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I don't want to rehash old arguments about the validity of these types of questions, since they're generally accepted as being on-topic for the site.

However, it seems like a good percentage of them require us to prompt people for way more information than they initially provide. I don't really think there's a good way around this (as it essentially requires that a person read documentation prior to posting something, which never happens).

I think though that it might be a good idea to have a general set of questions we can point to that say "this information is useful, please provide as much of it as possible so we can answer your question."

I got this idea from this thread over on the xkcd forums. They have a little template at the top of the forum thread that people can fill out with general information about the game they're searching for.

The use case for this template would be that if an ITG question pops up which has insufficient detail, we could link to a meta post in the comments, thereby giving the asker an idea as to what information would be useful if they could provide it. Having one standardized location would mean that we could keep it up to date, and always cover the broadest possible set of ITG search parameters.

What does everyone think? Is this worth doing? If so, we can repurpose this question with a wiki answer, perhaps, if that's the best route.

closed as too localized by juan Mar 19 '12 at 1:03

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    For the record, although I think ITGs are sometimes fun, I don't particularly think they suit the Q&A style of the site well. (Just before someone posts a comment saying "I think they should die in a fire and I hate you and you smell bad.") – agent86 Jan 4 '12 at 17:34
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    I think they should die in a fire and I hate you and you smell bad.... ;) – Raven Dreamer Jan 4 '12 at 17:45
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    The best way to "improve" an ITG question is to close it. – Invader Skoodge Jan 4 '12 at 18:05
  • I think we should push again to disallow ITG questions. This site no longer needs the "training wheels" of ITG to get new users, and these questions cause harm: for example, they were the source of a lot of terrible, awful tags that we had to clean up later. See blog.stackoverflow.com/2010/11/the-pee-wee-herman-rule – Jeff Atwood Jan 6 '12 at 10:00
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We actually do have a number of suggestions. These were all catalogued in the tag wiki for by Oak long ago.

How to ask an identify-this-game question

  • Use an informative title containing some information about the game.
  • Give us the general description of the game and its gameplay.
  • When was the game released / when did you play it?
  • What platform did you play it on?
  • If you controlled a character, what did it look like? How did you control it?
  • What was the perspective? Was it top-down, side-scroller, isometric, etc.?
  • If there were enemies, what did they look like? How were they destroyed?
  • If there were puzzles or riddles, can you describe them?
  • Do you remember anything about how the game box looked, how the title screen looked?
  • One game per question, please.
  • And if you ever find out the game by yourself, please answer your own question for future reference.

Questions which are too vague in the details they provide will be closed as "not a real question".

Tips for increasing your chance to get an answer

  • Provide a basic diagram showing how the game looked like.
  • Check the site a few hours after you ask the question. Sometimes you will receive a request to provide more data, that can help focus the question.
  • Questions might get answered weeks or months after they were asked. Once your question gets answered, your in-site "inbox" will show a notification. If you don't intend to check the site later, you can subscribe to receive your inbox notifications by e-mail. That e-mail will only be sent if you actually have a notification.

Useful links

We actually ask for a bit more than what's in that XKCD thread, to an extent. Though I do think we could do with appending the "Environment" point since the game world is a pretty strong stress point. The wiki is free game to edit whenever you'd like to clarify, strengthen, or reinforce our guidelines.

We as well include in these guidelines that questions which lack sufficient detail stand to be closed.

I don't think our problem lies as much in standardizing the guidelines, as it is actually enforcing them. Many users are slightly lax on it, partly because sometimes, even minimally descriptive stuff gets a hook. While that shouldn't actually spare the question, there is an impression that a lot of people end up relaxing standards on some of the vague identification questions on the grounds of "We've done this before, let's see how well we can do." Sometimes a tiny memory is all it takes, but this is detrimental for us.

Beyond just pointing new users to our wiki, I also wonder if follow-through is an issue. If an identification question doesn't get updated when asked for detail, who is actually tracking that question to notice this? It's easy to notice when something does get bumped - it's when nothing happens that's difficult. It may sound harsh, but on vague identification questions, "Close first" may be a wise move. Once the user provides the solid necessary data, you can then notice this and vote to reopen.

  • The tag wiki is probably a very good resource for this. If no one else does so, I'll take any input from these answers and use it to improve the itg wiki. – agent86 Jan 4 '12 at 18:54

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