As time has worn on since last-year-ish, and various (ITG) questions worn on GSE denizens, has the community position on them changed? Half the time they seem ridiculously vague, and how answers are voted on seems totally random, which seems to distort the point of reps (though much less so than some other things). The whole class seems half-way towards being a recommendation (but with very specific requirements).

Often people say that because it's an ITG question, it's immune to this or that policy, e.g. specificity, which is applied to every other question.

They do, however, occasionally help people, and they are obviously gaming-related with a singular correct answer (we hope), so it's a fit for a QA site...somewhere..., but here it leverages the large pool of experience among hundreds of gamers.

If we want them to hang around, can we develop any specific rules that are as objective as possible to determine if the question is good enough to hang around or too vague to be of use?

Does anyone have the following statistics?

  • How many new users come to the site in a given time?
  • How many stay?
  • How many of those new users started with an ITG question?
  • How many of those stay?
  • 1
    I think there was a strong consensus to have a discussion on this matter once our new moderators are sworn in. See my comments in the Town Hall Chat for a proposed way to reach a decision that we can stand behind.
    – bwarner
    Commented Aug 23, 2011 at 22:30
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    They don't "occasionally" help people, they usually help people. 74% of all unclosed ITG questions have accepted answers.
    – Oak
    Commented Aug 23, 2011 at 22:46
  • @Oak Nice, stats. I've been meaning to look into more complicated ones, like site involvement after a successful ID. Commented Aug 23, 2011 at 23:30
  • @Matthew: Tzenes did some research on that exact stat I believe, and the numbers didn't look great. I'll have to dig around and see if I can find them. Commented Aug 23, 2011 at 23:46
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    @oak: That answer rate is actually substantially lower than our answer rate site-wide. More to the point, as tzenes has shown, users who come to the site via ITG roughly 40% more likely than other users to never cast more than one up vote, or to put it another way, to fire their question into the void and then disappear forever. Data Commented Aug 24, 2011 at 0:01
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    Hmm, rethinking, I think the answered/accepted numbers based on open questions is something of a moot point if we're not properly closing ITGs that should be closed. I've just closevoted a bunch. Commented Aug 24, 2011 at 0:33
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    My impression is that there have been a number of weaker ITG questions recently. It may be a coincidence, or selective memory, or maybe more people are finding the site and asking ITG questions because we allow them. Commented Aug 24, 2011 at 2:26
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    I believe my original stat was: The number of users who had one of their first two posts (Answer or Question) in ITG and have not gone on to make more than 1 UpVote: 185 (54%). You can see my research for comparison to other questions
    – tzenes
    Commented Aug 24, 2011 at 2:47
  • 1
    @LessPop It's just the "occasionally" that bothered me. Yes, the percentage is lower, but still, most of the time, they help people.
    – Oak
    Commented Aug 24, 2011 at 7:18
  • @tzenes From your stats that means that 46% (~85) users stayed on the site for some period of time.
    – Tharius
    Commented Aug 24, 2011 at 12:50
  • @Stephen Yes, where "stayed" is defined as >2 votes.
    – tzenes
    Commented Aug 24, 2011 at 13:19
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    Rather than proving that ITG question are bad, these meta questions seem to prove that the Stack Exchange Q&A model sucks for policy and decision making. Rather than more useless arguing about semantics, why don't we wait for the election to end and then have the moderators come to a consensus about ITG (that they can accept and enforce) and tell us what the site policy is?
    – au revoir
    Commented Aug 24, 2011 at 18:22
  • 6
    @Jason, the policies should be determined by the community, not the rulers/mods. If they were, then they would have died last year when Jeff was railing on them, but the community overrode him and he acquiesced .
    – Nick T
    Commented Aug 24, 2011 at 21:42
  • @Nick - I actually agree. Now can someone come up with a workable way for the community to agree on something? 'Cuz I don't see it happening.
    – au revoir
    Commented Aug 24, 2011 at 22:12
  • 1
    Trying to answer the question by using statistics like "how much of them stayed on G.SE after asking an ITG question" is like RIAA basing their argument that their sales go down because people illegally download albums instead of buying them, while ignoring the crucial question: "Would they have bought any albums if they didn't download anything?". The question we need to ask ourselves is: "Are the ITG people in any way helpful, not just to themselves?"
    – DrFish
    Commented Aug 26, 2011 at 5:16

7 Answers 7


So, when I approach the problem of whether or not a question is appropriate for GSE I have to remind myself what the goal of GSE is.

In my opinion:

To span the graph of gaming knowledge and become an authority on it

There are really two goals in there. The first is on collecting where as the second is on perception. I believe both are equally important. Collecting subjective or low quality knowledge undermines our ability to act as an authority and for people to trust our information.

How does ITG Stack up?

Low quality ITG should be summarily closed (or edited if possible). If that's not happening then we really have a different problem. On the other hand, the ability to reliably answer ITG demonstrates our eclectic knowledge base which allows us to act as an authority. Except we don't do a great job of answering ITG, and our answers are rarely authoritative. In fact, they're frequently wrong.

I'm going to make a bold statement: Most answers to ITG are guesses.

Imagine if this is how we handled other categories. Take Starcraft for example:

What if the answers to this question were of the kind:

  • Try Mutalisk
  • How about Corruptors?
  • Ooo, I know: Hydralisks

And to each one the OP was responding: Tried this didn't work. When he finally comes to my answer, instead of being an explanation of the use of Infestors against Void rays, and why it's strong, what if my answer was: Try Infestors, they're awesome and was marked as correct.

Is that authoritative? Is that spanning the knowledge base of gaming? Do we even know if it's the right answer?

What if the OP of an ITG gets fed up and just selects a random answer? or what if none of the answers were the game he was originally thinking of, but now that he's seen them he thinks they are? what if his choice is just Cognitive Dissonance...

Something is wrong here. Some people say "bad code smells, you don't always know why but you know something is wrong." Well something is rotten in the state of ITG...

When I first tried to make an argument for ITG the first place I looked is the additional information. I said to myself: We're adding information about the game. This seems in line with most of our other questions, they all add information about gaming (and specific games); it'd be hard to span the gaming graph otherwise. But Game-rec added information about games, and we saw the problems there. It's not enough to just add information, if we wanted that we'd just recreated Wikipedia.

Next I thought to myself, well there is at least a real problem here. But is that really true? Are these people desperate to remember these games they played once? or is this more of a mild curiosity. Something that, while interesting, isn't really constructive. Something like Huh, I always wondered what games had procedural generation in them. Or, Oh, that was a cool game, I had forgotten all about it. Questions, need more than curiosity, they must be solving a wrong.

Finally I thought to myself, well at least the next person will be able to remember this game better because of this question. Really? Suppose I am looking for a game that has all the same criteria as an ITG, but it's a different game, and the OP selected the first answer as correct. Now I type these characteristics into Google and find this question only to come to another dead end. Might as well be another ghost town on the internet. What can I do? leave a comment? ask again (and hope it doesn't get closed as duplicate)?

