Yes, I have read the arguments. I found them lacking. While they have their merit, none of them really explain why ITG questions harm SE and why they must be removed. The only single fact that sticks out to me is that Jeff Atwood states in his blog that:

identify-this-game is the 5th most popular tag on gaming
story-identification is the 2nd most popular tag on scifi
single-word-requests is the 3rd most popular tag on english
story-identification is the 2nd most popular tag on literature*

Also, as the vote apparently ended 34 for and 27 against prohibiting ITG, it seems to me - and forgive me if this sounds inflammatory - that it is, in fact, an elite (61 people) deciding what is good for the majority.

A personal note

I have an old favourite flash board game that I can never remember the name of. A few months go by, and my mind is a complete blank. Earlier, I wracked my brain, exhausted every type of google search I could think of, but this game was lost forever in the greatness of the information super highway (yeah, remember that one?).

I was at a loss for some time, before I found gaming.stackexchange.com. Posting a quite detailed (as I recall) question, the magic happened. What google could not do, gaming.SE did for me. Now I thought, I would have this information forever.

Not so. For some reason, my question is deleted. I have seen why, I've read some of the debate. I will speak more of that below. My first question is: Can I have my question back? It was certainly not a lazy "do the work for me" question. It was certainly detailed. And as I recall, it was not filled with guessing-type answers.

Where is the debate?

Is this debate closed? I see most questions in the identify-this-game tag are closed. I'm sorry I could not participate during the voting time, because gaming.SE is not my main .SE site (stackoverflow is). Is it too late now, and I forever must hold my peace?

My opinion

I read Jeff Atwood's blog on the topic: http://blog.stackoverflow.com/2012/02/lets-play-the-guessing-game/. He (you, if this is you reading, Jeff) says that this type of question is quickly becoming the most popular question on various stackexchange sites. And that they must be removed.

I am baffled.

Now, permit me to be somewhat silly for a moment.

Before Youtube was "invented", it was certainly possible to find answers on the internet. It was certainly possible to find all kinds of things, and even perhaps videos on them. Even so, Youtube's introduction and growth and diversity has made it a marvel.

Just as an example: A while ago I needed to change strings on my guitar. And because it was a while ago, I had completely forgotten how to do it. Sure, I could have called the music store where I bought the strings. Sure, I could have googled it. But instead, I searched and found a ton of videos on the topic on Youtube. Problem solved.

Admittedly, a howto-video on changing guitar strings is possibly more educational and useful than knowing that an old flash game is named Proximity. But it seems to me that while Youtube is allowing the market to decide what's good for the market, stackexchange is concerned with telling the market what is good for the market. And I don't see how that is a good thing, or ever has been one.

Now, you'll say that questions of this type will drown stackexchange, perhaps. But they didn't drown Youtube. Youtube is filled with videos of immense failure. Videos without redeeming quality, with low views, pure trash sometimes. However, they are not visible to the general audience. They are obscured in the myriad of other videos, and the popular ones rise to the surface.

Like Youtube, stackexchange will suffer from having tons of material that is out of date, that will never be re-used; One shot questions that will never be seen again. Youtube solves that (I think) by obscuring such videos in searches, by stuffing them deeply in archives that take longer to access. Why should stackexchange be any different? Instead of trying to cull out the crap, embrace it. Make it easier to find only what you want, and obscure that which you do not want.

Personally, I like identify-this-X questions. It is a bit of harmless fun, and most of the time I have nothing to add to such a question. And perhaps fun should be frowned upon. But in all honesty, is questions about games really ever about anything except fun?

When I started this section, I said I was baffled that anyone would want to ban one of the most popular features of their site. I still am. What if I went to my local grocer and asked for my favourite brand of cookies, and they said: "Nope, sorry, we don't sell those anymore. Everyone wants them! I hate it. People flock to my store to buy those damnable cookies! My cash register was overflowing, for gods sake! Get outta here, you bum! We only sell healthy cookies, cookies that are good for you."

Make sense to you?

