We currently have two very similar types of questions that are handled very differently according to past consensus and precedent: Questions asking about the origin of a particular feature, differing only in their wording.

It's best to illustrate this with an example:

What was the first game to use WASD for movement?

This, according to our ITG-related and multi-repurposed close reason, is off topic, due to the clause that says, 'Questions asking for help identifying a game, whether based on a description, or feature list, or any other set of criteria (i.e. "What was the first game to…") are off-topic.' (emphasis mine)

However, if you were to reword this question to:

What is the origin of the WASD key scheme?

Then, suddenly, the precedent is that this question is on topic. These questions are asking the exact same thing. The exact same information is required to answer both of these questions. I propose that they are the same question, and should be handled the same way as each other. I don't actually have much of a preference for which way they're handled, so long as we're consistent.

So, do you think that both of these questions should be off topic, or do you think that both of these questions should be on topic, or do you want to make the case that these questions are somehow different? Let's decide it in this meta.

  • 4
    likewise, not really bothered which way it goes but less brain hurt and more consistency. The current (heh) consensus on game history seems to be in favor of them and the current gaming-history tag clearly states it includes "conventions" (usage of WASD would be a convention)
    – kalina
    Commented Dec 4, 2015 at 15:53
  • @kalina I thought it was talking about gaming conventions like PAX or E3 Commented Dec 4, 2015 at 16:05
  • 9
    Meh. They aren't asking the same thing. "What was the first game" wants a game name as an answer. "What is the origin" asks for an explanation of how something occurred. One is a simple trivia question, the other allows for a full explanation of a gaming concept.
    – au revoir
    Commented Dec 4, 2015 at 16:11
  • 1
    @JasonBerkan The same information is still required to answer; maybe the answer to the latter includes the answer to the former as one piece of the puzzle, but at the core they're still the same question. Commented Dec 4, 2015 at 16:12
  • Depending on how you ask for the history behind a mechanic seems to fall foul of several close reasons (identifying a game via a feature, or even developer intent). Furthermore, asking for the history alone doesn't seem to solve any problems. Doesn't that make a question off-topic (if it doesn't solve a problem)?
    – user101016
    Commented Dec 4, 2015 at 17:07
  • Asking "Why is the default WASD?" does seem to be more useful, but then it goes into developer intent territory. "Why should I use WASD?" perhaps? I agree with kalina - it makes your head hurt.
    – user101016
    Commented Dec 4, 2015 at 17:09
  • 8
    "Doesn't solve a problem" is not, as far as I know, actually a close reason here. Which is good, because if it was, we'd just spend all day arguing about what constitutes a "problem".
    – Sterno
    Commented Dec 4, 2015 at 21:07
  • 1
    I think there is a distinction. The answer to "what was the first game to use x" is "Game y." Anything else is fluff. The answer to "what is the origin of x" is "blah blah game development history blah blah." "Game Y" is an incomplete, low quality answer to that question. I don't think either of them are particularly on topic, but I do see a distinction.
    – Dallium
    Commented Dec 4, 2015 at 21:22
  • 3
    I think the point is that playing "phrasing gymnastics" should not be how we decide whether a type of question is on-topic or off-topic.
    – Sterno
    Commented Dec 4, 2015 at 21:32
  • 2
    I'm with Jason, they are vastly different types of questions. "What was the first game to" is a subset of game identification - it's primary 'answer' is a game name based on the set of defined criteria. The 'Origin' one needs to explain why it became popular, which has more to do with trends at the time and less about which was 'first'.
    – Robotnik Mod
    Commented Dec 4, 2015 at 22:30
  • @Robotnik These have none of the problems of ITG questions, though, since they're verifiable by a third party, even if they superficially look similar. Commented Dec 4, 2015 at 22:32
  • 1
    @Strix - oh, no of course not, that's not what I was meaning to imply whoops. I simply meant that 'first game to' only requires a game name to answer - there's no implied need (or want) for the background info, nor the history of why it became widespread and so on. There's no substance there. Compared to the 'Origin' one, it's trivial by comparison
    – Robotnik Mod
    Commented Dec 4, 2015 at 23:10
  • @kalina If you look at the timeline of the original question, you'll see that the current answer only overtook Strix's old one today. It's been fairly well established (until today, anyways), that they didn't belong. It wan't really something I was making up, and I kinda resent that implication.
    – Frank
    Commented Dec 5, 2015 at 1:04
  • 3
    @Frank I'm not sure how one post getting +2 -1 and having 10 points and the other post getting -2 +1 and having 7 points would classify as "fairly well established" in any interpretation of those words. You realize these changes mean that the post stating they were on topic was still the highest voted before yesterday, right?
    – kalina
    Commented Dec 5, 2015 at 9:31
  • 1
    @GodEmperorDune I do not believe questions about actual conventions (PAX, E3, etc) have ever been on topic on Arqade, which is why I assumed conventions to mean "agreed, stipulated, or generally accepted standards"
    – kalina
    Commented Dec 5, 2015 at 9:36

