Spawning from dispute over this question about sensitivity settings in console FPS games, what should we do about questions in the category "Why is this standard practice in the industry?"

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    Honestly, my main issue with most of these questions is that really, at their core, they're thinly veiled excuses to rant and vent about things that people don't like. We edit out the opinionated nonsense and we're left with these questions, which most of the time, we should have just closed instead. Jul 5, 2012 at 21:27
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    This question isn't 'why is this standard in the industry' though. The asker wants to know the benefits of the sensitivity adjustment feature in an FPS game. Clearly, he's not familiar with how it works, and wants clarification. I fail to see how it's different in principle from this question, or this one with 114 upvotes. If those are acceptable, this should be acceptable.
    – GnomeSlice
    Jul 5, 2012 at 23:11

4 Answers 4


Note: This idea and policy should apply to the class of questions brought up in the original post. This does not mean that it necessarily applies to the specific example question, which may not belong to that class.

Downvote, Close, Delete

Q: How is this different from "Why did they design it that way?" questions?

A: It's not.

Trying to make a distinction between these two is only going to lead to arguments over shades of gray. We already have a policy on this, and we don't seem to be having much difficulty enforcing it. The question you liked was already closed by the community.

Seriously, what is the difference between: "Why do the characters in TF2 have melee weapons?" and "Why do so many FPS games recently have melee attacks?" Nothing. They're both poor questions for our format, and should both be treated the same way. Neither has any reason to be on our site.

  • Dammit Strix, I was just about to post that.
    – MBraedley
    Jul 5, 2012 at 18:36
  • I would not call them "trash". Some of them are very interesting and can be of high quality. But I agree with you they fall under the "why did they design it that way" criteria and are better fitted for an extended discussion than our form of Q&A.
    – Oak
    Jul 5, 2012 at 19:00
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    @Oak In Strix's context, "trash" and "not a good fit for our site" are synonymous.
    – user9983
    Jul 5, 2012 at 19:04
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    I would disagree that it's not different from 'why did they design it that way' questions. A question about why a particular element of a particular game was made in a particular way is unanswerable, save by a developer. A question like the linked one here is completely answerable. There are clear difference between high and low sensitivity gameplay, each with their own benefits.
    – GnomeSlice
    Jul 5, 2012 at 23:13
  • would you say there are.. fifty.. shades.. of grey? Jul 16, 2012 at 23:51

I think this question is fine, even if it's not excellent, and I disagree adamantly with assertions that it's "The same as 'why did they design it that way' questions".

This question isn't asking why the feature is standard in the industry. The exact history of the feature is (probably) not documented very well, because it's not really important. That question isn't suitable here with the burnination of the tag, and probably wouldn't be suitable on GameDev.SE either. It's also not asking about a specific developer, and game element, but about a generally recognized feature in many modern games of a given genre. Even if he were asking about a specific element in a specific game by a specific developer, this would not simply be an unanswerable, 'why did they design it that way?' question.

The asker here wants to know what the purpose, or function of the adjustable sensitivity feature is. This is not the same thing as what I discussed above. The question is answerable, in fact more answerable than some questions I've seen go by on the site recently. There are specific reasons for giving players the option to choose their own sensitivity (see here). This isn't exactly what's going on, but we don't get to tell users on the site what they can and can't ask about just because we don't see the question as an issue. I'm sure most of us already know what adjustable sensitivity is for; great for us. That doesn't mean everyone else does. But I digress.

This is not an off-topic question, nor is it even a terribly bad question. It might not be an amazing question, but the asker seems to think it's important, and who are we to tell him that he's wrong? It seems to me that people have been stopping after 'why do' without looking at the entire question objectively. I fail to see any difference between this question and questions like this one (why do people use a certain strategy), and this one (general industry trivia).

As far as the whole argument about this question being more suitable to GameDev.SE goes... I just don't see it. The second question I linked above might actually be more at home there, but a question about why you would ever want to use the adjustable sensitivity feature in a game, and what the benefits are easily belongs here, as far as I'm concerned. That wouldn't even make much sense as a question on GameDev, which is more geared towards questions like "How wide a range should I allow players to adjust their sensitivity in?".

  • Basically, if the question asks what the developpers were thinking, burn it with fire?
    – Fredy31 Mod
    Jul 5, 2012 at 23:44
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    You make a lot of good points. I still stand by my answer for questions that fit in “Why is this standard practice in the industry?”, but maybe this particular question doesn't fit that description. Jul 5, 2012 at 23:45
  • @Fredy31 Sort of. In some situations, like this one, it's very clear what they were thinking, and a real, informative answer can be given as to the uses of a feature, or what something is for. Questions like 'why is the wizard robe blue' (extreme example off the top of my head), and questions like this are the kinds of things that are completely unanswerable except by a developer of the game, and we can't rely on that.
    – GnomeSlice
    Jul 5, 2012 at 23:48
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    +1 "Why is it standard practice?" questions are off-topic as far as I'm concerned but... you're right, this isn't that type of question (Although I didn't realize it until I read your answer).
    – Wipqozn Mod
    Jul 6, 2012 at 10:24
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    The question is one that is initially framed as "Why did the designers implement an ability to change sensitivity settings?", which would be off topic. However, this is one that is simple enough to also parse as "What are the benefits of different sensitivity settings?", which is tackled from a gamer's perspective. It's akin to why there's "Slice" and "Drag" motions in Gunbound, the gamer's side and the importance thereof is a valid inquiry.
    – Grace Note StaffMod
    Jul 6, 2012 at 12:15
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    @GraceNote I disagree that it is simple to read that way. The asker seems to be aware of the obvious correlations between sensitivity and speed and accuracy, the question was very much focused on fairness and the "why". Proposing that version to the author and editing it if he agreed would be one thing, but it's definitely a different question. Jul 6, 2012 at 16:45
  • @Matthew Sub "fix" for "parse" and you'll probably get more what I meant to say.
    – Grace Note StaffMod
    Jul 6, 2012 at 18:04
  • @GraceNote OK fair enough. Thanks Jul 6, 2012 at 18:22

