For someone who is a proud member of the ACG community, you could say my upbringing was rare. Unlike many of those around me, I didn’t grow up neck deep in all things geeky. My family raised me as girly as they could, meaning I grew up with Barbie dolls and My Little Pony, I had mock cooking sets and I learned how to bake. My first exposure to a gaming console was in high school, I didn’t grow up watching Dragonball or Yu-Gi-Oh!, and until now, I’ve never touched a single Pokemon game.
Of course, those are just examples, but the point is I know. I know what it feels like to be taking that first step into the community without a history to back you up. How, despite everything, it’s impossible not to feel left out or even intimidated at times; whether by the community or just the sheer scale of it all. That brings me to the simple truth and my topic for discussion today:
The ACG community has a learning curve, and it is pretty steep.
This community is one of the most content saturated ones to ever get into, and while that fact alone is great for its active members, it can also be a giant barrier for those who aren’t. Not only have I experienced it myself, I have seen plenty of friends come and go from the community over the years because of it.
A common reason we always hear is “lack of time”. It is simple enough, but I don’t think that’s all to it. Just imagine if you want to get into anime, for instance. You’ve never watched one before, so you ask your friend for a recommendation.
They recommend you start with Madoka Magica, but of course, once you’re done with that you have to watch Steins;Gate and Death Note. Oh, and don’t forget to catch up with Shingeki no Kyojin so you can watch the second season next month! Then there’s the Code Geass sequel to watch out for too…
It’s not just time consuming, it is continously time consuming. In order to remain part of the on-going conversation in the community, you have to be up to date with whatever’s new while already being familiar with the community’s history. For those who are just starting out, it is a daunting task to reach that point where you’ve finally “caught up” with everything, and honestly, that point doesn’t even really exist.
Right now, I feel there is too big a gap in between the two types of fans: the beginner community member who is still testing waters VS the expert community member who knows everything inside out. And unfortunately, standards are being placed according to the higher end of the spectrum. I could even say that those who are just beginning may feel pressured to reach those standards in order to find a place to fit in.
Quite a bold statement to make, I know, but just look at conventions, online social media groups or even just the hobby of cosplaying. The community as it is now is riddled with mountain loads of expectations and jargon, where a clear line is drawn in between those who are great and those who are not so great. It’s even reached a point of separation so drastic that I seldom meet people who are comfortably dwelling in between. Is this what is pushing people away?
Ironically, the ACG community is one of acceptance. One where people are given the outlet to express their passion in any way they like. Some of which you might personally find great and some which you might not, and that’s fine. Where it’s going wrong is when people start vocalising their hatred towards the ones they don’t like, creating this rift in the community and putting standards in a place that should be the most accepting of the weird and quirky.
So if you ask me, is there a learning curve? Yes, and I think it’s only normal that people take time to familiarise themselves with new things. But the fact that expectations and standards are a part of it? I disagree. I think the community could stand to be a bit more accepting, especially of newcomers who don’t have the advantage of time and experience.
After all, if people want to find joy in our community, what right do we have to deny them? What are your thoughts?