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A user recently asked a question (10k only) about Gamestop's return policy. I've voted to close the question as off-topic, however there are a few other questions of a similiar nature, one of which has 43 up-votes.

I believe that they are about a company's policies, and not about gaming, and should therefore be considered off-topic.

How do we feel about these questions?

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    Well, I don't have time to write a full answer right now, but IMO, they should be allowed, as long as they are good questions. No need to ban them just because they are not about games. By that logic, we should remove all questions related to Steam as a platform (and I also do not agree with this) – juan Feb 24 '12 at 21:15
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    @JuanManuel The problem is not that it's not about games, it's not about gaming. It's about a company. I don't think SO would allow questions about the policies of Microsoft because it develops C#. – Wipqozn Feb 24 '12 at 21:18
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    We should not decide based on what other sites allow or not, every site in the network has its own set of rules. The "few others" you linked to are related to gaming as an activity and are useful to a large audience, so I stand by my opinion (the first one is deleted now). – juan Feb 24 '12 at 21:23
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    I don't know - some Microsoft policies (as they pertain to programming) are on topic on SO, or at least were at some point in the past: stackoverflow.com/questions/365262/… – au revoir Feb 24 '12 at 21:27
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    @JuanManuel: I agree we should form our own rules, I was just using an analogy to illustrate my point. – Wipqozn Feb 24 '12 at 21:28
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    I'm a little torn. On one hand we're not a good source for this info -- they ought to be reading Steam's FAQ, EULAs for the games they buy, etc. and we just regurgitate that info. Some of them also stray into legal questions. With that said I think they're questions about doing things with games specifically, and would seem to fall within our scope for that reason. I don't like 'em and wouldn't vote to keep them, but I wouldn't call it black and white by any means. – Matthew Read Feb 24 '12 at 21:31
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    These are questions relevant to gamers, if they're answerable IMO They could be on topic. Company policies are part of gaming. – Ben Brocka Feb 24 '12 at 22:16
  • @BenBrocka - Company policies are subject to change without notice. – user9983 Feb 24 '12 at 23:16
  • @OrigamiRobot in a world of automatic updates, company policies change a lot less often than games... – Ben Brocka Feb 25 '12 at 0:27
  • @BenBrocka - The "without notice" is the relevant part. – user9983 Feb 25 '12 at 1:26
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    Policies like that can change at any time. I don't think we can provide a better answer than just calling up Gamestop would. – Adam Lear Feb 25 '12 at 3:52
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    @Anna there is a lot of information that can change at any time in this, and lots of other SE sites... Thankfully there is an edit button! – juan Feb 26 '12 at 15:31
  • @JuanManuel Sure, but some things are more transient than others. :) – Adam Lear Feb 26 '12 at 16:28
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    @AnnaLear So we should all avoid handling questions for games with "help hotlines" or "official forums where developers might just answer"? – badp Feb 26 '12 at 21:38
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    @badp It's a different scenario. Game-related questions are in front of an appropriate audience here. Store policy is a different animal. – Adam Lear Feb 26 '12 at 21:52
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Since nobody has actually proposed an answer that amounts to 'no', I'll step up and do so for the sake of voting, since simple downvotes on Badp and Oaks answers aren't really the same as having something to upvote.

So really, there are actually two questions here. There's the one being asked in the title; Are questions about game companies policies on-topic?

And I think the answer to this one, in the general case, is an emphatic Yes. We should be able to answer questions about policies regarding RMT in Diablo 3 and EVE, or whether Steam keys are transferrable. Beyond being questions about the games themselves, there are often technical implications to these policy questions, and occasionally even workarounds that are worth noting (i.e. make a new Steam account for every Steam game or whatever.)

Now, as to the other question here, which is about the specific question that prompted this Meta post: Are questions about game retailers policies on topic?

