Article by Curry Zawa Kaoru
Traumatized by strict community rule enforcers
You'd think in the world of hobbies, everyone would be free to do as they please without having to mind extra-strict rules, right? But imagine a baseball game without rules. What's to stop people from turning it into a free-for-all "Whack-a-Ohtani"? If that happens, we’d have more injuries than innings!
Even in cases where the original creators are generally chill toward derivative work, too much drama can force the hand of those at the top.
To keep things fun, safe, and peaceful, rules in hobby realms areーunfortunatelyーindispensable.
But just as in real life, some rules just don't make sense. They complicate things, put everyone on edge, and could do more harm than good.
In the world of fan work, on top of official guidelines that might exist, there are sometimes those community-specific rules like in your niche. If these get so strict that they create a tense, hostile environment, sometimes they light the fuse of the underlying chaos bomb instead of keeping things orderly.
Yet, rules are needed, and so are people to enforce them.
Imagine a world where it's legal to stroll around stark naked, with nobody to hold you accountable. Before you know it, our society might become a place where one in five people roams around in the nude.
That's why rule enforcers are crucial—they're the ones keeping the fabric of our society stitched together. In other words, the community rules police are bringing something to the table even if you might not think so.
Yet, how much regulation is needed is always a tricky question. In the real world, we have the police to enforce laws, but in the doujin world, it's mostly citizens arresting citizens. Too many self-appointed sheriffs, and you've got a recipe for a stifling atmosphere that can scare anyone off ever posting something again.
So, while rules and their enforcers are necessary, the extent of their necessity is a complex issue. Moreover, it's not like one person can change the culture of an entire community.
Your main concern seems to be less about making a change and more about figuring out how to navigate and thrive in such a tightly regulated space peacefully and safely.
The best tactic: don't get lectured
So, let's set aside whether these rules or the community culture that allows them to proliferate are right or wrong. First and foremost, make it your utmost priority to avoid getting lectured.
Imagine you're walking in a park and suddenly, some random old man yells at you, "Hey, you can't walk counter-clockwise in this park!"
It's a ridiculous rule, and obviously, the angry old man has no authority to enforce it.
If you're thick-skinned, you'd just brush it off as an odd encounter; if you're feeling gutsy, you might even clap back with a witty comeback.
But if you're more on the sensitive side, the sheer shock of being yelled at can leave a mark, making you avoid the park altogether, even though you did nothing wrong.
I don't know the specifics of the rule you broke (and so it may have been your niche's equivalent of plotting against the emperor for all I know), but it's unlikely you've done something terribly wrongーespecially since one scolding left you so traumatized. You also don't seem to be the type with nerves of steel.
For someone like you, the best move might be to completely steer clear of situations where you might get lectured.
Flip your perspective: think of sticking to the rules as a small price to pay to stay lecture-free. Instead of being overwhelmed by the ever-changing and vague rule set, why not tune in more closely to your community's guidelines and make a conscious effort to follow them?
The ever-present risk of rubbing someone the wrong way
The phenomenon of ever-increasing and strict rules isn't unique to the fan work community; we face the same thing in the commercial industry. These days, as compliance rules tighten, the list of artistic no-goes keeps growing. Some of those things might even seem to be superfluous, depending on your perspective.
When faced with such constraints, do creators rebel or shy away, softening their work? Well, my go-to move is often to throw my hands up and just delete everything, but many authors strive to create even greater works within the current set of rules.
Even if it's a hassle, accepting these rules as they are and figuring out how to still create what you want within them is a true test of an artist’s skill.
But in the commercial world, we have a safety netーeditors and proofreaders, who might caution against things like quoting real song lyrics due to potential risks. ("Plus, not everyone's familiar with the 2001 hit Agehachō these days...") Internally, you might be fuming, thinking, "I'm not about to get lectured by someone who's never chosen a Porno Graffiti track as their OTP's theme song!!" But outwardly? It's back to the drawing board.
In the realm of personal hobbies, you lack this buffer. No matter how careful you are, the fear of unintentionally breaking a rule never really goes away.
You could put something out there after multiple rounds of meticulous review, only to find it ignites a firestorm. Even a simple statement like "The sky is blue" could draw criticism like, "That's just your opinion, right? What about those who see it as green?"
In essence, making anything public without offending anyone is nearly impossible. So, if you absolutely don’t want to get lectured, your only option is not to publish anything at all.
Even rule enforcers should follow common sense and etiquette
Maybe, for now, not putting anything out and just being a silent observer could be an option. I can't be too specific since I don't know what your niche is, but the chaos of multiplying rules and the rise of rule-enforcing people creating tension is common in new and rapidly growing communities.
A few years back, the C niche went viral, quickly becoming a hot topic worldwide.
Along with its rise came a flood of guidelines and rules, like minimizing non-essential outings. Before you knew it, self-appointed community police were on the prowl, and some were even more aggressive and merciless than C itself towards perceived rule-breakers.
Yet, time has a way of smoothing things out. C's popularity didn't wane, but the number of those community cops sure seemed to. Maybe your niche is at its peak right now, with everyone being overzealous and the police extra enthusiastic. In such a climate, it's all too easy to trip over a minor infraction and get an earful.
Every crime-ridden city eventually settles down, so if your mental armor isn't quite battle-ready, laying low and lurking until things mellow out might be your best bet.
If you're hoping for a more relaxed rule environment within your niche, remember that it's important to be lenient yourself.
Those currently playing community cop might just be doing it because they once got called out and feel it's unfair if others get away with the same rule-breaking.
If you see someone breaking some nonsensical, nitpicky rule, don't make a big deal out of it. And if a newcomer seems unaware of an important rule, don't get all high and mighty on them. Gently clue them in: “Hey, just so you know, it's generally a good idea to put on clothes before heading outside.”
While adhering to community rules is important, how you give warnings matters too.
If someone comes at you all guns akimbo, whatever the circumstances, that's a kind of rule-breaking as well. Just adopt a "we're all in this together" mindset, and try not to sweat it too much.