Hi, yes, I am trying to remember a game, it sounds exactly like the one described in this question over here, but none of the answers are it...

Ok, now that smells foul.

We're creating questions which don't have answers. Sure the OP got his answer, but the other people who came along aren't getting their answer because the answer is not Authoritative. We can't point to it every time someone has that question. We can't say, "oh I've heard this one before, it's right over here," because it's not.

Stackexchange was founded because the old models (mailing lists, forums, news groups) didn't produce answers which solved problems once and for all. They just produced more discussion, and people continued to ask the same questions again and again. No answer served as an authority.

I won't close questions because they have a limited audience which they may one day help, but I will close questions which do not have Authoritative answers. If we can't act as an Authority than we have failed in our mission and we're no better than Yahoo Answers, where any random Joe throws up his best guess.

ITG answers are Guesses, they are not Authoritative. They don't belong here.

  • 7
    "ITG answers are Guesses" - you can say the same thing about answers to troubleshooting questions. A lot of them are not from personal experience, they're just educated guesses ("have you tried turning it off and on again"). Sometimes they are wrong, sometimes they are right.
    – Oak
    Commented Aug 24, 2011 at 8:38
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    And I'd say educated guesses that have good chance of being a correct and objective solution are something valuable.
    – Oak
    Commented Aug 24, 2011 at 8:39
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    @Oak, sometimes Troubleshooting answers are guesses (just like sometimes any answer is a guess), but sometimes they're based on the nature of the underlying system. For example, if you have a trouble shooting question which displays the Donkey Kong kill screen, I can authoritatively answer that question. In the case of ITG as long as there is more than one game which fits the OPs criteria, all answers are random guesses from that set of games.
    – tzenes
    Commented Aug 24, 2011 at 13:18
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    I don't think the fact its the guessing that is the problem but the quality of the answers. If the answers were well written out describing exactly what parts of the game meets the criteria of the querent with more supporting evidence, I'd say that type of answer is probably pretty good. We just have to encourage better quality answers, that applies to tech support type questions too. You can type in something generic like "its probably your video card" and that answer isn't nearly as useful even if its possibly correct.
    – l I
    Commented Aug 24, 2011 at 13:46
  • taking this question as an example, the answer is absolutely correct, but if more information is supplied, such as what my comment added, on top of an actual picture of an in game shuttle and a brief description of the gameplay that answer may come in handy to someone in the future looking for that game.
    – l I
    Commented Aug 24, 2011 at 13:47
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    @yx_ Any question can have bad answers. Some questions inspire bad answers. Even if the ITG answer describes exactly what parts of the game meet the criteria it does not make it any better than a random guess out of the set of all games which meet those criteria. What's more ITG have the goal of a single game as their answer; by it's very nature this encourages people to select answers which are a single game (and thus supply them).
    – tzenes
    Commented Aug 24, 2011 at 13:50
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    I don't think I can agree with closing ITG on the basis of them not being "authoritative." Not a problem, yes, I agree. But on the basis of not being authoritative, what is considered "authoritative"? As @Oak stated, many of the troubleshooting answers are guesses, and honestly, many of strategy answers are just people throwing out their subjective opinions. While I don't disagree that these questions are problematic, if we're going to be closing them, then we have to make sure that we're doing it for the right reasons because we then have to make sure we're holding the other questions
    – FAE
    Commented Aug 24, 2011 at 13:59
  • on the site up to the same standards. We can't afford to create a situation where we're cherry picking question types to hold up to our standards and seemingly favor one over the other.
    – FAE
    Commented Aug 24, 2011 at 14:00
  • @Fallen I think you've slightly missed my point. The problem is not that ITG has answers that are not authoritative, the problem is that it cannot have answers which are authoritative. Both you and Oak have eluded to the fact that people guess at other things. As I've mentioned before, this is universal to Q&A, some people will guess. However, the goal of a serious Q&A site is to have an answer that serves all people with that question. This is not always a tractable goal or a realized goal, but it is a goal. ITG cannot have an answer of this nature.
    – tzenes
    Commented Aug 24, 2011 at 14:14
  • All questions will receive guesses, no question should be penalized for this. Some questions can not have authoritative answers, they should be penalized for it.
    – tzenes
    Commented Aug 24, 2011 at 14:15
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    I entirely disagree that answers cannot be authoritative. A sufficiently detailed ITG will have only one answer that can possibly fit the description, and someone familiar with the game will recognize it and answer authoritatively. For example: I didn't guess here, I was certain -- and correct. Commented Aug 24, 2011 at 15:37
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    @Matt so you're saying, there is no other game which fits those criteria? If I were to find another game, would that change your stand point?
    – tzenes
    Commented Aug 24, 2011 at 15:51
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    @Matt I'm not going to spend the time to find another game which fits the description if it won't be enough to convince you, but that doesn't mean I don't believe one exist. But I sort of think speaking in ridiculous absolutes is a denial of reality. The trivial proof for this would be to copy and paste trademarked graphics or source code. Here is a better test, of the 375 ITG how many hash to one and only one game (in your opinion, since in mine it's none)?
    – tzenes
    Commented Aug 24, 2011 at 16:15
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    @Matt so, I think my point was that my original statement is not intended as an absolute. I even provided a trivial counter example to back this point. If you want to discuss the absolute nature of ITG you can talk about that with someone else, I only care about the practical reality. Now saying "only detailed ones... should stay open," is kind of like saying "only detailed enough game-rec should stay open." We saw before that a specifier like "only detailed enough" might work in theory, but doesn't work in practice, so I'd shy away from making that a requirement.
    – tzenes
    Commented Aug 24, 2011 at 16:47
  • 4
    I used to support ITG questions. Now, I have them actively ignored. My reasoning is basically the content of this post: in the end, most posts are a spam of guesses and grabs at rep. Even the wrong guesses get rep sometimes. Furthermore, they don't add much value from a "someone might also search for those attributes and find the name of the game" perspective. They're essentially noise for anyone but the asker and people who have a tolerance for weeding through tons of noise to find one they might be able to answer.
    – Shaun
    Commented Aug 25, 2011 at 20:41

There's a few assertions that have been made that I'd like to challenge.

There are "good" and "bad" ITGs, and really, we just need to sort them better.

One thing that has been brought up repeatedly is that there are "good" ITGs and there are "bad" ITGs. All we need to do is downvote and close the bad ones, right?

Well, what makes a bad ITG? Clearly "too vague" ITGs are bad, asking "what's this game that has elves in it" is not going to be constructive. However, all ITGs are vague and incomplete to a degree - if they weren't vague, they wouldn't be ITGs. These questions are specifically asking "here is part of a puzzle, what's the missing piece?"

