I've noticed some tags in used that are very specific to the game in question. For example, there's a civilization question which had the tags (among others) "worker" and "settler", and there are Starcraft 2 questions (1, 2) with tags such as "zerg" or "protoss".

I'm strongly opposed to these tags - since there are game specific, I see absolutely no added value in them. I find it hard to believe anyone would filter based on them, rather than the game itself. Remember the search mechanism supports things that aren't tags - tags are more useful for filtering.



There are tons of these. Many tags that are specific for only one game, such as "morrigan" or "lore-master", and many tags which are just too game dependent, such as "priest" or "mutation".

Am I missing something? What is the value of these tags?


Some users assert that tags are helpful for searching, and I believe this is just not their intended purpose: tags are helpful for filtering (and for gathering statistics). There are some discussions about tagging in meta that seem to agree. I really liked one particular sentence:

Tags connect experts with questions they will be able to answer

In StackOverflow, one can be an expert in Java or experienced with strings. But there's no way to be an expert on "priest" (since they appear in so many games) and I doubt anyone would consider herself an expert on "lore-master", let alone filter on it.


Well it's been more than a year, and based on my experience my opinion changed a bit. I still oppose tags that stretch across games and can mean different things in different games (e.g. "crafting"). But I think tags which are specific t oa single game, e.g. "zerg" or "minecraft-redstone" are okay and can be used to further filter questions among popular tags.

  • What if we used two-tag filters? Every question that is game specific should be tagged with the game name, at the very least. Jul 13, 2010 at 8:36
  • @Mechko: unfortunately, filtering according to tags is an OR relation between the tags, not AND. So assuming all games tagged [zerg] are also tagged [starcraft-2], setting your "interested" tags to [startcraft-2] and [zerg] is equivalent to setting them to just [starcraft-2].
    – Oak
    Jul 13, 2010 at 9:03
  • 2
    There are some workarounds to that issue, Oak. At least, for anyone that GreaseMonkey is an option for.
    – Grace Note StaffMod
    Jul 13, 2010 at 21:25
  • Since the [settler] tag may be too generic, I doubt anyone would actually search for [settler] (since it wouldn't help them find specific questions whether or not we use it). The difference between using it and not using it, then, is to be able to manually filter (by eye) all the [civilization] questions when you filter by that tag. The tag adds information, but not in the way we expect tags to be used. It does not HARM by being there, and can, in fact, be helpful (even if slightly so) Jul 23, 2010 at 0:51
  • As this discussion is superceded by Oak's second question, I've marked this one as a duplicate to point new viewers there.
    – Robotnik Mod
    Jun 24, 2020 at 5:40

4 Answers 4


I'm the author of that Civilization question. For the record, I am not a beginner. I have more than 1 rep on several SE sites. I actually thought quite carefully about whether or not to add the unit-specific tags when constructing the question. For the record, I find it quite rude that you would remove the tags in direct opposition to the wishes of the original author (although it is admirable that you would bring up the issue here).

The real question here is: what is the purpose of tags? Are they canonical representations of concepts from the real world? And is each concept distinct and unambiguous? It seems to me that the argument to remove them is essentially an ontological one. You would like tags to represent clear elements of knowledge. But other than because one enjoys the process of classification/pigeonholing, the only purpose for an ontology is to allow reasoning or inference on a knowledge domain. Note that this is not a requirement of any ontology. In the real world the same word can have many different concepts. It just makes it easier to reason if concepts are unambiguous when you're a machine.

As far as I am aware, tags on SE sites are not used to reason about anything. This isn't a formal ontology. It's a folksonomy, an informal aggregation of concepts by many individuals with often quite different notions about the knowledge domain.

So what's the point of tags? I contend that they exist to allow users to provide specific meta-data. The original tags say "This is a question about settlers and workers in Civilization, and settlers and workers are the main feature of the question." This meta-data is useful for only one thing - searching.

It's a straw-man argument to say that you can search without tags. Of course you can. So why have tags at all? You can search for "Civilization 4" quite successfully, whether or not there's a Civilization-4 tag. Large tags allow people to follow things they're interested in. Small tags allow specific, highly targeted searches.

The other argument seems to be one of tag pollution. This is something like "Allowing these is a slippery slope. It will lead to many super-specific tags which will clutter the tag list and render it useless." I don't understand this argument. No one is compelling anyone to use these tags. They aren't harming anyone. They aren't taking up valuable extra space in the tag cloud. And it doesn't matter that there are settlers in other games. As soon as you search for [Civilization-4] [Settler], all of those other questions are filtered away.

So what's the problem? Why remove meta-data that does no harm?