Migrate to GameDev.SE

Big Honking Disclaimer: I can speak only from my own experience

I asked on Game Dev why games like Mass Effect 2 disabled save functionality during combat, and got several very good answers.

It seems that the question about sensitivity is similar to my question, and may be suited to that community as well.

  • This is usually good advice (I'd love to see fewer programming questions on GDSE!), but questions like "Why did <specific game> do <specific thing>?" (rather than "Why do games like <example game> often do <thing>?") are frowned upon on GDSE, because unless the original developer is participating or has directly addressed that issue in a postmortem it's usually just guesswork.
    – user2640
    Jul 8, 2012 at 10:38

Don't burn the house down with lemons

I think these are questions that are valid and answerable questions. Unrelated to gaming (mostly) but a possible example within this category is Why do we use a mouse on a computer? And there is a lot of evidence surrounding this material (see Fitt's Law, et al) as to why it has been chosen as an industry standard.

Most games today run play tests, and some game studios are starting to even run studies on practices within the industry (something we as gamers should learn about and encourage). It is conceivable to have answers in this category that belong to decisions made based on research rather than those just made arbitrarily and these are interesting and valuable questions. In fact, they are, in my opinion, some of the most interesting cross-game questions we could ask here on gaming.


I've heard a few say that these questions might be a better fit on GameDev.SE rather than here, but just because something can be asked in either place does not mean it is off topic here. The question as stated is not about the development of a game, but about the games themselves. It is from the perspective of a gamer, not a developer, and as such is a better fit here.

But what about the children arbitrary decisions?

Stating that there is no known research that supports the decision made by the industry is completely valid answer. We can say that this decision industry wide was not made (at least not with public knowledge) based on any information other than its success or on preferences by developers. "Because people saw others doing it and decided to do it themselves" is a valid answer (though my reflex is to cringe at that answer a little) as long as the leg work has been done to investigate that conclusion.

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    I think it's less about interest and more about ability to answer. Arqade's audience is enthusiast gamers: while these questions might be interesting to a subset of that audience, are enthusiast gamers the right expert audience to answer questions about game development best practices (or worse yet, psychological studies)?
    – user3389
    Jul 5, 2012 at 18:16
  • @MarkTrapp I can't speak for others, but educationally speaking I am. My degree is in Informatics and I've taken classes in User Studies and research around Human-Computer Interaction. I know how to analyze and find these studies and I can say from experience it isn't actually that difficult if you just go searching. That said, I think if we don't have any expert level questions, we'll never know of sure if we can attract an expert level audience. Jul 5, 2012 at 18:19
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    Your background is incidental to you being a gamer: that is, you don't need to have taken classes in user studies or have a degree in informatics to be considered an enthusiast gamer. The goal of Stack Exchange's vertical system isn't to broaden each vertical until it includes experts on every field (then we're just Quora or Yahoo! Answers), but to target the expertise of the defined vertical (in this case, enthusiast-level gaming).
    – user3389
    Jul 5, 2012 at 18:22
  • @Mark The answerer of the example question probably hasn't studied HCI either, but he seems to have done just fine in giving what I believe to be a correct answer, despite being "just a gamer".
    – bwarner
    Jul 5, 2012 at 18:25
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    @bwarner I'm not disputing that the question can be answered, I'm disputing that this is the appropriate place to ask it instead of (or in addition to) some other site that caters to that specific expertise (namely, GameDev.SE).
    – user3389
    Jul 5, 2012 at 18:28
  • @MarkTrapp This is true. But that was why I stated that those who searched for it could find this information. My background was more to illustrate that I have researched this information so that you could consider me a bit more credible in saying that finding this information when you're seeking it isn't that difficult. Gamers will be able to find it and potentially provide interesting information given the research areas they might delve into. And gamers will offer a different perspective than game developers. Like I say in my answer, the sites are not mutually exclusive in content. Jul 5, 2012 at 18:28
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    GnomeSlice's post on the question from the OP is perfectly accurate and well-written, I upvoted it, but at its core the answer is short and sweet and rude -- "people like different things, OK?". The purpose of having options is obviously to give people options; the question is incredibly silly and pointless. I agree that some questions about interaction design and what have you may be interesting, but they're best suited to CS or Game Dev. They're not our area of expertise. Overlapping expertise between sites is fine, but overlap of scope without the corresponding expertise is not. Jul 5, 2012 at 19:02

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