tl;dr at bottom

This is Gaming, we don't take kindly to fun around here.
- a Cat, May 11, 2012

I found the quote*, for those who saw my comment on this question. When I first saw it, I thought it was in jest, but over the last year or so I've noticed a trend where more and more we don't take kindly to fun. And I'm hoping I can change that viewpoint, or at the very least, share my perspective and show where I (and others) are coming from when we say questions like Is there a Pokemon evolution line that fits the Sphinx's riddle? are on-topic.

On Character Identification

Now the question in question linked above is a lot of things (that I'll get to), but primarily it's a 'Character Identification' question. At it's core, it asks if there are any characters (Pokemon) that match a set of criteria (evolution line with a particular set of legs at each stage). On this front, it's no different to:

Which, as far as the last time this came up, is still a supported/on-topic type of question that we allow, as per Is "Identify <character> from <game>" a subset of game identification?:

I think these questions should be on topic... [snip] ...they can be answered by an exhaustive search in a reasonable amount of time. Considering the [Iron Sonic] 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.
- murgatroid99, Is "Identify <character> from <game>" a subset of game identification?

With me so far? Good, because that was the easy one :)

On Answerability

A common close vote trend/trope that seems to go around every now and then is that if an answer is either "It's not possible", "It doesn't exist" or "Your assumption is wrong", then it is not an answer. This is simply false, and has been stated multiple times and by multiple people.

It is not a problem isolated to this particular type of 'character ident' question either, in fact, it most often comes out of what is sometimes called the 'Poke the Plot Hole' type of question, where a question about plot is not covered by current canon: Do we close plot-explanation questions if the answer is 'there is no explanation'?

Consider this:

I see no problem with answering these questions with "There is no explanation at this time". After all, you might ask something about the plot in game X which you find cannot be answered yet. Then when X-2 or DLC for X comes out, the answer pops up.
- Batophobia, Do we close plot-explanation questions if the answer is 'there is no explanation'?

And this:

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.
- murgatroid99, Is "Identify <character> from <game>" a subset of game identification?

And this:

It is never okay to vote to close a question because it is “not addressed directly through in-universe sources”, due to the inherent problems of needing to know the answer to the question (or at least that it does or does not exists) before voting to close.
- Sterno, When is it appropriate to close a lore question as “not addressed directly through in-universe sources”?

Seems fairly similar, no? And then we have this:

There is not yet any Pokemon who change himself physically or who evolve in such a way that it would answer the Sphinx's Riddle...
- Isuka, Is there a Pokemon evolution line that fits the Sphinx's riddle?

That's an excerpt from the top-voted answer on the riddle question. According to our own consensus, this is a valid answer to the question. So now, we have a valid question (Character Ident), and a valid answer ('No')... so why are we still getting comments like this?:

...Answering it is impossible, and nobody but the creator knows what the right answer actually is. Trivia. Through and through.
- Frank, Source

Oh, right, 'Trivia'. Well, onto that topic:

On Trivia

Trivia is not necessarily trivial. 'Historical Trivia' is something we've discussed before which can require extensive, expert knowledge, or the skills to find that data and collate it into an answer. And we recognised that:

In general: no, it's not a prohibited category or something, it's a question about video games, and we allow those.
- LessPop_MoreFizz♦, Is “Historical Trivia” off-topic?

Trivia seems to be conflated a lot with 'Plot' and 'Lore' as a lot of the issues around all these types of questions seem to stem from the wording in the Help Center:

You should only ask practical, answerable questions based on actual problems that you face.
- Help Center - What types of questions should I avoid asking?

There's entire meta post dedicated to that wording from a few years ago: "practical, answerable questions based on actual problems that you face", I'm not going to cover all of what is a very extensive topic, instead, let's jump to the part on 'actual problems that you face' part which seems to be the go-to justification for closevoting trivia questions:

On Problems that you face

There is definitely a vocal faction on Arqade that think a 'Problem' that you face must be in-game. To this faction, getting your head-canon in the right place (plot/lore), understanding a gaming term (terminology), or asking a 'Trivia' question (stuff that "doesn't help you play the game") should not be allowed here. Why? Because these "aren't real problems".

I disagree. You know what aren't 'real problems'?

Nowhere in these three example questions do we come close to an actual problem you face. These are the examples we should be comparing to when looking at questions that "aren't real problems"

One thing should be obvious from all parts of the line, though; its aim is to prevent questions that are essentially stuff you'd ask when you don't really have a question you need help with, but want to ask a question anyway.
- user3389, "practical, answerable questions based on actual problems that you face"

The Sphinx riddle question clearly shows a problem being faced by the asker, even if said problem does not help them in-game. It is a mental/headcanon problem, which I've established above is on-topic:

But is there actually a Pokémon that has four legs, then two legs, then three legs in any of the Pokémon games?
- Lego Stormtroopr, Is there a Pokemon evolution line that fits the Sphinx's riddle?

Lego Stormtroopr presents a problem space that is nagging him in his head. And hell, even if it wasn't (as I can see people will argue this point the most), badp writes this on the topic of lore:

and I think this applies equally here, especially in this case. Whether you think a question is "problem solving" or not hardly matters.