I'd also argue that some specific details are just useless to us - for example, the specific shade of blue that the sky was in the second level. Additionally, specific details are at the mercy of the asker's memory, and may be incorrect.

The problem is that we can't tell the difference between helpful and unhelpful detail. Classifying "helpful detail" is subjective. We can't objectively gauge when a question contains enough helpful detail to be answerable and avoid being too vague.

For instance, I could craft an ITG that was a list of all the colors in the main character's sprite, and it would make a nice bulleted list to create an extremely detailed, specific, and utterly unhelpful question.

However, maybe somewhere, someone has a list of all the colors in every main character's sprite in every game ever, and for them, this is terribly helpful information. They can answer this question in seconds with their database.

Some might be tempted to vote to close or downvote this question, even though it's not vague or unaswerable at all! It's very specific, well written, and has a ton of detail that is only useful to a very particular audience. In 10 minutes (or 10 hours, 10 days, 10 years), the sprite color wizard will arrive to solve it.

This is an extreme example, but frequently I get lucky with an ITG where the asker remembered a specific detail that I also remembered. The other details in the question are that it's a space game, with a spaceship, you moved with arrow keys, and it was focused on puzzle solving. But there's this one scene with a octopus alien thing. I was about to downvote and VTC before I read that part, but that's the one, not terribly useful to the majority of people, detail that made it answerable.

Here's and again here are other recent instances where there was enough specific, helpful detail for the question to be answerable, but there was significant disagreement about whether or not the question was valid.

I run into this problem often with ITG questions, on both sides. Sometimes, I'm the answer wizard, and sometimes I'm the guy saying "this is too vague." I've answered ITGs (and been sure I was right) that got closed shortly afterwards for being too vague, and I've been chewed out in comments for suggesting that perhaps the person could provide us with more detail.

At what point do we stop waiting for a member of the "answer wizard" clan? Maybe half the internet knows the answer, and it's just not the half that's seen the question yet. Should we just leave questions open indefinitely, even though it has become clear that the detail provided is insufficient? Do we close them after a year, even though it's still as likely that on the 366th day the answer will arrive as it was on the 365th? How are each of us able to independently judge (a prerequisite for closing or voting) if the detail is sufficiently low that there is no one (or "too few people") capable of answering it?

How can we sort the details provided by the asker into categories of "helpful" and "unhelpful/misremembered" and make a determination about whether or not we have enough in the "helpful" category to continue? How are we to judge if the details provided are substantial enough?

We can say "well, everyone makes their own call and whatever happens, happens" - but I've seen already that there are enough different interpretations of quality standards among community members that the result is going to be friction, arguments, and fighting, as this is a terribly subjective process. That's against the SE model and bad for the community.

ITGs are helpful questions and answers to a wide audience and the site.

A few times now I've heard the argument that ITGs are beneficial to more than just the asker, and that we get a decent amount of traffic from these questions. Based on the data, I don't believe that ITGs are in a class alongside other questions.


One aspect of "usefulness" is the number of views a question gets. More views means that more people found the question after it was asked. ITG questions are terrible in this regard, here's a selection of tags and the average views per question on that tag:

ITG - 264 views per question on average (356 on average if we only include "good" ITGs at +5 or higher)

Other tags in the "top tags" category:

  • minecraft - 2,381
  • starcraft-2 - 1,419
  • skyrim - 4,953
  • pc - 1,703
  • xbox-360 - 890

The point I want to make here is that ITG questions are not widely viewed, when compared to similar tags by tag popularity.

Smaller & Classic games:

  • dwarf-fortress - 497
  • dungeons-of-dredmor - 806
  • terarria - 1,365
  • nethack - 392
  • diablo-2 - 622

Even when compared against smaller and/or older games, ITG questions are not more likely to be viewed by, and therefore useful to, a wide audience.

Further, I'd like to note that this is a small, niche tag - we're not drawing significant traffic from it. To date, ITG questions have brought 152,191 views to the site. That's about one weekend's worth of traffic for this tag over the life of the site, or 4% of the 3.5M views this month. If we only count ITGs asked this month (on the assumption that most views occur close to the question being asked) they would represent 0.16% of our traffic for the month.

I don't think we should be deciding whether a tag stays or goes based on views alone, but I want to point out that the argument that many people find this class of question useful is not really supported by the view data.


ITGs attract a large number of downvotes compared to all the ways I've found to slice the data. Of all the tags I ran for this data set, none had a downvote to question ratio of greater than .10 (or one downvote per 10 questions). ITG's lifetime downvote to question ratio is hovering around 10x this number.

Even if I give ITG a fighting chance, and exclude all questions asked since the start of the year (to try and account for the current renewed backlash against them) and excluded ITGs of score less than +1, this only drops to 9x the number of downvotes per question compared to these other tags.

This is not perfect either, but it does seem to indicate that ITGs are, in general, more frequently viewed as poor quality questions compared to other types of question on the site.

Accept and Answer Rate

The accept rate for other tags I examined hovered between 83% and 90%. ITG questions overall have an accept rate of 73%, which is slightly worse but not really significant, in my opinion.

The answer rate (ie, question has at least one answer at +1) for other tags was between 93 and 99%, and ITG clocks in at 95%. Again, not really a point for or against ITG questions.

Anonymous Feedback

I also reviewed the "anonymous feedback" section of the site to attempt to understand if random visitors were frequently pleased with the ITG answers. I paged through the top 500 of the "most" and "least" helpful posts based on anonymous feedback, and did not see any ITG posts (questions or answers) on either list. I found 2 in the top 500 overrated, and 1 in the top 500 underrated.

There doesn't seem to be a strong opinion about ITG questions from anonymous users of the site.

New Users

For 575 questions on ITG, question askers had a to-date reputation of less than 150 55% of the time. Almost half of those (or 25% of the total askers) had a reputation lower than 25.

This isn't perfect, and I'd rather look at how many went on to ask/answer other questions besides their first, but you can see that, on average, ITG questions are not a reliable source of high-quality contributors.


The point of all these statistics is not that we should judge and/or disallow tags solely based on statistics. The point of this is to refute the position that they are significantly beneficial to the site, and that their benefit is a strong reason for keeping them. Further, I want to make the point that we're not deciding the fate of the site here - the impact of our decision (either way) is very small.