And here is where I think the answer is No. We are a site for gaming experts. Now, that's a fairly broad topic area, and it involves a fair amount of related knowledge at times about things like recording games, setting up specialized A/V equipment, optics, and even metallurgy. But we have to draw our lines in the sand somewhere, don't we? And I'd say that the line between a gaming expert and a shopping expert is as good a place as any. Questions about the policies of retail game stores are, in addition to being matters of public record, often best explained by the individual in the retail store, or on a customer service line. They are subject to significant amount of legal interpretation, and regional and international variability. They are also often subject to the discretion, judgement, and competence of the retail staffer with whom you interact. I worked in retail for 7 years. We sold software including games. Our policy said we didn't take back open-box software. Our policy was that if someone came in with open-box software to return and made even a token attempt at a good excuse, we would take it back because making that customer happy was more important than the 40 bucks in revenue. At another store run by the same company about 30 minutes away, they'd never do that though.

As a community, we need to define ourselves, first and foremost, based on the things in which we are experts. With that in mind, I'd argue that Yes, questions about the policies of companies we interact with as gamers should in general be on topic. Questions about retail shopping should not be. You want help interpreting that EULA? Absolutely! You want to know why Gamestop is offering you shit for trade-in value? That's probably not going to be constructive.

The Pants Test

Thinking about this some more as I drove home today, I wanted to expand a bit on an idea in the comments below. Specifically, what I'm going to refer to as The Pants Test for whether a question is on topic. Essentially, if you could replace the subject of your question with a pair of pants (or other object totally unrelated gaming, if you've got some kind of problem with pants or if it helps a metaphor or whatever), and still have a coherent question, that would recieve a similar answer, then it's probably off topic. Below, I'll provide two examples of the Pants Test in action, using the two questions linked by Wipqozn above, so you can see it in action.

Retail Boxed Steam Activated games: Can they be resold?

I recently purchased retail boxed versions of

Dead Island (which is awesome) Warhammer 40k: Space Marine (not so much) I finished both games and I was thinking of reselling them or giving them to a friend to play. However, these are both Steam activated games that had a required Steam registration code I had to enter -- and validate on Steam -- as part of the installation.

If I give these games to a friend or resell them, will they even work? Is the registration code single use and tied to a single person / computer / Steam account?

Retail Purchased Pants: Can they be resold?

I recently purchased some new slacks for a formal event.

I wore them to the event, and I was thinking of reselling them or giving them to a friend to wear. However, these are both Steam activated pants that had a required Steam registration code I had to enter -- and validate on Steam -- as part of the---

Wait a minute. At this point, the metaphor breaks down. Pants don't have activation codes, and if they do in whatever nightmare world you live in, I'd ask you to please never take me there.

How about another one? **Does Anyone know Gamestop's return policy? (10k)

I own an old Xbox 360, and recently it has been scratching my games. Before I knew that you could download games to your hard drive and play them even when scratched, I had just been re-buying games. I now have multiple copies of games I bought from Gamestop, and I was wondering if I could get a refund because they were ruined solely by my console. All the games are marked with the ring that old 360's gouge into disks when you move the console with the game inside, so there is proof that my console broke them.

In this case, I'm going to replace 'Pants' with 'Silverware', purely because I don't want to engage in semantic gymnastics to come up with some sort of strange scenario in which the questioners pants were being ruined by a faulty belt or something:

Does anyone know Target's Return Policy?

I own an old dishwasher, and recently it has been ruining the edges of my knives. Before I knew that you could sharpen knives, I had just been re-buying knives. I now have multiples of all kinds of knives that I bought from Target, and I was wondering if I could get a refund because they were ruined solely by my dishwasher. All the knives are marked with the same pattern of ruined blades from the dishwasher when you move the dishwasher with the knife inside, so there is proof that my dishwasher broke them.

Okay, so it's somewhat strained, but the point is, the fundamental question here "Can I return a product that I bought because I used it with some other faulty product?" is fundamentally not a question that is in any way uniquely about gaming, nor does the answer in any way intersect with the specialized knowledge we have as gamers.

To summarize: If the question were about pants instead of a video game, would the answer change? If so, it probably doesn't belong here.

