Recently, a question was asked about identifying a boss/enemy/character in the original Sonic games. The asker is specific in his/her wording which helped narrow it down, but doesn't have tangible evidence (a picture, video or other artifact) which we require for Game identification questions.

From the close side of the fence:

This question appears to be off-topic because it is about identifying something from a game without an artifact.

The problem I see is it fails the same criteria as identify this game; it's essentially a guessing game without an artifact. If the first answer hadn't gotten it, I don't think we'd be even debating this. There's no guarantee the asker's memory is even accurate, which is one of the primary reasons we require an artifact in the first place!

Whereas my reasons for voting to leave it Open:

It's not like there's an infinite list of characters and we have no hope of finding it (as is the problem with Game-Ident questions)...

...I don't think its fair to lump it with 'game-ident' because at its core, it isnt a game-ident. <snip> I feel it doesn't suffer from the same problems as game-ident because the onus of knowledge lies elsewhere: the question relies less on memory and more on knowledge of the series lore/canon...

What do you think? Are 'Character-Identification's On or Off topic? Do they suffer from the same problems as Game Identification?

The question in question: *Iron Sonic? Can’t find character or name

  • Just to be clear, you're specifically defining "Character identification" as "Identify a character from a predefined set of games", right? Jan 13, 2015 at 0:39
  • @murgatroid99 - Pretty much yes, where "predefined set of games" is one game or multiple games, but generally within the same series
    – Robotnik Mod
    Jan 13, 2015 at 0:40

2 Answers 2


I think these questions should be on topic. Questions like this are superficially similar to the game identification questions, but they have one important difference: they can be answered by an exhaustive search in a reasonable amount of time. Considering the original question, for example, someone could look through a list of every character that has ever appeared in a 2D Sonic game and find all characters that match or resemble the description given.

If the user describes a character that does not exist in the list of games, someone can answer the question by doing the same legwork of looking through a list of characters. The only difference is that they will find no characters matching the given description, and their answer will say as much.

In contrast, the primary problem with game identification questions is that the list of games in any given category is probably long and difficult to compile. The game in question may be unlicensed, or a knockoff, or a freeware clone.

This answer very specifically applies to character identification requests where the question includes a well-defined list of candidate games (such as "2D Sonic games" in the original question). If they don't give such a list, then the question is implicitly asking for the identity of the game that contains that character, so it must be subject to the game identification rules.

  • This was pretty much my opinion as well. Even if the answer was 'Generic Badnik Boss #10', at least it can be answered, by knowledge of the series or diving into Wikis, Game manuals etc.
    – Robotnik Mod
    Jan 13, 2015 at 0:56
  • Another scenario: User comes up with a description that doesn't match any known character from the series. It still matches the criteria, but all we have to go off is memory. One that is inherently false. I could ask, "What's this green spiky thing from random game Y?", and the only person who knows it's false is me. We still have have the issue of answers being guesses.
    – Frank
    Jan 13, 2015 at 1:41
  • 2
    The difference is that in the situation you describe, since there is a well-defined list of characters to check, you can definitively answer "there is no such character." I added a paragraph about that to my answer. Jan 13, 2015 at 1:43

Let's take a look at @badp's synopsis of why game identification questions were ultimately disallowed:

The reasons brought forward behind the policy are that:

  • History shows the criteria in these questions are necessarily:
    • warped by time and memory
    • possibly wrong altogether
    • insufficient to identify just one game
  • From this last point it follows that the only person who can identify the one right question is the asker himself.
    • The asker might have stopped checking for questions
    • The asker might be summarily dismissing what's actually the "right" answer over a discrepancy between what he recalls and what the game actually is
    • Mind reading and 20 question guessing games are not what we're experts in
  • These questions are not helpful to the internet at large
    • It is difficult to close these questions as duplicate. You might theoretically have two ITG questions with the same body and two different answers - both "correct". You also can have two different questions with the same answer.
    • These questions have lower view counts and vote counts than average
    • These questions typically do poorly in converting new users into frequent users

At its heart, these are still questions which require guessing to answer. No one knows the right answer except for the asker. By trying to identify a character, we're narrowing the scope, and have the potential to eliminate a single one of these points: - insufficient to identify just one game. Otherwise, every single point still stands for character identification. These questions are still going to have the rest of the issues that game identification does.

Is narrowing the scope valuable enough to outweigh the rest of these problems? I say no.

  • 3
    One thing that you seem to be missing, which changes the whole problem, is that "right answer" doesn't necessarily have the same definition in this case as with ITG. The question "What characters have XX description in YY game series?" (or "Is there a character with such a description?") is a perfectly answerable, well-scoped question. It's not a guessing game because the answer to the question is objectively correct no matter what the asker's memory says. Jan 13, 2015 at 6:26
  • You're arguing that the narrowing of scope means that the other problems aren't as prevalent. I disagree, as they are all still problems with character identification. Memory is quite faulty, and by your acceptance of these questions, you're supporting, "There is no character matching that description" type answers. For these questions to work, it requires attributes from askers that we've determined they don't have. It's still a guessing game. It still requires the asker to confirm the guess. And, really, they're not useful to anybody BUT the asker.
    – Frank
    Jan 13, 2015 at 17:36
  • 1
    I did explicitly say in my answer that I am supporting "There is no character matching that description" answers, since that can be the correct answer to the question. And it doesn't require the asker to confirm the guess because the answer to the question as asked can be objectively verified no matter what the asker does or doesn't remember. They may not accept the correct answer, but it will still be the correct answer. Jan 13, 2015 at 17:42
  • So you're going to tell me you can always match a description, made from memory that may or may not be faulty, to a character in a game series? This is just going to turn into a popularity contest, if someone describes someone that matches more than one character. A memory cannot be objectively verified. At all. It requires the asker to confirm, every single time. The best we can do is, "Well, this character gets close", or your, "That character doesn't exist". Those don't answer the question definitively in any sense.
    – Frank
    Jan 13, 2015 at 17:47
  • Basing the policy off of a single example that actually works doesn't do the problem space justice; our track record of identification questions is a very contentious area. And character identification has all the hallmarks of the exact same problems as game identification. None of the problems are solved, except maybe scope. The rest are still there, and still problematic.
    – Frank
    Jan 13, 2015 at 17:50
  • Once the asker gives a description of a character, there either are characters that match the description, or there aren't. That is a fact, independent of whatever else the asker may remember. If that answer is correct, it is correct whether or not it matches whatever bits of memory the asker didn't choose to share. The problem is fundamentally different because the candidate matches come from a bounded, well-defined set, which makes any answer objectively verifiable without the asker's memory. That fact gets rid of all of the problems you mentioned. Jan 13, 2015 at 18:14
  • I concede that narrowing the scope lessens the other problems, but I don't agree it removes them. Your proposed answers also tend to be rather terrible answers, and there's no way to prove no character matches the supplied description. The bounded set you're working off of isn't as limited as you seem to think, especially once we get into games with characters that have multiple costumes, or characters include enemies like grunts. There's a whole lot more to this scope, and basing our policy from faulty memory doesn't set a very good precedent at all.
    – Frank
    Jan 13, 2015 at 18:27
  • 1
    "there's no way to prove no character matches the supplied description." It may often be difficult, but it is not impossible. And at that point this seems to become a very familiar argument about feasablility vs possibility. I don't think we will agree, and I don't actually care enough to continue arguing this point. I'll just let the votes decide. Jan 13, 2015 at 19:08

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