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Reddit data shows decline of toxic gaming culture and rise in ‘gentle gaming’

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By Webb Wright | Junior Reporter

May 17, 2022 | 5 min read

Fed up with the saltiness of their peers, throngs of gamers are now spending more time on ‘low-sodium’ subreddits, which specifically aim to promote an air of supportive, lighthearted fun.

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Many gamers are starting to ditch the bad vibes and flock to friendlier online communities / Adobe Stock

Gaming forums can be notoriously salty – playgrounds for hyper-competitive and often flagrantly disrespectful rhetoric. The online communities that congregate around popular multiplayer games, such as Halo and Battlefield 2042, can be surprisingly hostile. But according to new quarterly insights data from Reddit, many gamers – disenchanted with their ill-tempered peers – are now fleeing toxic online communities and heading for the friendlier shores of ‘low-sodium’ (ie non-salty) gaming forums. The era of ‘gentle gaming’ appears to be dawning.

Here’s what you need to know:

Huge numbers of gamers appear to be flocking to ‘low-sodium’ gaming subreddits. Reddit reports significant growth in the number of screen views to r/LowSodiumHalo (134 times growth) and r/LowSodium2042 (23 times growth) – both subreddits geared toward providing a friendlier atmosphere in which members can chat, collaborate and share strategies.

In contrast to their saltier counterparts, the style of communication in ‘low-sodium’ subreddits is generally positive, supportive and friendly. The Reddit data – compiled into a report by Rob Gaige, the company’s director of partner insights – shows that ‘positive-tagged keywords’ increased by 126% in low-sodium gaming subreddits over the past four months, whereas negative-tagged keywords decreased by 43%. Gaige also notes that “low-sodium subreddits are -46% less angry than their original gaming subreddit counterparts.”

An air of lighthearted nostalgia also appears to be on the rise among the online gaming community. “​​There’s been a sea change,” Gaige writes. “It’s not just that gamers want environments that call for more positivity, but they’re seeking out times, aesthetics and sounds that transport them back to more wholesome gaming experiences ... Now many are looking back, not forward.” Subreddits that relish a sweeter, bygone era of gaming are on the rise, according to the Reddit data. For example: views on r/TipofMyJoystick, a subreddit in which members help each other recall the names of old video games based on screenshots or patchy descriptions, increased by 63% over the past few years.

In turning their backs on salty subreddits, a growing number of gamers are embracing the lighthearted essence of video games. The recent wave of nostalgia for an earlier, less toxic era of gaming, according to Reddit, reflects a growing desire within the gaming community to rediscover the simple joys of playing video games. “Low-sodium subreddits are giving gamers community without the toxicity,” says Will Cady, global director of Reddit’s Karma Lab. “This gentle vibe is creating space to reflect on the small details and artistic aspects of games – reminding them why they fell in love with gaming in the first place.”

Brands can actively help to support the rise of gentle gaming. The low-stakes vibe of gentle gaming appears to revolve mainly around language that promotes positivity and belonging. As the world of online gaming continues to edge its way into the center of the advertising universe, marketers should familiarize themselves with the ethos of the gentle gaming movement while aiming to nurture the atmosphere of respect and camaraderie that that movement represents. In other words: don’t be salty.

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