  • 6
    I agree 100% with this. The presence of game-specific tags is really no different than any language-specific or language-variant constructs in SO - say [common-table-expression] and [strings].
    – Grace Note StaffMod
    Jul 8, 2010 at 5:00
  • [strings] is a fairly common construct in a LOT of programming languages, while [settler] (especially in this context) is only found in a single game.
    – Nicolai
    Jul 8, 2010 at 5:05
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    @Nicolai [strings] more parallels things like [paladin], which is fairly common in a lot of games to represent a holy knight type of fellow. Comparatively, as far as I know CTE is almost exclusively used in SQL stuff. Which is a bit broader than just a single game, but I don't really see the somewhat narrower scope making game-specific tags any less useful. A better example may have been [splistitem], which is SharePoint exclusive.
    – Grace Note StaffMod
    Jul 8, 2010 at 5:20
  • 4
    ire_and_curses: I apologize if I was rude to you in removing the tags (though you should not take it personally) - I just thought they were completely redundant so I removed them, and only a few minutes later understood that it should be a discussion here in meta instead. In any case, you say that "meta-data is only useful for one thing - searching". I contend that meta-data (tags) is useful for (1) filtering and (2) categorization, but searching can be completed without it. Tags are not intended for searching purposes.
    – Oak
    Jul 8, 2010 at 7:55
  • +1 - Great answer.
    – Jesta
    Jul 8, 2010 at 15:30
  • 1
    +1 for the great answer. @Oak - "Tags are not intended for searching purposes." But "meta-data (tags) is useful for (1) filtering". What is filtering if it's not part of searching? Filtering is a method of improving a search, so I would contend that tags are for searching purposes. Jul 23, 2010 at 0:58
  • 2
    @Michael: filtering is used to display (or remove) only questions that fall under certain category. Filtering is useful for an expert to watch over his area of expertise, or for someone to filter out questions he will have no interest in. Searching, on the other hand, is mainly about finding a specific question or answer of interest. When searching, tags offer no advantage over just regular words in the question/answer body.
    – Oak
    Jul 23, 2010 at 11:18

Even if we limited ourselves to game-specific subtags, there will be intersections between certain subtags that could reasonably apply to other games. Meaningful subdivisions within a game will not always be limited to things that are unique to that game. For example, there are a lot of questions on that are about how a specific weapon works, or how one weapon compares to another. It is helpful to be able to group this question about how a Team Fortress 2 weapon works with this question about how a Team Fortress 2 weapon works, which they otherwise have no identifying characteristics shared in their body text other than "Team Fortress 2".

The game Lethal Crisis also has a very large selection of weapons, and weapon usage/unlocking/comparison could be a meaty subdivision for it. The thing is, the scope of the tag on both games is identical within the coverage of that game. They represent the same meaningful subcategory.

Having separate and tags would get ugly pretty fast, and also very confusing. It'd be like differentiating between and . Yes, they're the same alien species, but they are two separate games and the mechanics and identity of the Zerg between the two has changed. We don't do that because people grasp the logical connection of the tag to the appropriate game because the subdivision is identical between the games. I maintain that this is identical for weapon systems between Team Fortress 2 and Lethal Crisis. They may be completely different games, they may have entirely different mechanics to how weapons work, but the context and meaning of that tag for the question is the same. You could hot-swap the game names and the weapon names between questions in these two games and actually come out with legitimate questions.

Our most prominent problem in using subtags has been a lack of structure in identifying good subdivisions - a problem that spawns both disarray in their application, and also the creation of very poor subtags. Thanks to Skyrim moreso than anything, we're working on that. Whether they're game specific or not, sub tags will always pose the same problems. No, you can't really be a global expert on them. No, they can't exist as the sole tag on a question. They remain to create meaningful subdivisions, subdivisions that text search alone won't always be able to catch (see the above TF2 questions). If we are to use tags in this fashion, then, I believe that a more universal system, rather than a game-specific system, will provide greater benefit going forward.

In a game-specific system, we first have to address whether a game is popular enough to warrant subdividing. Then sometimes it's pretty easy (Minecraft and Starcraft were pretty easy), while other times like Skyrim you'll need to have discussions on what meaningful subdivisions exist. Then you'll need to make sure that you can create tags that are unique to be scoped just to the game but also unique to just the game, requiring prefixes or other approaches as necessary (say, if you can just limit it within a series). After we tag everything, we end up with a clean system that has good subdivisions. It is still limited only to the most popular games.

In a more universal system, we instead go in the reverse direction. We have a big discussion on what major subdivisions tend to be present (and I think Skyrim's system is actually strongly conducive to this for a general case). Then, we find the games where these subdivisions would be meaningful. We end up not limited just to the most popular, but are also able to catch games that, while spread out, don't quite hit the threshold. Moreover, this gives us an early-day advantage to help categorize questions with what we have - resolving then, yielding a need for other subdivisions, or even bowing down to more intuitive subdivisions like with Starcraft. We have a workable base that can be used to categorize questions while the content base is forming, rather than waiting on its creation to see what trends actually exist.

It's not without downfalls. It would require a lot of guidance and work and cooperation to come up with this set of base tags (a feat we've proven ourselves pretty poor at, most of the time). We'd also have to do a cleanup across the site afterwards, which while we do have a tiny question library compared to other big sites, we're still pretty hefty. However, I think that were we to take these efforts and apply them, the benefits and future time saved will be worth it.


...also, the likes of needing to be split into individual games is quite irksome. Seeing as boss fights is such a wide-spread subdivision across FAQs and Walkthroughs for a plethora of games, it is a very expected division to expect in our Related Tags section or just in general. But if we limit ourselves only to game-specific subtags, we'd have to create horrid things like or , which comes across very sloppy when you have the likes of enjoying obvious associations.

