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Type of site
|Available in||13 languages|
|Registration||Required for editing and all other features aside from viewing (October 2010–present)|
|CC-BY-NC-SA from July 2012|
|Written in||PmWiki (heavily modified)|
TV Tropes is a wiki that collects and documents descriptions and examples of plot conventions and devices, more commonly known as tropes, within many creative works. Since its establishment in 2004, the site has shifted focus from covering only television and film tropes to those in other types of media such as literature, comics, anime, manga, video games, music, advertisements, and toys, and their associated fandoms, as well as some non-media subjects such as history, geography, and politics. The nature of the site as a provider of commentary on pop culture and fiction has attracted attention and criticism from several web personalities and blogs.
From April 2008 until July 2012, TV Tropes published free content. In July 2012, TV Tropes modified its license to allow only non-commercial distribution of its content. They continued to host the prior submissions under a new distribution license.
TV Tropes runs on a heavily modified version of PmWiki, but unlike PmWiki, it is not open source. Before October 26, 2010, it was possible to edit anonymously. Registration is now mandatory for all other activities besides viewing the website. "Gilligan Cut" was the first trope ever to be put on TV Tropes, referring to the trope of a character saying they would not do something, followed by a smash cut to a scene of them doing that exact thing.
TV Tropes was founded in 2004 by a programmer under the pseudonym "Fast Eddie." He described himself as having become interested in the conventions of genre fiction while studying at MIT in the 1970s and after browsing Internet forums in the 1990s. He sold the site in 2014 to Drew Schoentrup and Chris Richmond, who then launched a Kickstarter to overhaul the codebase and design.
Initially focused on the TV show Buffy the Vampire Slayer, TV Tropes has since covered television series, films, novels, plays, professional wrestling, video games, anime, manga, comic strips/books, and fan fiction. It renders many other subjects, including Internet works such as Wikipedia (often referred to in a tongue-in-cheek way as "The Other Wiki"). Additionally, articles on the site often relate to real life or point out real situations where certain tropes can or cannot be applied. It has also used its informal style to describe topics such as science, philosophy, politics, and history under its Useful Notes section. TV Tropes does not have notability standards for the works it covers. It also can be used for recommending lesser-known media on the "Needs More Love" page.
The site includes entries on various series and tropes. An article on work includes a summary of the work in question, along with a list of associated tropes. Trope pages are the reverse of work articles: they describe the trope itself, then provide a list of the trope's appearances in various works of media. In this way, TV Tropes fully interconnects through projects and tropes.
For example, the trope "I Am Spartacus" is a specific type of scene that appears in multiple works. It refers to times where a character is shielded from identification by other characters who are also claiming to be that particular character. The trope name references a famous scene in the film Spartacus. This example features along with examples from South Park, Power Rangers in Space, the Talmud, and even recent stories from real life. Not all trope uses may be cases where it is played straight. They also include times where it is parodied, mocked, inverted, or deconstructed by applying practical elements.
In addition to the tropes, most articles about work also have a "Your Mileage May Vary" (YMMV) page with subjective claims. These items are not usually storytelling tropes, but are audience reactions which have been defined and titled. The page of the trope "jumping the shark," the moment at which a series experiences a sharp decline in quality, only contains a list of works that reference the phrase. TV Tropes does not apply the term to a show, that being a subjective opinion about the show, but cites uses of the phrase by the show ("in-universe").
Most articles also have various pages within them. For example, it may have an "Awesome" page to describe crowning moments of awesome (i.e., a moment in a show or other fictional work that the majority of the readers or viewers regard as one of the high points); a "Fridge" page which describes examples of the tropes "Fridge Logic," issues of a given work's internal consistency that do not typically occur to one until later, as well as the related "Fridge Horror" and "Fridge Brilliance"; a "Laconic" page which describes an article/trope in a few short words; and more pages that focus on a particular aspect of an article/item.
Trope description pages are generally created through a system known as the "Trope Launch Pad"; site members (referred to as "Tropers"), can draft a trope description and have the option of providing examples or suggesting refinements to other drafts before launch. While going through TLP is not necessary to launch a trope, it is strongly recommended in order to strengthen the trope as much as possible.