  • 7
    Finally a non subjective analysis... Thank you!
    – juan
    Commented Mar 1, 2012 at 1:35
  • 1
    I think your point about details is nonsense, frankly. What the answerer remembers or is triggered by isn't relevant -- there are plenty of non-ITGs about old games I've played where I can't answer due to the perfectly detailed question not triggering my memory fully. It's also quite clear when those questions are significantly detailed (with "real" details), and same with ITGs. You can't pretend there's some quantitative level of detail possible in other questions but not in ITGs. Commented Mar 1, 2012 at 3:27
  • The point about views also isn't very meaningful if you believe detailed ITGs (containing keywords that others looking for the game will be searching on) are no different from ones that can't be found. If we closed and deleted the bad ones I'm sure the average views of those remaining would be higher. If we end up keeping them and policing them better hopefully we can pull up the numbers and see. I also don't think current popular games with unique tags vs random old games lumped together under a singular tag is a good comparison. Commented Mar 1, 2012 at 3:30
  • @MatthewRead To your first point, I disagree that it's possible to determine what a "good" detail is, and I can give specific examples of questions where there was significant subjectivity in the determination of what a "good" detail is.
    – agent86
    Commented Mar 1, 2012 at 3:53
  • @MatthewRead to your second, the point is that people are under the impression that these questions are significantly useful to others, relative to other tags on the site. I don't believe this is the case. Even if I exclude questions with a score of less than 5, the average views per question is 356. (Also note that less than a third of ITGs - 160 of 575 - make it to +5) I included a couple of more "obscure" games in the comparison to try and get a more comprehensive cross section of the "popular" tags on the site.
    – agent86
    Commented Mar 1, 2012 at 3:57
  • I didn't say that it's possible to determine what a "good" detail is, at least not in the objective applies-to-everyone sense that you're using. "You know it when you see it" is why I say it's clear. No two people interpret things the same way or remember the same things, and that applies to every single question. We have a large number of questions with opposing up/down votes and close/reopen votes that aren't ITGs; obviously there is no objective evaluation that everyone accepts, the quality of every post is subjective. If that were truly the obstacle here we'd just shutter the entire site. Commented Mar 1, 2012 at 3:57
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    @MatthewRead, it's been put forward that we should allow ITGs, but just close the "bad" ones. My position is that the majority of ITGs fall into a gray area where we can't determine whether or not they're bad. There is no amount of policy we can create to "fix" their ambiguity. They're just going to start fights, constantly. If they're not really contributing to the performance of the site, and they're a source of contention, what benefit do they have here?
    – agent86
    Commented Mar 1, 2012 at 4:39
  • 1
    If the majority are grey, close them along with the black and leave the white open. I make no claim that a significant number should stay open. If the mods are decisive and consistent (like with other questions) the problems will largely disappear; the majority of the contention seems to be about crap that people are unwilling to close. Commented Mar 1, 2012 at 17:10
  • Look at ITG questions this way: 27% don't have an accepted answer, compared to a range of 10% to 17% for other questions. That's not a slight difference, that's a huge difference. Somewhere between almost twice as many and nearly three times as many ITG questions go without an accepted answer. And, as mentioned elsewhere, this is a particular issue with ITGs because we can never be sure if the highest-voted answer, or any for that matter, is actually the correct answer. Commented Mar 2, 2012 at 19:39
  • On Area51 and elsewhere, the criteria for a "healthy site" or group of questions seems to be over 90% while under 80% is "worrying". This means questions with answers, not accepted answers, but if we as 3rd parties can't know/judge any given answer to be right, it's fundamentally the same.
    – Nick T
    Commented Mar 5, 2012 at 17:47

Identification questions are a poor fit for the StackExchange network, and actively play a part in bringing down the overall quality of the site. On Gaming specifically, they tend to take the form of Identify This Game (ITG), where a user will recite some details on a game he or she once played in hopes of coming away with a title, usually to be able to play the game again.

This is a practical problem to have, and one that can be very satisfying to get an answer to. I don't want to come across like I don't want people to get the answers they deserve for their questions, but we have to recognize that we have been given a very specific framework to work with, and that we should play to its strengths while recognizing its weaknesses. Not every site can do everything, and we should strive to make the best site that we can within the framework that we are given.

What is StackExchange, anyway? What is StackExchange supposed to be? Put simply, StackExchange is a place where experts can use their experience and expertise to help people solve their problems. The goal of StackExchange is to make the Internet a better place by providing free, high quality information. In order to do this, we must attract experts to our site, have them respect our site, and have them stick around and continue to contribute to our site. This is much more likely to happen with a higher average question quality. If removing an entire category of question would increase the overall quality of the site, it's only common sense that we should do that.

It is my firm belief that ITG questions fit exactly into that category. The banishment of these questions will do much more good for this site than their continued existence. Many people claim that they provide value for a variety of reasons that I will address shortly, but I have not seen it. They claim that they can be cleaned up and keep the average quality of the site high, but I have not seen it. This essay is about the current state of ITG, not what ITG could be. If you feel strongly that ITG should be allowed to stay, now is your opportunity to prove it. Show how well you can moderate the bad questions and how you can keep the quality of this site high while still keeping them around.

Let's start with an analysis of the StackExchange framework, and how exactly ITG tries to fit into that framework. Votes are perhaps the single most important thing in the framework. Any user with sufficient reputation (and the threshold is very, very low) is able to upvote any content that they find useful, and downvote any content that is not useful. For answers, this naturally creates a form of sorting, sifting the best answers to the top and leaving the lesser ones further down. It was specifically designed this way. It didn't happen by chance; it was a conscious decision. That's how it's supposed to work.

What happens to ITG in this case? You can't vote on the correct answer unless the asker has already deemed it the correct answer. That's a fact, plain and simple. You can't possibly know whether an answer is correct until the asker has marked it as such. You aren't in the asker's mind, and unless you purport to have a catalogue of every single game ever, with every single quality that all those games have ever had, you cannot give a definitive correct answer without the asker's approval. So upvotes can't be used for correct answers.

What about if upvotes are used on answers that fit the criteria of the question? They answer the question as asked, so that should work fine and dandy, right? Except now we're upvoting answers that might be wrong. That doesn't play into the framework we have very nicely at all. What if the asker made a mistake, and included a false detail? If he doesn't remember the name, chances are he made some other kind of mistake too. Now the correct answer might not fit the criteria at all. Downvoting the correct answer is now the proper course of action if we use this scheme. That doesn't make any sense at all. As of yet, I haven't seen any other propositions on how voting should work for ITG questions. There doesn't seem to be a good conclusion to this problem; it is left open still.

I have seen arguments that we don't need to have conventions for voting. Votes are to be spent as the user sees fit, and that's that. While it is true that we cannot control how one spends his votes, it is not true that we should just fling them about haphazardly and protect that right come hell or high water. We should educate people on the proper usage and importance of votes, so that they can wield them like a scalpel, not a sledge. There is no finesse or order to voting on ITG questions, and an argument claiming that there's no order to voting in general is simply incorrect. Sure, there are outliers that get a ridiculous number of votes because of a meme, but for the most part, votes are how we tell quality from rubbish. On ITG questions, votes are meaningless, and do not help us draw this distinction.