Last word

In closing, for those of you who may not have noticed, I also started by mentioning that gaming.stackexchange.com did for me what google could not. This identify-the-game for me performed a service that the almighty Google failed at.

This is not something to scoff at. This is the marvel that is StackExchange. We are one, we are many, we are the StackExchange. Our combined brains are an asset to the internet.

  • 11
    That we are oppressing things merely because they are popular is the biggest straw man argument I've ever seen. Commented May 29, 2012 at 20:28
  • 1
    You can read up on the arguments for both sides here. The answers each link to numerous arguments supporting that option. There is a lot of reading to do if you really want to catch up. Commented May 29, 2012 at 20:32
  • 3
    We can't give you back the question so long as our policy stands, but at the very least, I can give you its answer.
    – Grace Note StaffMod
    Commented May 29, 2012 at 21:09
  • @StrixVaria It's entirely true. I am an ITG hipster and I drink beers you have never heard of.
    – Zelda
    Commented May 29, 2012 at 21:12
  • @StrixVaria Arguing that I use a straw man argument by using a straw man argument is ironic at best, Strix. I did not say that "you" oppress things because they are popular, but that it is strange to oppose things that are popular.
    – TLP
    Commented May 29, 2012 at 22:02
  • @GraceNote Thank you, I appreciate that. I have the name, though, so until next time I forget, I am ok. Also, there is a link in my question. :)
    – TLP
    Commented May 29, 2012 at 22:05
  • @TLP: Except I agree with Strix that you did build a straw man (two of them, actually, that I can see). It is the nature of a fallacy that the person who commits one often doesn't realize it until it's pointed out to them. Yes, Strix's comment is a bit of a straw man, but pointing out a fallacy with another fallacy does not make the first one go away.
    – MBraedley
    Commented May 29, 2012 at 22:23
  • @MBraedley All right, point me to where I make this logical fallacy.
    – TLP
    Commented May 29, 2012 at 22:26
  • @TLP: The first paragraph under "Opinion" is what Strix was referring to, I believe. Yes, a charitable reading is unlikely to be seen as a straw man, but a neutral reading generally is. The second is perhaps not as much a straw man as it's a faulty premise. You say that SE will suffer for one time use questions and out of date information, despite providing no real proof of that. In fact, I've seen answers revised within an hour of a game going live or a patch being pushed, and based on the view counts of my questions across all of SE, there don't seem to be that many one time use questions.
    – MBraedley
    Commented May 29, 2012 at 22:43
  • @MBraedley I think I know what you mean. I wrote And *so* they must be removed, which makes it sound like a causal connection. That's not what I meant, and I apologize. I changed it to And *that* they must be removed. As for the second part, it is just my own observation. At stackoverflow there are thousands of questions asked daily, and yet old questions rarely have more than a handful of views. Which to me seems to indicate that many questions are in fact never revisited, and as such only had "one use".
    – TLP
    Commented May 29, 2012 at 22:55

4 Answers 4


So I want to address a specific fallacy regarding (as well as it's equivalent on Sci-Fi, a site with a similar 'style' of expert, which I'll get to in a moment) - specifically, the idea that, as the 5th most frequently used tag on the site, that these questions are in some way overwhelmingly popular. The thing is, that tags on Gaming.SE are, well, they aren't really the same as tags on say, Mathematics. The thing about knowledge, and about expertise, is that it can grow in two different directions. Some SE sites favor depth - Math is a good example. With 50,000 questions, Mathematics only has 666 tags - 2.5x the number of questions we do, but only 1/3rd the number of tags! On Gaming, we have 20,000 questions, and nearly 2000 tags. Gaming.SE is about breadth.