3 Answers 3


These questions have value. They're really interesting, and can provide insight into the history of a hobby that a lot of us really love. Upon reflection, I don't think that closing all of them is really the best service to the community.

But, consider the case where both questions exist:

What was the first game to use WASD for movement?


What is the origin of the WASD key scheme?

If the latter exists, the former is redundant. It should probably be closed as a duplicate.

If someone asks the former by itself, most people who know the answer would probably know a lot more contextual information than simply providing the name of a game, and that contextual information is interesting.

I propose that "first game" questions be reworded to "origin" questions, if possible, and left open. If the OP is stubborn and refuses to edit or rolls back, then we can just close as usual and move on to the next interesting question. So I guess, despite being the OP of this question, I'm actually in favor of some kind of distinguishing between the two types of questions.

  • 3
    I have to disagree with your premise. If you think about it, the first form asks for the 'first game to use WASD'. The second form asks for its origin. Origin doesn't need to be strictly a game. For example, the first game using a player camera was EyeToy: Play for PS2. Although the origin for having a player being portraied in the game is different. I personally own TIF 2004 (this is football, launched in late 2003), which allowed the user to play with a character using his portrait as a face
    – Oak
    Commented Dec 9, 2015 at 17:40

This is a sticky issue of interpreting authorial intent. As asked, I do see a distinction in the questions, if they are interpreted as narrowly as possible. To change the example, consider the question:

What was the first game to feature Mega Man?

This has one correct objective answer: Mega Man (1987, NES). To expound on it drifts outside what the question actually asked. The author may have intended to ask more, but they didn't. Now to ask:

What is the origin of Mega Man?

Answering simply "Mega Man" for the NES doesn't actually answer the question at all. This example holds for game mechanics, characters, and tropes that are specific to video games; they each have a specific first appearance, which can be given in one line, but the actual history of how they came to be is much more complex.

If we're going to have history at all, I don't see how one can be accepted and the other is off topic. Yes, questions that ask "What was the first game to x" will always be low quality, that's a given. They aren't open ended, they ask for one specific fact. Any answers will be of similar quality. But they are legitimate history questions. If we want to have a rule that says "gaming history questions are allowed unless they're Jeopardy questions," we have to deal with the reality that changing the phrasing will make an off topic question on topic.

So what do we do? Get rid of history questions. Because if we want to keep them, we're more or less stuck with our "what was the first" questions. I think they stink by default, but I don't see a clear cut case to ban them while keeping broader, higher quality questions on gaming history.

So to repeat StrixVaria's quote of FAQ in this meta:

You should only ask practical, answerable questions based on actual problems that you face.