Let's go in another direction. Some people claim that ITG questions indeed can help attract people to the site and keep them here, just as I said was the main purpose of the StackExchange network. If there's a chance that someone can see and participate in an ITG question to start off on the site, and then they can stick around to contribute to the other, more meaningful areas, then that question should be allowed for that purpose. We've had ITG questions since our inception, and I can't think of a single case where this has happened. Yes, the users might stick around a bit and contribute another question or answer, but which of our expert users (remember, the main goal is to attract experts) started on the site as a result of ITGs? According to research done by agent86, more than half of the total ITG questions on the site were asked by people with 150 or less reputation. That amount of reputation can be gained in an afternoon with barely any commitment. The number of quality users that ITG attract is low. While this doesn't disprove the usefulness of maybe, maybe attracting a good user once in 1000 questions, it certainly doesn't give me any cause to hesitate in banning ITG.

Another angle proponents take is that ITG questions help the Internet as a whole, part of the StackExchange network's mantra. People can find their games more easily because we can serve as a catalogue of these kinds of questions on search engines. But the data says otherwise. Again, agent86 ran the numbers, and existing ITG questions have an average of 264 views each. Even Nethack, a niche game that can only be enjoyed by a very select subset of gamers, has almost 50% more views per question at 392. For ITG being our fifth most popular tag on the site, it doesn't even come close to breaking the 1000+ views per questions on the top four. There are many, many ITG questions, but not a lot of people who are interested in them. So they don't attract very many new users, and the users they do attract generally don't contribute much. These are not reasons to remove ITG on their own. But these metrics show that these also cannot be used as legitimate reasons to keep ITG around. The math just doesn't add up.

In the history of Gaming, we have had almost exactly this same argument before. Game recommendation questions had a lot of the same problems as ITG questions. Voting on those kinds of questions was meaningless and random. Game recommendations, however, were also subjective, and didn't meet the criteria for being good subjective questions. In theory, ITG questions have a single, concrete answer, but in practice they play out much like game recommendations. There is speculation abound, and it has even tricked some people into thinking that ITG questions themselves are subjective. They are not. People have defended ITG from the six points that make a good subjective question, but that's hardly relevant. ITG questions are objective. Remember, being objective doesn't automatically make a question on topic. There is such a thing as bad objective, just like there is bad subjective. "How many fingers am I holding up?" is an objective question, too. That's clearly not a good fit for any kind of expert site.

Let us look at these arguments for how ITG questions are good subjective, however. Even though they do not apply, the pro-ITG crowd has spent time explaining how they do. So let's go through and address some of these. We can address the first two points together, because the rebuttal to those is the same.

Great subjective questions inspire answers that explain "why" and "how". Great subjective questions tend to have long, not short, answers. As is readily apparent, ITG immediately fails both of these requirements. Every single ITG answer can be written in 4 words: "Maybe it is [game]." Any extra information provided in the answer is fluff, and not part of the core answer. There is nothing to explain in an ITG answer, either, so the first point is also failed. So what's the rebuttal? "In some cases, this criterion does not apply." What? Why not? You can't just ignore criteria. The very fact that you have stooped to saying that the criteria shouldn't apply is itself an admission that the question fails to qualify for what you're trying to prove. Just because you say the criteria aren't important doesn't make it so.

Great subjective questions are more than just mindless social fun. ITG questions are the epitome of "Getting To Know You" (GTKY) questions, which have been rather scorned across the StackExchange network for their failure to work well within the system. We are not a discussion forum. We have a community, yes, but the primary function of the main site is to provide high quality questions and answers. If you want to get to know each other, use the chat. To quote Matthew Read in response to this point: "I don't think indirectly finding out what game someone used to play is any different than finding out what game they currently play when they post a strategy question or a how-do-I-beat-this question." But these are completely different. Indirectly finding out information is just a part of the network. On StackOverflow, merely asking a question about a language indicates that you're using that language. It doesn't make it a GTKY question any more than asking about StarCraft 2 strategy. But ITG questions take it a step further. The question itself becomes a kind of social forum, where people put forth their best guess and discuss the merits of each answer. It is not like a strategy question, and cannot be compared to a strategy question.

The other three points hold up, but that's not enough. A good subjective question must meet a majority of the criteria. Most ITGs meet three of those, which is a mere 50%, and not enough to really warrant keeping. Even if they aren't treated like GTKY questions, that's still only two thirds, and a weak case at best for an argument that doesn't even make sense to begin with.

So why not just keep the "good" ITG questions? Let's define what makes up a good ITG question. We currently have a status quo where ITG questions are only allowable if they are sufficiently detailed. The thought is that the more detailed the question is, the more likely we'll be able to get them a correct answer in a reasonable amount of time. That's not necessarily true, though. More detail might be meaningless if you spent all of your time playing part of the game that no one else was interested in. I can't do this point as much justice as agent86 did, so check out his answer. The main takeaway is that there is no way to tell helpful and unhelpful detail apart. So far, we haven't come up with another way to tell "good" ITG questions from bad ones, but I challenge any of you to come up with a scheme.

Another thing to take into consideration is that we have allowed ITG since the site's inception, and it doesn't really work. ITG questions very easily turn into broken windows. Broken windows are very low quality content that will be perceived as trashy and turn new users away if they encounter them first. Compare to driving through a neighborhood and noticing broken windows on some of the houses. You're going to get out of there right quick, because you don't know what goes on behind those broken windows or what broke them, but you don't want to stay. The same is true of websites that have egregiously low quality content, like ITG is prone to do when left unattended.

So far, no one has stepped up and played an active role in helping to rein in these broken windows until LessPop_MoreFizz catalogued the absolute worst ITG questions, challenging a moderator to do something about it. There are still questions left that will act as broken windows, though, and more are getting added daily. This takes away from what was identified as the main goal of the StackExchange network early on in this essay: to attract users. Without proper moderation, the vast majority of ITG do exactly the opposite. No one stepped up to do this task until specifically called out. No one has volunteered. Even if someone did, I expect it would be met with grave difficulty, as the line between what makes a good question and a bad question is blurry at best.

As yet in this essay, I haven't said much about the quality of answers. Even with all the evidence presented above, the most damning thing about ITG is that it's all speculation. We are a community of experts, who use our expertise to solve gaming problems. When speculation is involved, the expertise goes out the window. Average Joe's answer is as good as anyone's. That's not to say that Average Joe can't participate in the site, but that Average Joe should at least have a modicum of experience in what he's talking about to contribute. Answers to ITG questions are guesses. There are no two ways about this statement.

When answering an ITG question, the best you can be sure of is that your game meets the criteria set forth in the question. You can be 100% confident in that, and you can be correct in that. But that 100% certainty that your answer meets the criteria set forth in the question does not correlate to a 100% chance that your answer is correct. It is impossible to answer a question truly knowing that you are correct. You are putting a guess out there, hoping that it is what the asker was talking about. For every accepted answer someone points out that was the "obvious" choice, I can point to five answers that were wrong.

What in the world are you doing on a site supposedly full of experts flooding questions with wrong answers? How can you possibly answer a question knowing full well that your answer might be wrong? That goes against the entire spirit of the site, the entire network, and the Internet as a whole. We strive to make the Internet a better place, to produce high quality content and answers, and speculation of the sort in ITG just spits in the face of all of that.