  • So if I understand you correctly, you would also prefer the two other linked questions above to be considered as off-topic and closed? – Oak Feb 27 '12 at 15:01
  • Also, your personal story about public policy vs private one is actually the sort of answers that will be useful here on gaming :) by the way, I like the distinction you make between game developers / publishers and retailers - although sometimes they are one and the same. – Oak Feb 27 '12 at 15:05
  • @Oak No, you don't understand me correctly. Jeff's question is about a primarily technical factor: The transferring of Steam licenses/keys and is clearly On-Topic. I'm less sure about the GameFly question, but would be inclined to close it - the secondary question in there about whether Steam Trading etc. offers an alternative is interesting, but primarily answered in Jeff's question already. – LessPop_MoreFizz Feb 27 '12 at 15:07
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    To put it another way: If you could substitute Pants and Target for $game and $retailer, and still have a question that makes sense, it probably doesn't belong here. In the case of the question about Gamestop, that's clearly the case. In the case of Jeff's question, it's clearly not. In the case of the Gamefly question, it's muddy, and I'd be open to discussing it, but I'm inclined to think it's more similar to returning pants than not. – LessPop_MoreFizz Feb 27 '12 at 15:11
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    Very, very well said. (Fun anecdote: I once bought Alpha Centauri and was able to return it because the game refused to run on a P4, but didn't say anything about it on the box.) – Matthew Read Feb 27 '12 at 15:21
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They're practical questions on problems gamers face. Yes, they're in.

  • We can bring a better answer than what reading the official FAQs does: we can bring our own expert experience to the table. Are the rules in the FAQs actually followed through?
  • We're not the "best source" on anything except the games we develop ourselves, so by that very logic this whole site shouldn't exist in the first place.
  • Games do change with notice but that hardly stops information rot in this site, so that argument is also rather moot.

I can't think of any TF2 question that can't be (eventually) answered by enough people emailing Gabe Newell. For instance, I emailed him asking why didn't the dead ringer play a beep when it's full (a bad question for Gaming.SE, I realize), and he "answered" months later by making the dead ringer play a beep when it's full.

It doesn't mean we shouldn't host any TF2 content, though. The same logic applies here.

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    Do you mean "off topic" or "on topic" when you say OT? I hate that acronym. – Invader Skoodge Feb 27 '12 at 1:57
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    @StrixVaria I always hear it used as Off Topic (as in "I voted to close as OT") but yeah, it's a bad acronym – Ben Brocka Feb 27 '12 at 3:32
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I think this is an excellent question and I'm not sure myself. Many of the the comments on the question above raise very good arguments. But ultimately I agree with Juan the most. Matthew and Anna are right in that we cannot provide the most authoritative answers on those questions. But we can rarely do that on other question types as well, really. I think our shining star in this case should be helpfulness for other gamers, and by that criteria those questions should be okay.

So I vote that those types of questions should be permissible here.

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    I really don't get why people want to ban some topics with so much passion... This is about helping the gaming community and making the Internet better. The Jeff question is good for example. – juan Feb 26 '12 at 0:37
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    Once again we are reminded how lack of downvoting on comments may leave the wrong impression :) – Oak Feb 26 '12 at 8:17
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    I'm not in a position to type out a more detailed position, so I'll leave you with one specific comment about why the two Steam questions are distinct from the new one, despite some surface similarity: both are about a technical limitation. While the answer could theoretically be changed based on Steams policies as a retailer, at a fundamental level, the answer is that Steam offers no technical way to transfer activated games between accounts. The policies of a brick and mortar retailer are in substantially fuzzier territory because you are asking about a policy enforced by human beings. – LessPop_MoreFizz Feb 26 '12 at 13:37
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    (curse you comment limit!)... and while we may end up considering them on topic, I do think that they need to be considered separately from the Steam question, and we need to think very carefully about what the implications of those sorts of questions might be overall, and where we draw the line. – LessPop_MoreFizz Feb 26 '12 at 13:38

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