUBLIC!!" nastigram like Reddit moderators of subs like this got when they went dark. Or worse, the current "NO, YOU MUST SAY YOUR VIDEO CHANNEL IS SAFE FOR CHILDREN!" message.

Things get complicated beyond that. There are heavily curated subs like /r/Science (iirc) where the approved submitters are small and checked for accuracy. Beyond that are subs moderated for specific content, but that content is created by others. Finally are the very large subs with generic categories but pretty much open submissions. I sort of agree that when the Top Mod opens the subreddit to the community, and that community grows, then the community is more of an owner of that sub and really shouldn't be shut out by mods with a personal beef of some sort.

Problem is Reddit Admin, despite knowing of these issues for nearly a decade, has done little to nothing to help rectify the issues. Worse, they're now doing insane actions like threatening removal if we don't switch subs off 18+ when Reddit Admins have that ability to do it themselves.

The vote on whether to keep r/VRChat 18+ is currently ongoing.