What does this have to do with ITG you ask? Well, here's the thing: the vast majority of tags on Gaming.SE only have a few questions. Because the specific expertise our site taps into tends to be more about breadth than depth, we don't have many wildly popular tags (the current surge of questions being kind of the exception that proves the rule in some ways.) In fact, our top tags list is largely dominated by what I'll call, for lack of a better term 'organizational' tags. Some of them, like platform tags are essentially meta-tags that don't so much represent a specific 'area of expertise' as they do 'a thing that is important to know about' for a lot of questions. In fact, of our top fifty tags, 19 of them - more than a third! - are such 'cross-game tags'. I'm not going to get into the debate about whether or not these tags are valid at the moment, but I want to make the point that these tags are generally 'popular' in terms of number of questions not because the subject matter are themselves popular - (I really doubt that is actually a popular subject) - so much as because the vast majority of our content is more heavily subdivided. wasn't so much 'wildly popular' relative to other content on the site as it was more heavily aggregated together under a single tag.

If you look at the number of questions per tag, you'll see that after the first page, the number drops off very sharply. The ratio of number of questions between our most popular tag, and our 36th most popular tag is roughly 14:1. On SciFi, which shares a similar 'style' of organization, where a few monster tags that span a large variety of subjects, and most content falls in to the long tail, the ratio is 13:1. By contrast, on the SE's that are built more around depth-based knowledge areas (and, incidentally, SE's that don't really have issues with guessing game questions like this), the drop off in tag popularity is much less precipitous - tag popularity in general follows a more even distribution. For example, on Math, it's 6:1, on Programmers, it's 5:1, for Security it's 7:1, etc.

There are arguments you can make for ITG or other 'controversial' question types and subjects, but please, lets not use popularity - at least as measured by number of questions bearing the tag (if you want to go diving for data on views or votes, that's another story) - as one of them.

  • 3
    Good answer. I guess I am mostly just sad because getting my answer was like a magic trick, and it was a service I could hardly get anywhere else. It might seem a small thing, naming something you look back on fondly but can't find again, but for me, and I think many others, a valuable thing.
    – TLP
    Commented May 30, 2012 at 1:50
  • Good point, eloquently stated.
    – sjohnston
    Commented May 30, 2012 at 20:59
  • @TLP, I compiled a set of statistics on ITG questions during the Great Debate, which you can read in the second half of my answer here: meta.gaming.stackexchange.com/a/4106/13845
    – agent86
    Commented May 30, 2012 at 22:29
  • Too bad there isn't a way to see how many people ignore a tag, that could help to understand how "popular" a tag actually is. technical-issues has the 8th most questions, but e.g. I ignore it, because almost all of the questions there are bad. Only 48 of those 1601 questions, 3%, have a score of 10 or more. Compared to e.g. minecraft-redstone, 50 out of 447, 11%. The average (non-deleted) question score is 2.2885 for technical-issues and 3.9888 for minecraft-redstone (modified query). Commented May 3, 2019 at 9:49

This isn't some debate that happened over the course of a couple weeks, it's been an on-going topic since the earliest days of the site. Sorry, but the decision was already made and voted on.

  • 6
    It doesn't mean that the decision is closed forever, though. The decision was taken following a vote and if there was enough evidence that the community now feels differently from when the vote was first held then a revote isn't out of question.
    – badp
    Commented May 29, 2012 at 20:34
  • 3
    @badp I agree, but I think 3 months is too short to revisit that discussion, because considering how close the vote was you are still going to have a lot of people supporting ITG, but that doens't mean they are in the majority. It would also take more than one user basically just stating "I liked ITG" to convince me it's a discussion worth revisited.
    – Wipqozn Mod
    Commented May 29, 2012 at 20:45
  • 3
    If the community changes its mind then no amount of time is too short - out of principle. There needs to be evidence though that voting wouldn't be a waste of everybody's time.
    – badp
    Commented May 29, 2012 at 21:15
  • FWIW, I won't undelete them all should the policy change in the future :)
    – juan
    Commented May 29, 2012 at 21:39
  • 1
    @Wipqozn I'm sorry, but I think my argument went far beyond "basically just stating" that I liked ITG. I think something that is popular should not be removed. You may read my question for the longer version.
    – TLP
    Commented May 29, 2012 at 22:10
  • 5
    @TLP The idea that popularity should drive what is allowed on the site is a quick path to disaster.
    – bwarner
    Commented May 29, 2012 at 23:50

"Nope, sorry, we don't sell those anymore. Everyone wants them! I hate it. People flock to my store to buy those damnable cookies! My cash register was overflowing, for gods sake! Get outta here, you bum! We only sell healthy cookies, cookies that are good for you."

