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The problem with all encompassing policies is that people tend to use those instead of using the brain and determining whether a question possesses or not the bad qualities that make game-rec's toxic for the site.

What exactly is a game-rec?

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So, your typical game recommendation is a question that has two qualities.

  1. A shopping recommendation - shopping recommendations are considered off-topic because of being too localized, often subjective, and tend to attract discussion. These kinds of questions solicit opinions of what is a good buy, or if they think one or more specific items are a good buy.
  2. An itemized list of games satisfying one or more criteria. Real questions may attract multiple valid answers, but a key factor is that each individual answer attempts to provide a solid conclusion to the question. These kinds of questions attract items, not answers, and thus do not individually solve the question.

You can imagine, as I'm not supplying one myself, a Venn Diagram of two circles - itemized lists of games in one circle and shopping recommendations in the other circle. The typical game recommendation is the overlapping area between them.

Game recommendations are either shopping recommendations or itemized lists. They comprise the entire Venn Diagram, not just the overlap.

Most people think that it's only the intersection that's a "game recommendation", but really the term applies to both sides.

"Should I buy Black Ops or Halo?" doesn't explicitly seek a list. "What games feature crazy gun-kata?" doesn't explicitly seek opinions. Yet both are problem posts. And, most importantly, their presence on the site weakens our ability to close the truly problematic posts. The lack of listing in a request for opinions does not remove the fact it's still soliciting opinions of what should be bought. The presence of subjective request is not the defining problem of repositories - it's the itemized lists they promote which result in low quality answers and conflicting voting schemes that occur regardless of the author's phrasing.

Ultimately to keep ourselves safe of the problems of these posts, we need to stop things with either criteria, not simply both.


An aside.

Sometimes, these questions can be salvaged. Some shopping advice questions can be remodelled so that they focus more on the comparison of the items. It is important to suggest this kind of revision even if it doesn't seem to change the nature of the answers. Even if a question is asking all about how two games are compared on various categories, the choice of wording affects what people see as acceptable. Regardless of the answer it elicits, it can give an image that asking for help in shopping is accepted, and this must be avoided.

The problem with itemized lists is in the nature of their answers, not in the questions themselves. It seems a shame, but these questions are ultimately a dead-end. We're simply not the proper resource to try and find the next game to play.

  • should we close all questions that asks to weight qualities of pay-to-win games, such as champion or rune question on league of legends? they are pretty much a disguised shopping recommendation. – gcb Feb 3 '15 at 0:18
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Lately, we're getting a lot of scuffles of the fashion of "These are kinda like game recs, what should we do about them?" for different kinds of list questions. There is a lot of back and forth on these, and in the mess of it, the concept of what is acceptable is getting lost. Some of these do qualify for all the same flaws that game recs do, sometimes they don't. I will save people the trouble of my extended treatise on the subject and be brief here - onwards to some tips on how to understand acceptability of multiple answers.


The acceptable goal of a question is that answers provide conclusions to the question on their own merits. They can have more than one answer as long as each good answer still provides a conclusion.

  • How many stars are there in Mario Galaxy 2? : A good answer yields either a number, or a break down.
  • How can I effectively throw my opponent into Hell's Artifical Sun? : A good answer gives effective scenarios or maneuvers.
  • Where are the 4 subtanks located? : A good answer lists out all 4 locations.
  • KHAAAAAAAAN! : A good answer gives a winning strategy to defeat the boss.

A "list question" is just when the answers come in a list, with the meaningfulness of the list retained across multiple answers. Once you get past the "best X" lists (Subjective and Argumentative) and the vague or overly broad lists (Not A Real Question), it then boils down to whether the list is itemized or not. If it is itemized, the "solution" is the full list, from which individual items are drawn in the form of answers. If it is not itemized, then the "solution" can be found in a single answer to the question, even if it comes out like a list.

A good litmus test to determine the salvageability of a given list is to see if you can transform it into a question that meaningfully retains the original problem, and is solved by a single answer. These transformations actually typically remove the class of item being listed, yet you'll still get those answers. So it remains a list question, but it's no longer itemized!

  • What programs record gameplay? : An item is a program. → How can I record videos of my gameplay? : Problem is recording gameplay. A good answer may give a program.
  • List of websites for levels of Little Big Planet? : An item is an online resource. → Where can I find levels for Little Big Planet? : Problem is finding levels for Little Big Planet. A good answer may link to an online resource.

Let's take a look at an example game-rec.

  • What games include scarf-wearing archer girls? : An item is a game.

The meaningful transformation of this, to retain the goal of the asker, is into summat like "I like scarf-wearing archer girls, what game should I get?". We don't allow shopping recommendations (regardless of the presence or lack of monetary exchange). The same would go for custom maps or custom game modes. Our only choices are "Itemized List" and "Shopping Recommendation", and we don't accept either. See where that Venn Diagram on my other answer comes from? ♪

When you run into a list next time and aren't sure what to do, try this, Can it be transformed?, and consequently Is the end result acceptable and won't get closed?, and run from there. If you're still unsure, always remember that you can always ask a Meta question.

  • 2
    I am frequently haunted by this question What build order should I use for Zerg in StarCraft 2?. On the one hand it has very much the trappings of a list question, and on the other it is phrased as looking for the "best" (a highly subjective idea). Yet, my answer to it is the only 100+ upvoted answer on the site. In looking at this question I came to the following conclusion: A question is valid if it's answer can be Authoritative. I think that is an important consideration in the possibility of transformation. – tzenes Jun 26 '11 at 15:43

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