  • 2
    I should really delete that answer, since that's the second time someone has quoted me and I don't really agree with that stance at all anymore. Commented Dec 4, 2015 at 22:01
  • 1
    Well, I agree with your logic, if not your conclusion. So +/- 1! Commented Dec 5, 2015 at 0:52
  • "we have to deal with the reality that changing the phrasing will make an off topic question on topic"... well... yeah? That's the main reason for putting questions on hold, so that they can be edited and made on topic, if at all possible.
    – DCShannon
    Commented Dec 7, 2015 at 23:04
  • @DCShannon I don't know what your problem is with me, but the concept (and the various members who've expressed distaste for it) you quoted is literally what this entire meta is about
    – Dallium
    Commented Dec 8, 2015 at 0:05
  • @Dallium I have no problem with you at all. We're discussing ideas. I don't understand what you said, so I'm asking about it. Re-reading the question a couple times, I guess you could think that's what this is about. That would be pretty trivial, though. I think it's about history questions, and a particular difference in phrasing being enough to make the two phrasings different questions. Surely you recognize that a question can be edited to be made on topic, when it wasn't before?
    – DCShannon
    Commented Dec 8, 2015 at 0:10
  • @DCShannon this is why we need a PM system, I could have asked a week ago why it seemed you were singling my posts out for nitpicking, and could have gotten the answer then. I'll stop taking it personally. On to the matter at hand. No, I don't recognize that. If a question is off topic, no amount of editing should bring it on topic. If we have prohibited questions that allow users to do that, we should close the loop holes. That's why I'm suggesting we drop history all together (clearly I'm in a minority, which is fine). The specific problem here is more than a few users have expressed (cont.)
    – Dallium
    Commented Dec 8, 2015 at 0:16
  • concern that "phrasing gymnastics" allow users to change an off topic "what was the first" question into an on topic "what is the origin of" question, which they feel is the same question. That specific line was me targeting those users in an attempt to broaden the appeal of my proposal. I still don't think there's any reasonable way to prohibit "what was the first" while allowing "what is the origin," but that's just my opinion, and clearly the majority in the community is opposed to that.
    – Dallium
    Commented Dec 8, 2015 at 0:19
  • Alright, that makes more sense. I'm with Raven Dreamer. The logic in this answer makes perfect sense, right up until that sentence I pointed out. Seeing as how those are different questions, as you so excellently explained in the first half, I have no problem whatsoever with one being on topic and the other not. Here's an example of a question I asked, where the first phrasing was off-topic, but what I really meant was the final phrasing, which is on topic.
    – DCShannon
    Commented Dec 8, 2015 at 0:31
  • Also, sorry if it ever seemed like I was singling you out. I leave comments on a lot of answers. I honestly don't even remember what conversation we may have had in the past.
    – DCShannon
    Commented Dec 8, 2015 at 0:33

I feel consideration toward how the community of users perceive the question asked is important.

If the community finds it of particular interest to up-vote the question then based on the mechanic and contextual point of an up-vote in context, it should fly. Afterall, a down-vote indicates low quality or value while and while it is sometimes used to denote disinterest or disapproval on personal level by some users, up-voting is used in similar fashion. If we expel questions that are down-voted and flagged through semantic clauses to maintain a degree of standard in objective appeal, fairness lends itself toward the same with an up-vote, right?

Whether someone asks "which was first" or "what is the origin of" the prepending argument is semantic only. If we look at the core question and see that it's a question to learn the history of as to seek a narrow scope on a broad topic it should be fine. If we see that it's simply trying seek a broad answer to a narrow-scoped question then it should fall or be edited to become the former, especially if we allow a tag for "history-hardware" and "history-software."

This could spur a lot of copypasta from Wikipedia or other sites that have Wikipedia copypasta, but questions such as "Was the Atari 2600 the first home console to have a screen saver?" (which I did just answer - because 8 up-votes gave it a sense of being a worthy question, good for the site) are not things you'll just go to Wikipedia and get a definitive or absolute answer without heavy additional research or experiential knowledge to answer the specific question at what seems to be the standard.

  • 2
    Willingness of users to answer a question does not indicate a good question for the site.
    – Vemonus
    Commented Jan 3, 2017 at 17:03
  • I agree and it's precisely why that wasn't at all a suggestion or theory. What I said was that willingness to answer a question indicates worthiness (to be answered). I felt that implication was plain given the exampled question. I felt the primary point conveyed revolved around up-votes to the question being more the indicator of whether it could be considered good for the site (that is, unless I forgot where a topic sentence goes and does - have I? - Ill edit out the three sentences at the end about 'answers' to avoid more confusion) Commented Jan 3, 2017 at 17:34
  • 1
    Upvotes are one of the worst measurements to determine worthiness; game rec and game identification are massively popular, and yet make for incredibly poor questions. Upvotes should never be used to judge worthiness.
    – Frank
    Commented Jan 3, 2017 at 20:12
  • 1
    And yet, the basis of rewards is exactly that? Commented Jan 3, 2017 at 20:14
  • 1
    @ShawnGordon this pretty much is why users can upvote at 10 or 15 rep, but need 3000 rep to be able to cast close votes. A bunch of relatively new users could upvote an objectively bad question for the site before more veteran users see the question and are able to close it. As Frank said, votes are not a good metric for what is or isn't a good question.
    – Vemonus
    Commented Jan 3, 2017 at 20:24

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