ITG is not inherently evil. There are good ITG questions out there that deserve answers. But that does not mean that our site is the place to go for those answers. We have plenty of knowledgeable people in chat who are willing to help you find that game you're looking for. And if that doesn't work, then maybe this site isn't for you. Maybe there's another site out there that will help you with all your recommendation and ITG needs, but it's not us, and it's not our job to find it for you. We're just experts, providing expert information and bettering the Internet. And we'll do that a whole hell of a lot better if we can stop arguing about ITG and move on to more important things.

  • 5
    Worth the read.
    – user9983
    Commented Mar 3, 2012 at 6:06
  • 2
    You have a typo
    – juan
    Commented Mar 3, 2012 at 14:23
  • 1
    "The other three points hold up, but that's not enough. A good subjective question must meet all six criteria. Not three, not four (because two mysteriously don't count), but six. Even if ITGs were considered subjective, they fail." Citation needed - the relevant close reason (only available on programmers for whatever reason, but Programmers is what that post was made for) reads "not enough of the criteria", not "all six"
    – badp
    Commented Mar 3, 2012 at 14:23
  • @badp Luckily, ITG aren't subjective, so that specific argument of mine failing hardly matters :P I'll revisit it anyway. Commented Mar 3, 2012 at 14:45
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    Great argument. I do still think they could work with a strict and enforced policy, but it's beginning to look like that can never happen. Commented Mar 3, 2012 at 16:01
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    @MatthewRead - None of the pro-ITG people have proposed such a policy.
    – user9983
    Commented Mar 3, 2012 at 18:03
  • @OrigamiRobot I have -- not fully fleshed out because I'm not about to assume I have the perfect solution and force it on everyone, but the plan is to start doing the fleshing out on Monday: meta.gaming.stackexchange.com/a/4099/6066 Commented Mar 3, 2012 at 18:19
  • @MatthewRead - I meant nobody has proposed an actual policy. Lots of people have proposed that a policy be created.
    – user9983
    Commented Mar 3, 2012 at 18:33
  • @OrigamiRobot A policy like "block them" or "allow them" is easy to propose. Anything more nuanced would probably be shot down if proposed as a whole; I think it should be properly developed. Commented Mar 3, 2012 at 18:49
  • @MatthewRead We've had these arguments for over a year and there's still no such policy. That doesn't bode well. Commented Mar 3, 2012 at 21:08
  • @StrixVaria True. Hopefully it goes better now, if not I'll join you in murdering them. Commented Mar 3, 2012 at 22:17
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    If we need to come up some special policy to allow a certain type of a question, I think that's a good sign we shouldn't be allowing those questions in the first place.
    – Wipqozn Mod
    Commented Mar 3, 2012 at 23:46
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    Furthermore, if this was a question that was off-topic we wouldn't keep it open since someone would say "I can fix it", we would close it and then re-open it once it's fixed. It's the same thing here. If someone wants to come up with a policy that works, fine, all power to you. But until we come up with that policy, ITG should not be allowed. We can't just allow them indefinitely since "someone might come up with a policy".
    – Wipqozn Mod
    Commented Mar 3, 2012 at 23:48

Personally, I wish we could get away from banning entire categories of questions just because the majority of them are bad questions. There will always be bad questions, regardless of the category, so we should just deal with them as bad questions and not resort to a knee-jerk "kill it with fire" reaction whenever any question of a certain category appears in the chat feed.

So, can we define what constitutes a good identify-this-game question and encourage (upvote) questions that meet that criteria, while discouraging (downvoting / closing) the questions that don't?

If the bad identify-this-game questions are downvoted and closed, there should be fewer and fewer of them asked (no reputation for asking + no answer for asking = no reason to ask), while at the same time, we have not banned an entire category of questions for those people who take the time and effort to craft a good question.

  • 3
    While I agree that if the problem with ITG is bad ITG, then we should close bad questions. However, if we look back at Game-rec the entire category was fundamentally flawed. It is possible for a category to be harmful to the site as a whole. What's more, months of debating over ITG hardly feels "knee-jerk." I get what you're saying, you want to help as many people as possible, but I think there are just some things we can't support.
    – tzenes
    Commented Aug 24, 2011 at 5:37
  • @tzenes - Sorry. I didn't mean we currently have a knee-jerk reaction to ITG. I meant that that would be a possible future result, if the decision is made to not allow ITG questions, where every ITG question (no matter how detailed and well written) would be pounced on by the 3000+ users and moderators within minutes of being posted.
    – au revoir
    Commented Aug 24, 2011 at 6:24
  • in the case where all ITG had been banned, then having every ITG be pounced on is not "knee-jerk," it's the response to well thought out and discussed policy.
    – tzenes
    Commented Aug 24, 2011 at 13:47

I don't like ITGs... I love ITGs. And I have to say I don't see any huge difference between them and some other question types, in particular I don't think they are currently being judged differently from other questions.

Here's a list of what I've seen so far as reasons for disallowing them, and my thoughts on these reasons:

  1. Too localized - I think Matthew explained quite well why this isn't a good reason in his answer here.

  2. Upvotes are random - I don't quite see what make these types of questions have random upvotes. I certainly don't randomly upvote on ITG answers, see How to interpret voting on identify-this-game questions?

  3. Answers are guesses - first of all, I don't see how this is different from questions. Many answers there are also educated answers, and often these educated answers are the correct solution to the problem. In my eyes, educated guesses that often lead to correct answers are valuable content. I have certainly been helped by those types of answers, and so have thousands of others, judging from the view count on "Failed to initialize the GameStartup Interface" when trying to run Crysis 2 demo - and that's just one example.

  4. Subjective - I disagree, there is a single, concrete, objective answer. These questions are definitely less subjective than "how to defeat this boss" ones.

  5. Not helpful for other users - as others have said, this is not necessarily a good thing to judge questions on. I bet 75% of questions on stackoverflow are not relevant to any other user, ever. In any case, there's the recently launch anonymous and low-rep feedback feature, and there are already a few ITG answers in those lists. And besides, I really thing those types of questions can be useful for anyone else who is searching for the same game.

  6. Problematic if other users have a really similar question, but the accepted answer does not satisfy them - this is a case that can happen with many other types of questions as well. If the new asker doesn't have any other data to provide, and yet her desired answer wasn't posted, well that's her problem - she doesn't have enough details to further narrow the options. If she does, she can open a new question, with more details. Just like with any other types of questions.

  7. No authoritative answer - I'm not sure I understand this argument, it sounds like a variation of "it's subjective" to me. If someone accepts an answer it's a pretty strong indication that this answer correctly fulfills the requirement of the question. I'd argue that ITG questions can get answers which are far more authoritative than questions asking for strategies, and we have tons of those.

