Arrow to the knee. Duke Nukem Fornever.

There sure are a lot of jokes about video games out there. If only I had a place I could go to learn what makes them funny.

Should this be that place?

Our FAQ says

You should only ask practical, answerable questions based on actual problems that you face.

Is the understanding (or lack thereof) of a joke (or its history) a problem that this site should deal with?

EDIT: To be clear, I am only talking about questions where the only problem is not getting a joke. It has nothing to do with a question involving a joke. It has nothing to do with a question being funny. It has everything to do with there being no real problem.

It is the difference between "What does 'The cake is a lie' mean?" and "Why is 'The cake is a lie' funny?"

4 Answers 4


I've had a problem with this ever since it was posted, but NickT's discussion on the interpretation of the "practical/answerable problems" clause in the FAQ sorta/kinda helped me put into perspective why.

Interpreting Impractical

Story, trivia, and terminology-type questions are on-topic for the site. The issue with this type of question (as expressed in the answer I disagree with here) is that it's not practical - but knowing the explanation behind a story element or trivia or terminology question is often similarly impractical.

Knowing what Ryu says when he delivers a flaming uppercut isn't practical, (the game plays the same even if you think he's saying I WANT A HOT DOG) but the community seems happy with such a question.

Take "the cake is a lie" - this is a meme that grew out of Portal, and it's specifically referenced here. This is popular and obvious, but it's also tangentially related to the story of Portal. Someone could legitimately ask what this means in the context of the game. It's as practical as any story-related question, and it's certainly answerable.

On Problems

Practical and problem to me are somewhat interchangeable in the previous section. Let's demonstrate:

The issue with this type of question (as expressed in the answer I disagree with here) is that it's not a problem - but knowing the explanation behind a story element or trivia or terminology question is often similarly not a problem.

Knowing what Ryu says when he delivers a flaming uppercut isn't a problem, (the game plays the same even if you think he's saying I WANT A HOT DOG) but the community seems happy with such a question.

The point I'm trying to make is that sorting story/plot/trivia/terminology questions based on whether or not they're funny or popular does nothing to change whether they are practical OR problems. If funny or popular story/terminology/trivia elements are not practical or not problems, then we should say the same about all classes of those questions.

Mark's answer on NickT's question I linked above gives some additional detail, and it's a good read for understanding this particular part of the FAQ.

Knowing The Meme

At other times, the objection appears to be that they are popular, obvious, and (in some cases) only tangentially related to gaming.

Returning to our previous "cake is a lie" example, there are a lot of sources on the internet for the meaning of this particular phrase, and it's relation to the game. This means that the question potentially shows little research effort - the response to this is downvoting and not closing. Saying "there are other sites for this topic" on the internet is also a bad argument - if that were a reason for closure, we'd have to close quite a few Skyrim questions with a pointer to the UESP or the Skyrim Wikia. They often have more detailed diagrams, tables, and charts on various subjects than we can hope to produce independently.

It's also possible to ask a non-gaming related question about a meme/joke, but it's also possible to ask non-gaming related questions on just about any topic, so I don't believe that is a reason to ban the entire class of questions.


The other thing I have a problem with is that categorizing a story, trivia, or terminology question as a "meme" (and therefore deserving of closure) simply means that it is popular currently. This is a problematic way to categorize what is good or bad.

At a high level, if something gaming-related is getting attention outside the gaming community, we want to discourage questions about it? Why limit our audience in this fashion?

Who is deciding when something is popular enough that a question about it should be closed? Do we have some metric of internet popularity we are going by? Should I be checking trending hashtags on Twitter before I post, just in case?

Let's take the "current popularity" aspect to the extreme - say I asked a question about a specific part of a game that was weird or new or interesting. In a week, it's exploded on the internet and KnowYourMeme has a video dedicated to it. Do we retroactively close this question as being a meme?

Take the reverse case - say 10 years from now we're all playing Final Fantasy Hojillion-2 or whatever, and in there is a hidden room that's full of cake, and an NPC is telling you that "it's all a lie." Someone asks about this hidden room, and wonders why "the cake is a lie" is supposed to be a fun easter egg. It's been years since that was a meme, but it was a meme at one point. Should we close a question about a former meme? (For an example of this, see this question about a reference to Sherlock Holmes in TF2)


It's possible to ask bad or off topic questions about memes or gaming "in-jokes" - but it's possible to ask bad questions on almost any topic. Taking different action on these questions than any other story/trivia/terminology question is problematic and counterproductive.

