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The Highs and Lows of Moderating a Porn MMO

Moderating a porn game has its own set of challenges. Note: this piece carries a content warning for sexual assault.

The wide world of pornographic video games can be a strange and surprising place. There's debauchery, there's indulgence, and there are, unsurprisingly, opinions that run the gamut.

Ranging from the thousands of Japanese eroge visual novels to virtual reality fantasies, the genre caters to nearly every niche kink and fetish you can think of.

The communities that spring up around these games need some pretty strict handling. The folks that moderate these games see a lot—often coming face-to-face with the internet's worst of the worst. But there are bright spots here too, and these communities are representative of how games bring people together, no matter their background.

For DirtySix, a community and social media manager at ThriXXX, his job is a cacophony of things. The company itself has been making games since the early millennia but have historically been more single-player focused. Well known for creating games like Sexvilla, Gayvilla, and Hentaivilla, they made a name for themselves by creating some of the biggest properties in the market.

You may even remember them from their awkward Kinect integrated tech-test from 2010 that featured a ghostly hand fondling pixelated breasts. While their project was unceremoniously shut down by Microsoft, the company started eyeing multiplayer functionality with their next project: Chathouse 3D Roulette, a multiplayer sex game that allows users to match-make anonymously with each other.

Chathouse 3D Roulette image from ThriXXX

Akin to Chatroullette (hence the name), players jump into a lavishly decorated villa that (fittingly) looks like a porn scene. Based on your preferences, the game will match you with someone it hopes you'll be interested in. Like many other games in the genre, players can interact with each other via a wide variety of animations, like a virtual Kama Sutra of sorts. In addition, users can message each other in-game via Chathouse's chatbox functionality, allowing players to fantasize any role-playing situation they desire. As you'd imagine, this is usually where DirtySix comes in.

He's done a lot of work keeping ThriXXX's community in check. He explained how often he's forced to step in, saying "I don't know how much other people have to police their platforms, but we police daily." Often, DirtySix receives complaints via ThriXXX's support ticket system. If he's not working on the company website or managing their social media feeds, he scrolls through his email inbox reading report after report of encounters that have turned ugly.

"Most reports are from chat conversations" he said, explaining that "we look at the chatlogs and the profiles of the users who have been reported… If they really are an asshole, then we lock them out of their account for a week or something." He went on to clarify that the game never forces you to do anything, saying "It's not like you get stuck and have to play fifty minutes with this awful guy or something."

The banhammer for Chathouse 3D isn't much different from the ones in more mainstream, AAA multiplayer games. As DirtySix explained, "Most of the bans we make are because someone is constantly insulting one specific person." He explained how he usually bounces between the two players involved, getting details from both sides of the story. "A lot of the time when I speak to them though, they completely lose it and insult me," he said. Most users usually shoot back with any number of vulgar insults before DirtySix bans them completely from ThriXXX's services. Turns out there are assholes and trolls everywhere. Who knew?

Yet while most of DirtySix's experiences seem universal when compared to other games, there are a few that stick out when compared to the average, nonsense-laden rants of disgruntled users.

DirtySix went on to describe a situation that began on ThriXXX's official forum, describing a user who had routinely encountered the company's mod team. (We want to note that we obtained permission from all parties at ThriXXX to print this story.)

After a heated confrontation with another user, they were placed on temporary suspension. While they had become well known for getting banned, there was no reason to expect anything different upon their return to the service. Everyone went about their business, not expecting any change in the norm, and hoped this wag of the finger would be enough to teach them a lesson. However, once the ban was lifted, a video surfaced on ThriXXX's own user-generated content platform, Gamerotica, depicting the mod as the target of sexual assault.

It was brought to ThriXXX's attention quickly, thanks mainly to Gamerotica's newest-to-oldest filter on its front page. Unfortunately, that also meant that the very person it was intended to harm was one of the video's first viewers. It was a traumatic experience, DirtySix explained, noting that the moderator was crying at her desk.

Soon, everyone at the studio, including ThriXXX's CEO, was involved as they scrambled to get a hold of the situation. DirtySix promptly took down the video and permanently banned the user. While they tried to claim that ThriXXX had no right to permanently ban them due to their purchasing of the games, DirtySix and ThriXXX made it clear that they had gone beyond simply breaking the community guidelines. He, nor anyone else at the studio, have heard from the user since. The incident emphasizes the necessity of active moderation in these spaces.

Header and 3DX Chat screens courtesy of SexGameDevil

Another popular adult online game, 3DX Chat, has been getting people off since 2008. The game not only features personal spaces to explore, but in-game clubs and social spaces that give it a unique community of returning players. While many people that play these sorts of games jump in for a month, get their fill and leave, others have found a place within 3DX's thumping social areas.

One player I ran into described it as "masturbation, but better" while another described their experience as beyond just the sexual, as they boasted a large list of friends they'd routinely hang around with. At least anecdotally, 3DX Chat has found a diverse range of people looking for a little bit of everything. Lisa and Gizmo, two of the game's moderators, explained some of their experiences working on the game.

They described how infrequent bans are, in contrast to Chathouse 3D. The two explained that reports from players "don't happen very often. A couple of times a week, we get offenders of the in-game rules… most often there are temporary suspensions issued. Sometimes people just do not read the rules and break them, and we have to do the required prevention for their actions." They continued by explaining how the game makes it easy to protect yourself as a player, "thanks to the ignore system we have in place, people can block bullies in the game and limit their communication to them… The game does not require the users to enter any personal contact details, so that it eliminates the possibility of persecution on the sidelines."

Lisa and Gizmo explained that their lives weren't much different from any other tech support job. "You wake up, wash, and eat breakfast. You come to the office and start your computer." It's a sentiment of normalcy, something many people can relate to despite the sort of material they deal with daily.

DirtySix noted something similar, saying "I don't really know what people think is going on here… Like naked girls run around and we're motion capturing sex in dark rooms. It's just normal computer people programming in a normal office space." He went on to explain how he got into his position at ThriXXX, saying "I was very interested in the technology side." The people that work in this space aren't some sort of sexual deviants looking to fill their everyday life with the obscene.

They're normal people, and in DirtySix's case he's someone that saw an opportunity at ThriXXX. "You can't do as much fancy stuff as I do here for ThriXXX in a normal media agency. You always have the client and… it's not very creative, doing the same stuff over and over again. Here, it's more like 'let's try something'."

That same sentiment is echoed throughout the communities of these games. Lisa and Gizmo explained that the success of their game isn't solely based on sex. "Many people come for the sex, but stay in the game for many months and years… The game bursts with social life, and for the lifetime of the project thus far, our players have rallied in far and wide and have created a cool community with its special atmosphere."