The site has created its own self-referencing meta-trope, known as "TV Tropes Will Ruin Your Life". The trope warns that some readers may become jaded and cynical as an unanticipated side effect of reading TV Tropes, "[replacing] surprise almost entirely with recognition," referring to the inability to read books, watch films, etc. without identifying each trope as it occurs. Also mentioned is that many frequently-contributing community members self-describe themselves as addicted to the site. The community has dubbed the pattern of many tropers as taking a "Wiki Walk," starting an edit on an intended article, and subsequently following links from one page to the next for hours on end without intending to, pausing occasionally to add examples the troper notices to the listings or rework articles. In the process, this leads to the discovery of entirely new tropes to analyze, edit, and add examples to. This self-perpetuating cycle of behavior has become the subject of much lampooning for the community, with tongue-in-cheek references being made in the articles for tropes such as "Brainwashing," "Hive Mind," and Tome of Eldritch Lore (a book of cursed knowledge which infects the reader with obsessive madness).
Considerable redesign of some aspects of content organization occurred in 2008, such as the introduction of namespaces, while 2009 saw the arrival of other languages, and as of 2018, its content has been translated into 12 languages: German, French, Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch, Polish, Italian, Swedish, Norwegian, Finnish, Romanian, and Esperanto. In 2011, TV Tropes branched out into video production, and launched Echo Chamber, a web series about a TV Tropes vlogger explaining and demonstrating tropes.
In an interview with TV Tropes co-founder Fast Eddie, Gawker Media's blog io9 described the tone of contributions to the site as "often light and funny". Cyberpunk author Bruce Sterling once described its style as a "wry fanfic analysis". Essayist Linda Börzsei described TV Tropes as a technological continuum of classical archetypal literary criticisms, capable of deconstructing recurring elements from creative works in an ironic fashion. Economist Robin Hanson, inspired by a scholarly analysis of Victorian literature, suggests TV Tropes offers a veritable treasure trove of information about fiction – a prime opportunity for research into its nature. In Lifehacker, Nick Douglas compared TV Tropes to Wikipedia, recommending to "use [TV Tropes] when Wikipedia feels impenetrable, when you want opinions more than facts, or when you've finished a Wikipedia page and now you want the juicy parts, the hard-to-confirm bits that Wikipedia doesn't share."
Mature content incident
In October 2010, in what the site refers to as "The Google Incident", Google temporarily withdrew its AdSense service from the site after determining that pages regarding adult and mature tropes were inconsistent with its terms of service. The site separated NSFG articles (Not Safe for Google) from SFG articles (Safe for Google) in order to allow discussion of these kinds of tropes.
In a separate incident in 2012, in response to other complaints by Google, TV Tropes changed its guidelines to restrict coverage of sexist tropes and rape tropes. Feminist blog The Mary Sue criticized this decision, as it censored documentation of sexist tropes in video games and young adult fiction. ThinkProgress additionally condemned Google AdSense itself for "providing a financial disincentive to discuss" such topics. Pornographic tropes and works, as well as additional content deemed inappropriate for coverage on site, were also made prohibited following the incident.
Licensing and content forks
Regarding these and other concerns of re-licensing and advertising, a wiki called All The Tropes forked all the content from TV Tropes with the original CC-BY-SA license in late 2013. Authors of the fork attributed several actions of taking commercial rights over what is published on its website, censorship, and failing to comply with the original license to TV Tropes managers.[self-published source] Some editors raised concerns that keeping the content submitted with the previous copyleft license at TV Tropes is illegal, as the re-licensing had occurred without the permission of the editors and the original CC-BY-SA license did not allow its distribution under the new terms.
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- "Line 306 Administrivia/WelcomeToTVTropes". TV Tropes. Archived from the original on April 12, 2015. Retrieved April 6, 2015. "We are not required to attribute your user content to you. Anything you contribute may be deleted, modified, or used commercially by us without notification or consent, to the extent permitted by applicable laws. For that reason, we strongly recommend that you do not post material on our site for the first time, whether in text or image form, that you wish to receive publication credit for in the future."
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