  8. Too vague - in my eyes, this is the biggest argument. Some ITG questions are just too vague - meaning, there are too many answers that fulfill all the requirements but are not what the OP is looking for. This can happen with other question types as well (here's an example), but the nature of ITG make it more likely to happen with them. And this is a real, concrete problem. I support aggressively closing questions which are too vague.
    Now, what is too vague? That's a pretty vague definition, by itself! And we've had a similar argument with game-rec. Some supported allowing questions which are specific enough, but many argued that this is a very fuzzy definition. It's similar with ITGs, though there is a big difference here - mainly, that there is a single, concrete, objective, correct answer. So so far I've been just closing to vote everything which is too vague in my eyes. Obviously, that's as subjective as it gets... I'm just relying on my extensive experience, but I don't really think that "relying on Oak's experience" is a good policy. Then again, maybe "relying on the experience of 5 random high-rep users that care enough to close it" is a good policy - that is actually what is already happening.

  • 2
    Most of your points show a complete lack of understanding the points I tried to make. More likely than not this means I was not clear. For something to be authoritative, it means that when someone else has the same question we can point them to the same answer. Consider this question, anyone who wants to know the etymology of UMS, can look to the answer and know where it comes from. The same cannot be said of this, which not only has 3 equally authoritative answers, but a number of other answers which were never included.
    – tzenes
    Commented Aug 24, 2011 at 13:37
  • 2
    Next I take issue with your defense of voting practices in ITG. The purpose of voting (ignoring rep) is to act as a sieve for good answers. In the case of a question which has an authoritative answer this will separate the wheat from the chaff. However, ITG has no way for other people to identify the correct answer, so voting schemes do not function in this way. We can even imagine the pathological case, where all answers except the OPs desirable one are upvoted, thus burring the correct answer. This is the opposite of what is good.
    – tzenes
    Commented Aug 24, 2011 at 13:40
  • 1
    Finally, I take issue with your defense of ITG answers as being at least as good as troubleshooting. As I've expressed in comments to you earlier For example, if you have a trouble shooting question which displays the Donkey Kong kill screen, I can authoritatively answer that question. In the case of ITG as long as there is more than one game which fits the OPs criteria, all answers are random guesses from that set of games.
    – tzenes
    Commented Aug 24, 2011 at 13:42
  • 2
    The trouble shooting defense also presupposes troubleshooting questions are good questions. This may or may not be true, but ITGs survival should not be based on the survival of troubleshooting, it should stand on it's own merit.
    – tzenes
    Commented Aug 24, 2011 at 13:45
  • 1
    You explain your arguments against getting rid of it, but what is it that actually makes you "love" these questions?
    – bwarner
    Commented Aug 24, 2011 at 17:23
  • Granted, this is just one example (or two?), but sometimes someone asks an ITG about a game, and then there's another one, and another one ... so at least in some cases, users simply aren't searching for existing questions, and we don't know they're asking duplicate questions until after the same answer gets accepted, so we're accumulating content that isn't helping people (or worse, is encouraging duplication). Commented Aug 26, 2011 at 20:27
  • 1
    @tzenes indeed, I have not fully understood your "authoritative" argument, and I admit I still don't fully do. For instance, if you propose a strategy as a response to a question, a user might come and say "this didn't work for me", does it make the answer not authoritative? Though it's still possible I missed your meaning. What I'm trying to emphasize is that those questions should also be compared with strategy questions, troubleshooting questions etc., where I really think the difference is less than compared with other types of questions.
    – Oak
    Commented Aug 29, 2011 at 12:36
  • @tzenes honestly though, I'm not sure I have the strength for another long and winded game-rec-style dispute. I just believe banning a type of questions should not be done without a lot of thought. I do agree with your repeated "broken windows" argument, I just feel like little by little this website forbids more and more questions of the exact type I envisioned it to have in the beginning, and it makes me sad. I believe there are ways to increase the overall quality without wide-scale bans of topics. Maybe I'm wrong.
    – Oak
    Commented Aug 29, 2011 at 12:40
  • 1
    @bwarner (1) They solve real problems that can often really, really make people happy, reliving past positive experience. Making people happy makes me happy. (2) I often try to answer them even if I don't know the game - that's a real challenge and challenges are fun. And I'm apparently decent in this investigative work. (3) I've also often have questions like these - I even asked a few here on the site, and got answers that made me happy. (4) I believe this is something this community is uniquely qualified to solved.
    – Oak
    Commented Aug 29, 2011 at 12:44
  • @Oak I apologize for not being more descriptive on my explanations. It's a problem that frustrates me continuously. I don't mean 100% of the time it 100% answers the same question that 100% of the people ask. I use the term "Authority," to indicate the feeling I get when I read the Encyclopedia. Having once been asked to write an article for an Encyclopedia I know that the quality isn't actually any better than TVTroupes, but when you read an article in a Professional Encyclopedia, it feels like it is. It's written in such a way that it feels authoritative. Like I can count on it.
    – tzenes
    Commented Aug 29, 2011 at 14:44
  • I can't count on the answers in an ITG. Most of them are just random guesses. Not thought out things like a troubleshooting question: "If you're having intermittent display issues it's likely tied to your display drivers, graphics card, or monitor as those are the things which deal with display." See how that last dependent clause makes the that answer feel authoritative, in a way this answer just does not?
    – tzenes
    Commented Aug 29, 2011 at 14:46
  • Now you can say this is a question of quality, but that answer got 9 upvotes. Clearly the community has spoken on how they feel about the quality of the answer. Heck, I've seen answers which just have the game name get upvoted. If I answered "It's the monitor cord" to the trouble shooting question above, would that be sufficient? It might be right, but it's certainly not authoritative. There is no logic there, it's just a random guess. Game X fit's criteria 1-4, and 6 you listed there for I guess that, 10 upvotes, correct answer. Is that what you envisioned for this site?
    – tzenes
    Commented Aug 29, 2011 at 14:50
  • So, let's say you decide there is some cut off you're going to make for ITG. Maybe it's descriptive, maybe it's logical, let's assume you are satisfied with some criteria with which you believe the question has a high enough bar. Now all those people who are guessing get downvoted to heck and stop. What about the people who's answers would have come from those guesses? They're not losing out. Their questions linger. Do they not deserve their answers as much as the people who got high quality ones? Even if said answer is only 2 words long? Any set of rules will reduce answers.
    – tzenes
    Commented Aug 29, 2011 at 14:53
  • Worse still, what about all the ITG which are getting the wrong answer. Where the asker is mis-remembering the game or selecting the wrong game because of shaky memories. By definition these are bad answers because they don't fit the question. I suppose we could retroactively rewrite the entire content of the question to fit the chosen answer... or the most upvoted one. But then who's problem are we solving? Are we answering questions or rewriting them to make ourselves look like we do...
    – tzenes
    Commented Aug 29, 2011 at 14:55
  • @Oak I appreciate that you don't want to get sucked into a debate and I can respect that, and I do realize I've gone on for 6 comments now, but I'm trying to communicate an idea I have trouble expressing. My vision of the site is to act as an authority. That when someone has a question about gaming they can point to an answer on this site that's already written as THE correct answer.
    – tzenes
    Commented Aug 29, 2011 at 14:57

This post comes as a response to this blog post on this subject.