And it's still a problem. There is no answer to this. It's a joke. The answers prove that.
- Frank, Source

So that brings us to the fact that the question stems from a joke. The 'Fun' part. The fact that it's a riddle that's being addressed:

On Fun

The question's reason for being is a riddle. Riddles are FunTM, and fun, as I mentioned in the intro to this rant spiel, seems to be something we frown upon. For some reason.

And yet, it seems not so long ago that agent86 wrote this, on the topic of memes:

The point I'm trying to make is that sorting story/plot/trivia/terminology questions based on whether or not they're funny or popular does nothing to change whether they are practical OR problems. If funny or popular story/terminology/trivia elements are not practical or not problems, then we should say the same about all classes of those questions.
- agent86 - Could someone explain this joke to me?

Whether a question is fun or not should not impact whether the question should be closed (or not). And if you don't think FunTM is 'Fun', and instead think its 'stupid', then maybe it's time to have that discussion badp hints at:

At any rate though stupid questions in a category can't be used to rule out the entire question class. If you have a problem with stupid questions, let's discuss what our "stupidity rules" are instead.
- badp♦, Should lore questions as an entire category be banned?

Closing thoughts (get it? Closing?!?)

It's really, really important to read the FAQ as a set of guidelines that presume the reader uses common sense when reading it.
- user3389

Let's use some common sense here. 'Character Ident' and 'Trivia' are on topic. Answerability should not be used as a measure for whether to close a question (and yet I've proven that it can be -and has been- answered). Finally, a question being 'fun' does not (or should not) change whether it's on-topic or answerable.


tl;dr

In general:

  • If you think a fun/trivia question is stupid, downvote
  • If you think a fun/trivia question lacks research effort, downvote
  • If you think a fun/trivia question is useless, downvote

In the specific case:

The Sphinx Riddle question should be reopened, as it's

  1. Character Identification (on-topic)
  2. Answerable (and answered)
  3. Trivia (on-topic)
  4. Fun/a Joke (shouldn't factor into closing at all)

* May not be the first instance of said quote

  • 5
    Heh, I got CAPTCHA'd for this. Last time I write an essay lol – Robotnik May 5 '16 at 0:09
  • 9
    I had to scroll for about 10 minutes just to get to the TL:DR – Dragonrage May 5 '16 at 0:23
  • 2
    Very interesting thread. As one of the VTCers, I think you make some very clear and well reasoned points for why this question should be reopened. I'll consider writing up a response. – two bugs May 5 '16 at 0:23
  • @Dragonrage yeah sorry about that. I've been biting my tongue on this topic for about 6 months or so. Once I started writing it just sort of all came out. – Robotnik May 5 '16 at 0:24
  • @twobugs - I look forward to it :) – Robotnik May 5 '16 at 0:25
  • 6
    Is this a much longer way of saying a close vote is not a super downvote? – GodEmperorDune May 5 '16 at 0:26
  • @GodEmperorDune - It's much more specifically targeted towards particular classes of questions (The 4 topic points in the title), but yeah, a little bit. – Robotnik May 5 '16 at 0:27
  • No, it should not. It's utterly irrelevant, and has no actual answer. Ask the question without the joke, and I'll support it being reopened. It's the actual impetus that makes that question off-topic. It's asking us to read the creator's mind, and there is no actual answer at all. – Frank May 5 '16 at 0:38
  • 18
    They're not asking what the joke creator intended the answer to be. They're asking if there is a matching Pokemon. We shouldn't close questions because we dislike the motivation for asking them. – murgatroid99 May 5 '16 at 0:44
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    @Frank Assuming for a second that reposting it without the riddle would somehow make it a different question, that question would still adhere to 3/4 of the points that I discuss above (Character Ident, Answerable, Trivia). If you truly believe we should be closing questions based on the reasons for being or 'impetus' only then can you please expand on that point because if that is the case, the problem should instead be solved by editing the riddle out of the current question, not closure. – Robotnik May 5 '16 at 0:55
  • 1
    @Robotnik the Slakoth->Vigoroth->Slaking answer is heavily reliant on the sphinx's riddle portion of the question – GodEmperorDune May 5 '16 at 1:04
  • 1
    I agree - I think we've been getting a bit overboard on these types of questions lately, we need to pull back a bit. Just because a question contains something Fun doesn't mean we should be closing it. – angussidney May 5 '16 at 8:50
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    I think my argument is going to take something along the lines of what place Fun has in Arqade. I highly doubt anyone actually wants the site to be unFun, but when you see a question of extremely low quality which is basically just a joke - that's not great either. Should these questions be closed? Probably not, this discussion makes a good argument for why this one is on topic. But this seems pretty much the same as making an intentionally bad question title (or clickbait/awful forced joke one) to me. – two bugs May 5 '16 at 15:14
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    @Frank Like I told you on other questions, It's only "asking to read someone's mind" if you're asking for an answer that can only be answered with privileged information AND not answereable with "we don't know yet"/"It will be revealed in Episode 9" – Oak May 5 '16 at 21:51
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    Excellently put together meta post, one of the best I've seen. Nice work. – DCShannon May 7 '16 at 4:18

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