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Today, two questions were asked:

Very quickly, a discussion started in chat regarding the on-topicness of questions about historical trivia, with some participants believing that this type of question - "What was the first game/console to have X feature?" - falls under the old description of off-topic game identification questions:

Questions asking for help identifying a game, whether based on a description, a feature list, or any other set of criteria (i.e. "What was the first game to…") are off-topic.

This close reason is also mentioned on this answer to a meta post discussing this very issue back in 2011.

As far as I can tell from looking at the list of off-topic close reasons on Arqade (10k+ link), the wording on this close reason was changed on 2015-12-15, when it became:

Questions asking for help identifying a game, based on a description, feature list, or any other criteria are off-topic

Curious, I decided to examine the evolution of this close reason and its wording, so here is every meta post related to historical trivia and its on-topicness that I've found:

Most of the arguments against historical trivia questions stem from the similarities of this type of question to game identification ("It's asking for a game without an artifact") or game recommendation ("It's asking for a list of games with specific criteria").

For completeness, here is the history of the tag. The entire tag was created on 2014-08-13, including a footnote:

Lastly, avoid questions that ask for the first game that did something. These questions are too narrow for .

The tag wiki was created after a meta post where historical trivia questions were declared on-topic.

This... this is a mess. And I understand why, it's not an easy subject; I have changed my mind on whether these questions should be allowed or not before.
But I think it's time to put forth our best arguments for or against historical trivia questions, and change all of our resources - close reasons, the on-topic page, and the wiki - in accordance with any consensus that comes from this discussion.

  • Thanks for posting this, currently I know how I feel about these questions, but don’t really know how to articulate why. I’ll think about it for a bit and try to post an answer later. – Dragonrage Jun 10 at 22:32
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    Thank you for posting this and for bringing up the historical (heh) ambivalence on this topic. As the asker of one of today's Qs, I'd like to highlight your last paragraph. I was directed to the Game Identification wiki, the game rec and shopping pages, and the help center - none of which say why my question was closed. If FoxMcCloud hadn't been kind enough to link to an old meta, I'd still be in the dark. – SirTechSpec Jun 10 at 22:50
  • Still working on how to articulate. Short response I might convert to an answer later: Asking for the first game to do something is still asking to identify a game based on a list of features in the strictest sense. Instead of asking "what was the first game to do x", ask something like "what were the origins of x". It is a subtle difference, but then instead of arguing which game was released first, or if a certain game actually does x, a good answer can address how multiple games helped start x etc – Dragonrage Jun 11 at 18:46
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    @Dragonrage Let's focus on the intent behind our off-topic reasons, instead of strictly reading the wording. We ban game recommendation questions and game identification questions from memory because they're not objective, they're questions where only the asker can judge the quality of the answers. Asking about historical trivia is not the same as asking for a recommendation, no matter the wording. – Wrigglenite Jun 11 at 18:57
  • @Wrigglenite we also disallow game id based on a feature list. while the question what is the first x, should only have one answer, you will have people posting this is the earliest i could find that does x, and others finding older games that do x. essentially the question becomes what early games had this feature, which is a list question, even if that is not what it was meant to be. instead lets ask better questions like what are the origins of x, where a good answer will not only tell you the first to do it, but give you a lot of other interesting info that is being left out otherwise. – Dragonrage Jun 11 at 19:09
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    @Dragonrage "game id based on a feature list" is either game identification from memory or gam suggestion, which goes back to being subjective instead of objective. Letting wording instead of intention determine on-topicness is how new users get frustrated, not how we enforce quality posts. – Wrigglenite Jun 11 at 19:23
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    Based on the support on this meta, I've gone ahead and undeleted the original question about item colour rarity, and marked the new one as a duplicate – Robotnik Jun 15 at 5:13
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The reason why game identification questions are off-topic without an audiovisual artifact is that otherwise we'd have to handle questions like

There was this game that had some kind of weird animal (maybe a goat) that always walked to the right. I think I might've played it on an Atari. What was it called?

And people would constantly argue that that's enough information.

Meanwhile, if we require an audiovisual artifact, we get questions like

What game is this:
Game screenshot

Image from Wikipedia

The first question is a moving target. Only the original poster can say whether a given answer is correct. For example, it's not a goat; it's a camel. So if I answer with a game that actually has a goat in it, my answer is wrong but how do we tell? The second question is specific and answerable. We can objectively say whether that screenshot matches other screenshots from a specific game.

Historic trivia is also specific and answerable. If I ask

What was the first game to use a goat as the hero or protagonist?

Then we can answer based on the presence of the goat and give more credit to answers with games that were objectively earlier. And this is so even if the animal that I thought was a goat was actually a camel, so the game of which I was thinking is not actually a valid answer to the question. That's my problem, not the question's nor any of the answers.