FWIW I disagree with most of Jeff's reasons why "identify this game" questions are bad.

1) Jeff's first reason is that "Guessing game questions aren’t practical." His proof for this is to say that "A half-remembered description of something you vaguely recall is not what I’d call a practical, answerable question." That's not a proof, it's just a circular assertion. The point of most of these questions is presumably that you remember the game but not the title, and want to find it again so you can play it again... that's a practical reason to ask.

2) His second reason is that "Guessing game questions don’t help others." Again, I don't see any proof of that. He lists three questions referring to Netstorm: Islands at War. All three questions use different keywords. All of these are different ways someone might try to find that game in Google. All of them work right now in Google:




These questions are mistakenly closed as dupes. They're not dupes just because they have the same answer. To be a dupe it has to be the same question. Our goal is to create a permanent internet resource that will be helpful to people who have this problem in the future and in this case we are clearly doing that. Whether you remember "flying islands" or "floating cities" -- which are completely different -- you still find the answer in Google thanks to these questions.

3) His third reason is that "guessing games are unfair". I don't see any reason why a guessing game is more unfair than any other kind of question on the network.

4) Finally he claims that they are not educational. Well, indeed, they are not, but that's because this is a gaming site, and none of our questions are educational.

The only reason I would suggest making game identification questions off-topic is if they're driving you, the game-playing wizard, crazy for some reason. It is important not to drive away the people who love this site with questions that you don't want to see, for whatever reason.

  • 1
    @JoelSpolsky Just wanted to say that while I understand ITG are not the same as most of the questions asked on SE sites, this post here pretty much nails the points on the head as to why I think this is the site they belong on anyways.
    – James
    Commented Feb 29, 2012 at 23:10
  • 2
    @JoelSpolsky The only reason I would suggest making game identification questions off-topic is if they're driving you, the game-playing wizard, crazy for some reason. - They are driving a lot of us absolutely batshit nuts. And many others love them. Hence, paralysis and frequent screams for attention from mods and admins to just make a decisions by fiat Commented Feb 29, 2012 at 23:13
  • My comment on Joel's original answer noted that Jeff's blog post largely presupposes they're all crappy (vague/wrong/poorly written) ones. I think we need to talk about "good" ones. I am perhaps the strongest supporter of ITGs, but I only support ones held to a high standard. Commented Feb 29, 2012 at 23:27
  • 2
    by "educational" I mean the process of discovering how one might come to know about that particular game, or word, or book. by "unfair" I mean the work of asking the question is disproportionate to the work of researching and finding the answer, and also that there's often no way to objectively judge the criteria of these contests unless you are the OP. To win you have to play Sherlock Holmes and read the OP's mind. How does one become Sherlock Holmes? These questions don't help us discover that process, it's just magic. Commented Feb 29, 2012 at 23:29
  • 4
    also these are absolutely duplicates, in that they have the same correct answer: NetStorm, Islands at War. That's actually the very definition of a duplicate question. Of course, we leave closed duplicates which have different words around as "bait" for people who search using different words. Still, good luck finding what you can't remember. Commented Feb 29, 2012 at 23:31
  • @JeffAtwood It's a lame answer perhaps, but the skills used extracting more information from OPs is not unlike the skills required to get information for software requirements from users and customers. Knowing how to ask good questions is a skill unto itself, and though we may not do the best at it with ITG all the time and tend to lean towards guessing, I think it's at least one valid counterpoint.
    – Tharius
    Commented Mar 1, 2012 at 0:52
  • 1
    @JeffAtwood Additionally, my own research skills have been severely taxed and thus improved by ITG ... my ability to find things on google has improved dramatically and has reminded me of several open topics in database research around searching images/sounds in a non-keyword/non-meta data methodology ... I may be a severe edge case, but hey, that's me.
    – Tharius
    Commented Mar 1, 2012 at 0:54
  • @Stephen while your self-improvement is admirable, that's not a primary criterion of what makes a good question here. Taking both your comments together, answering game-rec questions (categorically off-topic) could improve your ability to sell product as well as your skill to assess a "customer" need and provide them a good solution. Because they help you doesn't make them OK.
    – Nick T
    Commented Mar 4, 2012 at 16:22
  • @NickT The assertion that I was countering is that there is no educational value whatsoever. I even identified that my comment was somewhat lame. I can't speak for everyone on the site. I can only speak from my own experiences, so I'm sorry I didn't say "Everyone can learn problem solving from these questions". Also, I no longer care whether they remain or go, so long as the endless conversation about it ends.
    – Tharius
    Commented Mar 4, 2012 at 21:05

I personally enjoy ITG questions, but I enjoy playing older games, mostly out of nostalgia. When I see an answer to something that sounds interesting, I often go pick it up and play with it for a few nights. The value of gaming.SE to me site increases on these occasions.

I also overwhelmingly agree that this particular category needs excessive amounts of clean ups and aggressive close votes. If we as a community desire this sort of question, then we as a community need to do a good job of keeping it clean.

Regarding being authoritative, we have no statistic (that I have seen) that shows how many users google keywords that match a ITG post, visit that post and find what they were looking for. While the OP may say that the match to their "green frog game" question was Frogger, weary googler may spot an answer that was not accepted that does match what they were looking for.

Does this add value to the site? If we are getting traffic from search engines, even if it doesn't result in new users, votes, more questions and answers, I still think it is an overall gain. The user has gained exposure to the site and may return and contribute. They may topic surf and chip in. We don't know. With the dearth of gaming forums available that deal with one specific game as it's topic, a general forum must find it's way on to a gamer's radar, and I think that the quality ITG posts do help that objective.

Just my $0.02

  • So you can make this argument about just about any gaming question, even ones which insight debate and discussion (two things we don't want). I think it's important to remember than the cost of a question is non-trivial. Bad questions (and answers) cost the site in reputation and efficiency. Now I assume you believe these questions provide more benefit than their cost, but I'm not seeing what that is from your post. Just getting people to show up isn't good enough...
    – tzenes
    Commented Aug 24, 2011 at 17:41
  • So you purchase old games based on ITG posts? Where do you find them?
    – bwarner
    Commented Aug 25, 2011 at 0:44
  • @bwarner Perhaps a bit off topic but a combination of ebay, amazon, online sources and local used game shops.
    – Tharius
    Commented Aug 25, 2011 at 2:31
  • sure you do: just look at the view counter on those questions. If they are low, nobody is finding them. Commented Jan 21, 2012 at 23:50

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