Make sense to you?

No, it doesn't, because that's not remotely similar to how I think or the state of things. Try this one:

"Nope, sorry, we don't sell those any more. 99% of them came out looking dilapidated and no one wanted to buy any. In fact, they were keeping everyone out of the store because they looked so gross. Even the good cookies were selling less because these cookies were such utter trash. Try one of our more reliable flavors."

We considered whether to bake batches of cookies and just toss the 99%. We decided not to. Whether you voted or not was on you, to pay attention to the goings-on and to be active enough to vote.

  • Isn't it up to the community to weed out and correct low quality questions? Not by banning them, but by moderating them.
    – TLP
    Commented May 29, 2012 at 22:58
  • 4
    @TLP The community decided it had enough and banned them. Deal with it. Commented May 29, 2012 at 22:59
  • I'm sorry, but you have no right to tell me to shut up, and I would ask you kindly to refrain from doing so.
    – TLP
    Commented May 29, 2012 at 23:04
  • 7
    @TLP Just because you refuse to understand the arguments we present doesn't make them any less valid. The community decided to ban questions because the community decided they weren't worth dealing with. You have been largely absent from the community. If you cared, you should have shown up at the appropriate time to voice your opinion. Commented May 29, 2012 at 23:07
  • No, 34 people over 27 decided to ban ITG questions, not the community. I understand the arguments well enough, but IMO neither of them explain why ITG questions hurt SE. One valid point I could possibly see is that unanswerable questions reflect badly on the SE-concept.
    – TLP
    Commented May 29, 2012 at 23:38
  • 4
    @TLP Those 61 votes are the people in the community who could be bothered enough to consider the arguments and make a decision. If you sat out, that's your own fault. Commented May 29, 2012 at 23:41
  • I never said it wasn't.
    – TLP
    Commented May 29, 2012 at 23:48
  • 6
    @TLP Then what on Earth are you trying to accomplish? Commented May 29, 2012 at 23:54

Here are the four most relevant questions on the issue, spanning the course of a little more than 2 months, with most of the discussion occurring over the span of 2 weeks. Yes, Jeff's post on the issue kicked us into high gear, but it was going to happen anyway, and would still have basically the same outcome without Jeff's prompting.

Between Jeff's post, and the four questions I linked, all of your questions should be answered. Suffice it to say that ITGs cannot work as a whole on Gaming.SE, nor can "identify this" questions work on other SE sites. The one good ITG question we might get is not worth the 99 others that would be utter %&#$.

  • 2
    Yes, I've read the arguments, but I found them lacking. There is a lot of talk of spirit and quality and whatnot, but no real argument as to what harm the questions do. Low quality questions are handled within the SE guidelines. Just because a particular category attracts low quality questions is not a real reason to prohibit all such questions. I think it is a moderation issue, not a policy issue.
    – TLP
    Commented May 29, 2012 at 22:14
  • @TLP: So instead of outright banning ITGs, let's just put this in the FAQ instead: ...Requests for game identification, except if they're really good. Yeah, that's going to go over well. What's really good? It's far to subjective to be worth the time and energy of the mods and flagging users. Even if we were somehow able to point to an objective set of criteria (which has been drafted), it's still not worth it, as someone still needs to make a decision on each and every ITG, and there will be disagreements more often than not.
    – MBraedley
    Commented May 29, 2012 at 23:34
  • 1
    Well, perhaps you are right. I'm just sad, because when gaming.SE found Proximity for me, it was like a moment of pure magic. They did something that Google and all my google-mojo failed at.
    – TLP
    Commented May 29, 2012 at 23:41

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