Now, individual questions might be too broad (all games with goat heroes) or opinion-based (what was the best game featuring a goat?). But that can happen with many types of questions. Those questions can be fixed by editing (or closed if the asker doesn't want to edit). We can't fix bad game-identification questions, because only the asker knows what game they want.

Historical trivia questions on gaming can be interesting and objectively answered with a single right response. This site should allow them in my opinion.

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    Yeah, these are quite cool over on Science Fiction & Fantasy. – Stormblessed Jun 11 at 13:57
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    I fully agree with your clear reasoning, as it separates questions with possibly right answers from those with one objectively right answer, which - with my limited notion of inner workings of SE - seems to be the bottom line of the 'germaneness' of questions on the Arqade. – Joachim Jun 11 at 14:18
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Yes, historical trivia questions should be allowed here.

Let's take one of yesterday's questions as an example, because it's perfect context to the types of questions we're talking about.

First and foremost, what does our help center say about it?

  1. Is the question on-topic according to our help center? Absolutely. It is important to note that this is not a game recommendation. There is a distinct difference between recommending a game, and the answer to a question being a game. This is an objective question that can only have an objective answer. Games themselves can be answers to questions.
  2. Is the question on the don't ask list? It is not. It is not asking for opinions, is not open ended, and is not a rant. Again, an objective question that can only have an objective answer.
  3. Is it a good question? Yes, I would say so. It is specific, asking for the origin of a game mechanic. There can really be only one answer to that, and that will never change. It is relevant to a broader audience, especially since that mechanic spans many games and genres.

Based on this criteria, there is no reason to consider this question, or similar questions, off-topic. However, we will want to be careful so as to prevent actual off-topic questions from creeping in. I propose that we make several adjustments:

  • Any question asking a question where the answer is a game must be strictly objective. Some subjective questions are allowed here, but if its a subjective question where the answer is a game, I would consider that off-topic. That is where I propose we draw the line between game history questions and game recommendation questions.
    • This also includes , because if there's an audio or visual artifact of a game, the question immediately becomes objective (there can only be one answer at that point). Without concrete evidence of said game, questions are subjective, which are off-topic here.
  • Adjust the wording of the game recommendation close reason to be expanded to include any subjective questions where game titles themselves are the answer. If we follow through with this, we'd want a dedicated meta post on how to change the verbiage.
  • Edit the tag to allow 'first to do X' questions, and include a note to avoid asking anything subjective. Keep it strictly on the history itself, and not people's opinions on history.
  • Reopen any objective questions that include answers for games. Subjective questions asking for games stay closed.
  • Mentioning the On-Topic and Don't Ask pages is kinda weird when we're trying to finally settle on whether these questions should be on-topic in the first place. "They're on-topic because they've been on-topic" is not a very sound argument, on top of being incorrect for this specific case. – Wrigglenite Jun 11 at 17:00
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    The main point I'm trying to communicate is that these questions already follow existing rules, and that the existing rules just need a bit more clarification in order to better establish the line between on-topic and off-topic. – Gigazelle Jun 11 at 17:17
  • ++. I think the crux of it is that people misinterpret part two of the answer to So, what actually is game-rec?. I think people miss that this close reason doesn't encompass questions for which the answer is definitively and exactly a single game, i.e. not an unbounded list -- historical trivia questions fall under this latter category, so game-rec shouldn't apply. – Schism 2 days ago
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Historical trivia questions should be considered a subcategory of game identification questions and should therefore be off topic.

After this community spent a very long time discussing game identification questions and whether to accept them, we were able to add custom close reasons including one that specifically called it out. The proposal that was chosen by community consensus at the time is in this meta answer, and has the following text:

Questions that ask which games or other products meet specific criteria are off topic. We primarily deal with questions about playing games, not about which games to play or historical trivia. We make an exception for identifying games based on an audiovisual artifact from the game in question.

This close reason as written at the time unambiguously bans these historical trivia questions. None of the linked meta posts in the question appear to directly discuss removing that text from the close reason or reversing that rule. Additionally, this other meta answer describes the reasoning behind the wording of that close reason. In particular, this paragraph is relevant

[Concerning the first sentence of the close reason] I don't think this is controversial - or at least, the controversy is long settled. Game recommendations, and game identification are both off topic. The two are combined because fundamentally, they are the same thing; asking for the titles of games that meet various criteria. Also falling under this header are a peculiar flavor of game rec that we've had from time to time like "What was the first game to introduce Bullet Time?"

At the time, the matter was considered settled and "What was the first..." questions were deliberately addressed. We should follow the existing community consensus, reinstate that rule, and ban those questions.

In addition, this meta post is an example of one in which a rewrite of the quoted rule was used to describe why a question similar to the ones addressed here was closed. That post contains this paragraph with an example of a reason for these questions to be rejected:

Why it's a bad question for Arqade

It's not a practical question based on an in-game problem. It's trivia. It's not actually useful to anyone except to scratch a curious itch. Our site's focus is primarily to solve practical gaming problems. While we do allow some trivia, it's not meant to be a focus of this site, and the fact that it's simultaneously trivia and clearly off-topic makes it not a fit for us.

