Maybe for another series it wouldn’t be a headscratcher, but Yoko Taro is surprised about one request.
For pretty much as long as the industries have been around, video game and anime publishers in Japan have taken a pretty accommodating stance towards fan art and other derivative works. However, that unspoken agreement started with the understanding that fan works would be distributed on a very limited scale, often only in physical-media form at short-term events.
With the rise of image hosting websites, social media, and other ways to inexpensively and instantly distribute fan works around the globe, publishers are now reexamining this arrangement, and some are trying to get ahead of any potential problems by putting out official statements on the matter. The latest franchise to do so is Square Enix’s Nier (which includes hit video game Nier: Automata), which this week released a set of guidelines for fan artists to follow that will help them avoid getting rights complaints.
A lot of them are pretty standard. Commercial use of fan works is prohibited, for example, as is tracing preexisting official artwork. But then there’s the guideline that says:
“Do not engage in conduct that damages the image of the series, is contradictory to public order and morality, or exceeds what is societally acceptable.”
Now, it’s normal for a certain amount of grumbling whenever a publisher does something that can be seen as limiting the fan community’s creativity. However, one person scratching their head over this call for morality is none other than Nier creator and director Yoko Taro, who reacted through his Twitter account with:
“So it looks like the Nier derivative work guidelines include ‘Do not engage in conduct that is contradictory to public order and morality, or exceeds what is societally acceptable.’
But as I’ve mentioned before, I feel like the content of the Nier franchise itself already crosses those lines…”
▼ Nier: Automata
As fans can tell you, a big part of what makes Nier unique is that even while it’s following the action/adventure game blueprint of propelling the narrative forward through combat, it frequently acknowledges that in order to nonchalantly pile up such a huge body count of “bad guys,” the “hero” you play as would have to be harboring some serious psychological issues. Nier rarely gives you any way to solve a problem without slashing, shooting, or smashing someone or something, and it’s equally consistent in taking the opportunity to make the human player feel progressively uneasy and guilty about trying to change the world through unbridled violence. Automata also includes an unlockable achievement for repeatedly trying to adjust the camera to get a peek up the female protagonist’s skirt, scenes of robots trying to figure out how to have sexual intercourse when they lack genitals, and the option to mercy kill a supporting character who doesn’t believe he can cope with his emotional pain.
Given Yoko Taro’s penchant for reveling in the weirdness of his creations, it’s likely his tweet was made with tongue at least partly in cheek. Still, even if Nier itself goes to some places far away from the baseline of mainstream societal morality, as the franchise’s publisher it’s Square Enix’s call on what it will and won’t allow, and the full set of guidelines cn be found here.
Source: Square Enix, Twitter/@yokotaro via Jin
Top image: YouTube/スクウェア・エニックス
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