Focus more on the subdivision, not the literal text of . As it were, I'm planning a separate post about fixes to that tag's name anyway.

  • 1
    As I've said in my revised question, I'm fine with using tags for subdivision in popular games, I'm primarily bothered by tags that mean different things in different games, because filtering or categorizing based on these tags is very unlikely, while regular searching does not require tags and works fine with keywords. So my main point is now in this post.
    – Oak
    Nov 23, 2011 at 20:56
  • I can definitely see someone searching/favoriting/ignoring the [minecraft-redstone] tag. I find it unlikely many would do the same with a [weapons] or [priest] or [trading] tags.
    – Oak
    Nov 23, 2011 at 20:57
  • 2
    @Oak I should note that this answer was written expressly to address that edit, to be about making subdivisions specific only to popular games, versus creating useful subdivisions that can be used on multiple games. Because I could see someone searching/favoriting/ignoring questions about weapons in TF2, but I can't fathom that making a tag solely for TF2 weapons would be that much more effective than one which can apply to the myriad games that use equally variable yet distinct systems.
    – Grace Note StaffMod
    Nov 23, 2011 at 21:54
  • 2
    Tags allow us to create meaningful groups of questions in ways that mere text search fails. The race tags in Starcraft allows a Zerg player to find a question about Mutalisk strategy without needing "Zerg" hackneyed somewhere in the body text. Similarly tags would let us group the plentiful questions we have about the different TF2 weapons, where the necessary junk keyword would be even more hackneyed.
    – Grace Note StaffMod
    Nov 23, 2011 at 22:12
  • Eagerly anticipating your next meta post. This answer could be a meta thread all to itself, I think. Nov 24, 2011 at 5:37

I'll parrot my idealistic answer again which nobody seems to take any stock in:

Tags should represent some sort of coherent body of knowledge

This seems to be how the SE tag system is designed, and probably why there are badges set up for answering a bunch within one of them. The meaning of tags like , , etc. vary so much across so many games they are essentially worthless by themselves.

Sub-tags should not necessarily be fashioned in some simplistic manner like "oh, this is a question about a [item-type] from [game], so I'll tag it ", but in a broader context of what sort of "expert" would be able to answer the question. Some would say this leads to "we should only use game-tags!". While I think that would be better than the status-quo, game tags are inherently good because the easiest field of knowledge to classify on this site is of a game itself.

For example, a question like "What weapons should I use for Subtlety spec?" should not be tagged or even because that is pointlessly vague, but should instead be tagged as a Rogue would have the necessary body of knowledge to answer that question. I would argue that games like Crysis with much more limited diversity should have correspondingly fewer tags (e.g. no , etc), as one Crysis expert is not going to differ that much from the next Crysis expert, wholly different for something like a TF2 Spy vs. Sniper, and so on.


I strongly support the sub-game tags. It's incredibly useful for narrowing down your searches. Just as an example, for comparision, on EpicAdvice we have the "warrior" tag, as well as "fury", "protection", and "arms"; all which are sub-spec's of the warrior class. People use these tags to find discussions about sub-topics within the topic, which provides benefit.

There is some overlap however, [holy] is a tag that exists for both [paladin] and [priest], which we will also see here on Gaming.SE, but people should be more specific with tags if they are experiencing this overlap.

Now, for things like "settler"... yeah thats pretty bad, and I doubt anyone will search for:

[civilization] [settler]

But for games like Starcraft 2, that you mentioned, players looking for questions on zerg strategies would probably appreciate that the tag exists, so you can search for [starcraft2] [zerg] [strategies] and it will return the proper results.

In the end it's all up to whomever is moderating and their best judgement. Users will use silly tags, but some of those silly tags help out, in specific situations.

  • 2
    I think that you missed my point, which is that you can still search for any term which appears in the post, even if it's not a tag. Tags have different purposes.
    – Oak
    Jul 8, 2010 at 0:39
  • Does a page like this not benefit everyone? gaming.stackexchange.com/questions/tagged/starcraft-2+zerg is going to be a different result set than gaming.stackexchange.com/search?q=[starcraft-2]+zerg
    – Jesta
    Jul 8, 2010 at 0:45
  • And yes, I'm playing devil's advocate :)
    – Jesta
    Jul 8, 2010 at 0:54
  • 3
    Well consider the following tag: [Worker], this should return results for Civilization as well as Starcraft, Warcraft, Command and Conquer, Age of Empires, etc. Having a tage like [Paladin] on a wow only site makes sense, because Paladin will always refer to the same thing. However, on a cross video game site, Paladin might refer to multiple things in multiple games. By comparison a more loose concept like: strategy, might make sense across games. It would be interesting to see someone borrow a strategy from one game to another.
    – tzenes
    Jul 8, 2010 at 1:45
  • 2
    It might even be fun to have the ability to view "paladin" on this SE, and then see all of the different games that paladins exist in. Who knows, I'd find that interesting.
    – Jesta
    Jul 8, 2010 at 2:47

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