  • I think the best criteria is "Is this a stupid question?" It's subjective, but such is life. Commented Apr 19, 2012 at 22:50
  • +1 for Downvote, don't Close. Commented Apr 19, 2012 at 22:51
  • I only brought up terminology because someone asked "Why is it different than terminology?" in chat. Just because something comes from a game doesn't mean it is something that should be asked/answered here. This is not Humor.SE
    – user9983
    Commented Apr 20, 2012 at 2:20
  • The relevant word in the FAQ is problem, not practical.
    – user9983
    Commented Apr 20, 2012 at 2:27
  • @OrigamiRobot, expanded to cover the word "problem" as well as "practical"
    – agent86
    Commented Apr 26, 2012 at 18:41
  • I don't have a problem with questions involving jokes. I have a problem with questions that are only about jokes and gaming being only tangentially related.
    – user9983
    Commented Apr 27, 2012 at 3:13
  • Well said, I agree that we shouldn't distinguish these from the broader trivia category. I just dislike that whole category :P Commented Jul 9, 2012 at 17:00

At it's core, this comes down to the requirement that the context of the problem be gaming, rather than the context of the question.

Not understanding or wanting to know more about something can definitely be a constructive problem - not one related to gaming, but a social one or an academic one. Having these be off-topic implies a requirement that the problem be related to gaming.

Assuming this requirement, I don't see how the following are any different:

That's by no means exhaustive - that's from a few minutes of searching. We have quite a history of questions that are not related to problems that people have playing a game, but problems related to gaming.

When it comes down to it, what's the difference in how "useful" a question is when you're talking about trivia or jokes? What makes a joke different from trivia? Would you consider What is Fus Ro Dah? about a joke if the "fus-roh-dah"-ing didn't get popularized as a joke?

  • 2
    I would call most of those questions not constructive(as I think all trivia questions are). The PS3 on is also very discussion-y.
    – user9983
    Commented Feb 21, 2012 at 19:07
  • 1
    @Ian To be fair, there's still no consensus on the allowed existence of those types of trivia questions. Please feel free to bump that discussion again if you have something to add for/against them.
    – FAE
    Commented Feb 21, 2012 at 19:16
  • @FallenAngelEyes I don't actually have anything to add for/against, and haven't decided whether or not I think these are on-topic. I did want to point out the similarity in scope, though - that this isn't "joke questions," it's much more. Good that's it's been previously discussed, but bad that there's no real decision yet. Commented Feb 21, 2012 at 19:22
  • 2
    To be fair, I might consider the first four a bit different mostly on the grounds of those being more like terminology. Not the terminology that helps you be a better gamer, necessarily, but I'd find it a lot harder to justify closing those but keeping other terminology questions, than I would with closing jokes but keeping those.
    – Grace Note StaffMod
    Commented Feb 21, 2012 at 19:29
  • @GraceNote the only problem I have with that is where the line is - if "fus-roh-dah"-ing wasn't a meme, would asking about it be just terminology, and not the explanation of a joke? Commented Feb 21, 2012 at 19:35
  • @Ian I don't really consider it terminology in the same way I wouldn't really call "What is Zerg?" terminology. It may not necessarily be a joke. It may not even be unacceptable. But to me, they just work on different niches in the vocabulary slots of a gamer's inventory.
    – Grace Note StaffMod
    Commented Feb 21, 2012 at 19:36
  • 4
    @IanPugsley - If Fus-Ro-Dah wasn't a meme, people would be far less likely to ask about it without playing the game where it is clearly explained.
    – user9983
    Commented Feb 21, 2012 at 19:39
  • @OrigamiRobot Doesn't that make the question more "useful" (useful in general, not useful for the site)? A question's appropriateness shouldn't have anything to do with something's popularity. Commented Feb 21, 2012 at 20:43
  • 1
    I never said popularity had anything to do with appropriateness. I only said that if it wasn't popular outside the game, people who don't know what it is wouldn't know to ask it.
    – user9983
    Commented Feb 21, 2012 at 20:58
  • This has been a very interesting read for me. Where-as questions of this sort seem to be related mostly to MMO games, which are in of themselves are a very social environment, not getting a joke or understanding its origin and meaning, could very well negatively impact a new player. If you didn't know what it meant, and someone told you to quit zerging or quit being a Leroy Jenkins, and no-one in party was will to explain it, you would be very likely to be blacklisted before long and the game would become not very enjoyable. So I do not understand why some here think those Qs are bad.
    – ShoeMaker
    Commented Apr 29, 2012 at 18:27

I think questions about understanding gaming jokes/memes are not constructive for this site. Understanding a joke about a game does not help you play the game or understand its story. These are no more "actual" problems than asking "Which character in SCV has the most revealing outfit?"

Do we really want to explain each and every joke in every gaming webcomic out there?

There are already places for that.

(I got tired of linking because there are so many choices. It is exhausting.)

How is this different from asking about gaming terminology?

Knowing about gaming terminology can have a large impact on your ability to play and understand games. Especially multiplayer games. Knowing what makes "The cake is a spy" funny doesn't help you play a game or understand its story.

  • 3
    The question is, do we actually have questions about "the cake is a spy?"
    – badp
    Commented Feb 21, 2012 at 18:17
  • 1
    The question is, if someone doesn't understand the reference, should we allow them to ask that here?
    – user9983
    Commented Feb 21, 2012 at 18:20
  • No, the question is, if someone doesn't understand the reference, should we allow them to use the site?
    – Marcelo
    Commented Feb 21, 2012 at 18:51

There already is a very good site to explain these "memes". It is Know Your Meme

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