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    You're not providing an argument for why these questions should not be allowed. – Wrigglenite Jun 11 at 20:17
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    My argument is that the decision has already been made. I don't think it's reasonable to discard the existing consensus and start from scratch just because one clause was mistakenly omitted from a rewrite of the close reason. – murgatroid99 Jun 11 at 20:23
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    Was there an existing consensus? The questions I've found both before and after the creation of that close reason are in favour of historical trivia. If you can explain why these questions should not be allowed on Arqade, then you'll have an argument. – Wrigglenite Jun 11 at 20:26
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    These questions were unambiguously off topic for five years and you want more justification for the claim that we should abide by the decision we already made? – murgatroid99 Jun 11 at 20:35
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    Again, I ask you to look at the questions I've linked. There is nothing unambiguous about these questions, with answers stating that these answers are on-topic when a close reason declared them off-topic. I want to examine why these questions should or should not be allowed and clear this up for good, instead of stumbling as we have for years. If you believe these questions should not be allowed, all I'm asking is to give a reason that is not simply "because they are not". – Wrigglenite Jun 11 at 20:37
  • @Wrigglenite, is the first sentence not a reason? – Dragonrage Jun 11 at 20:39
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    @Dragonrage No, these questions do not ask to identify a game from memory. The asker is not the only judge of whether an answer is right or wrong. Historical trivia questions are objective, answerable, and not too broad; I don't see any reason to blanket ban them. – Wrigglenite Jun 11 at 20:45
  • @Wrigglenite why do you insist that any game identification questions must be a game from memory? – Dragonrage Jun 11 at 20:47
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    @Dragonrage Because the entire reason game identification questions are off-topic is that only the asker can identify the correct answer. You can't knowingly answer them, you can only guess and hope you're right. Questions of the type "Are there any games in which you can X?", at first glance similar to historic trivia, are game recommendation questions, in which again only the asker can choose whether an answer is correct or not, and those are off-topic too. – Wrigglenite Jun 11 at 20:56
  • I've added some additional quotes/links supporting the idea that the matter was considered settled years ago, and with reasons people had in the past for seeing it that way. – murgatroid99 Jun 11 at 21:08
  • So you're saying that since it's gaming trivia, it shouldn't be allowed, correct? Because trivia is not something we want to answer? – Wrigglenite Jun 11 at 21:37
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    I object to your premise that we need to rehash this argument. I gave a single example of reasoning that has been used in the past for this kind of question to be disallowed, but that is not the core of my argument here and I do not claim that it is the only, or even primary, reason to reject these questions. – murgatroid99 Jun 11 at 22:24
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Our previous custom close reason stated the following :

"Questions asking for help identifying a game, based on a description, feature list, or any other criteria are off-topic; this blog post might help. One exception is identifying games based on an actual piece of the game, i.e. screenshots or audio clips."

We then updated our close reason to specifically call out that identifying from memory is off topic, though to be honest, the part about description, feature list, or and other criteria already covered that. The new close reason became:

Game identification questions that rely solely on memory are off topic here. If you find a game in a video, advertisement, news article, movie and so on, and you have a picture, video/audio file, or other medium to point to, we can answer that. See our Game Identification Wiki for more info and for help with your search.

This is slightly problematic in the fact that we lost the part of the about specifically banning questions from feature lists, etc. Thus I have suggested a new close reason that calls out both parts:

Game identification questions that rely solely on memory, a feature list, etc, are off topic here. If you find a game in a video, advertisement, and so on, and you have a picture, video/audio file, or other medium to point to, we can answer that. See our Game Identification Wiki for more info and for help with your search.

Updating this close reason should clear up a lot of confusion, however the appears to be confusion as to what a game id question is. There are several categories:

  • Game id from memory where the asker tries to describe the game for us to tell them what it is - explicitly off topic

  • Game id where the asker wants to know games like some other game or with some feature because they are looking for a new game to play - off topic -> game recommendation

  • Game id where asker wants to know all games that meet a certain criteria - off topic -> list question -> too broad

Now, asking a question "What was the first game to do x?" falls under the third category. Even though the asker has narrowed down the criteria enough that the list should only be one, it is still at it root asking for a list of all games that meet a certain criteria. Consider the edge case where two games release on the same day and both introduce a new mechanic, in that case there is no first game to have that mechanic.

I would be open to having questions on the origin of "x", in which a good answer would state which game it appeared in first, but that is a different discussion. As it stands now, "What was the first game to do x" should be closed as game id.

  • This question is specificallya sking for one thing. Only one thing was the first thing. – Stormblessed Jun 15 at 13:42

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