Why does Harbinger have only 4 claws?

This question was closed, and I honestly don't know why. In reading the question, I am confused as to how people thought it was not constructive. I've voted to reopen, but I want to hear the other side.

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    Because while questions about plot and character are generally on topic, playing Poke The Plot Hole is the sort of thing that makes Scifi.SE so unbearable. Questions of that nature are fundamentally either speculative or unanswerable, and end up attracting the worst sort of answers. – LessPop_MoreFizz Sep 6 '12 at 1:34
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    @LessPop_MoreFizz First off, this isn't about 'Poking the Plot Hole' as it is about a story relevant piece of information (see the answer). Secondly, even if it was, wondering about an aspect of the story and how it relates to other similar artifacts can be very important. 90% of the time, it can mean something. This questions tone and intent isn't about "Oh, hey, look how bad they messed up!" It is more "A is different than B, is there a reason". – LoveAndCoding Sep 6 '12 at 1:38
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    @Ktash: When we look specifically at Harbinger, I would argue it borders on the edge of "ask the dev", which has been agreed on to be off-topic and not constructive. There is, however, a good answer for why the other main Reapers don't all look exactly alike. Why Harbinger doesn't look the same is boring. Why none of them look the same is interesting. – MBraedley Sep 6 '12 at 2:35
  • @MBraedley Wasn't there evidence shown for the answer that was given? It may border on "ask the dev," but no one had to ask a dev to get the answer. And frankly, someone's opinions on what is interesting and what isn't interesting shouldn't matter when it comes to the validity of questions. I don't care about League of Legends, so I don't look at those questions. That shouldn't stop the community from asking them. – SocioMatt Sep 6 '12 at 12:14
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    @SocioMatt: Take a look at the two linked questions again. The fact that there is an answer is pretty irrelevant WRT whether it's on-topic or not. And since there is an answer, then perhaps what we're looking at is a question wrongly worded. It shouldn't be "Why is Harbinger different?", but rather "I notice Harbinger is different from Sovereign. Is Harbinger the only unique Reaper, or are they all different and why?" It just happens to be the case that the answers to these two questions are the same. The fact that the second is much more interesting doesn't make the first one bad. – MBraedley Sep 6 '12 at 20:53

I'd like to caution us about this particular policy - it's a real thin line between closing questions like this and making most/all of character/story/plot-related questions fall into this category.

I can see closing questions that clearly ask for fan speculation, are thinly disguised rants, have no basis whatsoever in the game universe, or "what do you think?" kind of opinion solicitation, but saying "I don't understand this plot, character, or story element, did I miss something?" is a valid question as far as I'm concerned.

Just like having an answer doesn't make a question good, I'd argue that potentially not having an answer doesn't make a question bad. If a question is attracting speculative or otherwise non-authoritative answers, we can downvote and delete them, and even protect the question if needed. I don't see a problem with answering questions with "we don't know, there's no canonical answer" if that's the only authoritative answer that can be given.

How do we decide if something is a valid plot/story question or a bad "plot hole" question? There are many, many plot and story related questions that only true experts in a particular game/game series/game universe can really be knowledgeable enough to sort them. Isn't attracting and pairing these experts with intelligent questions part of our mission? When we close a question like this, we say "your expertise and enthusiasm is not the kind of contribution we value."

To the "not a real problem" argument, I'd counter that as long as we consider plot and story questions to be on-topic, not understanding plot or story has to be considered a real problem.

OrigamiRobot has suggested that the real reason this is a problem is because the question addresses a cosmetic difference in a character design, but that's not a reason to close either. Asking why Chell from Portal has weird metal strips attached to her boots and what they're for is a character question, relates to her appearance, and an interesting, good question at that.

Pushing these things to Sci-Fi & Fantasy if they are plot/story related is also problematic - what happens with games that aren't science fiction or fantasy related, or whose universes are entirely within video games? We certainly haven't been migrating any of these questions, have we spoken to the mods over at SF&F about whether or not this type of thing falls into their camp?

I think closing is the wrong tool here - it seems to be the one we prefer to bring out whenever we go "I don't like this." If a question is uninteresting, then ignore it. If it doesn't show research effort, downvote it. If it might attract poor answers from people who don't know better, flag non-answers and/or protect it. If letting valid answers to the question accumulate would be bad for the site, close it.

Here's a short list of questions that I feel are extremely similar to the one that has been closed, but are currently open.

What are the connections between Portal series plot and Half-Life series plot?

We've got some fan-created timelines on here, and an almost purely speculative answer. Only the devs know for sure exactly how the two universes are related, right?

Who or what is the "other M" in Metroid: Other M?

Who knows why the game creators titled this game the way they did? Certainly nobody who is posting answers here - they're guessing by their own admission.

Do the Reapers only kill sentient life?

Oh, the reapers' timeline doesn't match up with human evolution timeline. That's just a potential plot hole. Someone at bioware probably screwed up or didn't care about the science of evolution when making their videogame universe.

Why was Captain Price in prison in Modern Warfare 2?

There's no real explanation in the game about why he's in prison, so this is speculative.

What is Tyrael?

Tyrael's powers and his abilities don't make sense. LessPop pretty much says "this is a plot hole/plot device" in his answer.

What's the meaning of the flash in the Pelican outro cutscene?

What happened to Master Chief following the events of Halo 3? Only the devs of Halo 4 know at this point (and we didn't even know there was a Halo 4 when this was posted). Maybe he died after going into hypersleep.

Why is Anderson not a councilor?

Anderson's job changed between games? That's a potential plot hole. Yeah, there's an answer, but that doesn't matter, right?

Why is Izual a demon again?

Another character in Diablo 3 whose backstory doesn't make sense. These guys should form a support group. VTC.


Why are we being put through testing in Portal? Cause it's a game! Without it, there'd be no game. It's a plot device to get the story moving. The answer is "because Valve thought that would be an effective impetus to get the player going."

Do the Illusive Man's eyes mean anything?

The Illusive Man has blue eyes because he was designed by Bioware to look that way. It's explained in the comics? Well, that's a SciFi question then.

What really happened in the desert?

Oh, a game hero does something that would kill a normal person and gets up and runs around like nothing happened 10 minutes later. This plot hole's practically a action movie cliche. How'd he do this? Because it's a game, and that's the pacing the developers decided on.

This is just the results of a 10-minute search for the word "plot" - I'm certain there are far more questions here just like them.

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    meta.gaming.stackexchange.com/questions/5325/… – user9983 Sep 8 '12 at 16:47
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    @OrigamiRobot, you might not think this is a plot/character-question-related discussion, but it's clear that others do. Appearance is also part of characters/character design. If I get some time later, perhaps I can address that concern as well. – agent86 Sep 8 '12 at 16:50
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    And not all questions about characters are constructive. – user9983 Sep 8 '12 at 16:53
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    Your Chell question is not the kind of thing I am talking about. I am saying comparing cosmetic differences of important NPCs to other members of that NPC's race is Not Constructive unless that difference is a direct plot point. Again, see Ashley's Darunia example. – user9983 Sep 8 '12 at 16:58
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    @OrigamiRobot, One of the linked questions is incredibly on point to your discussion - gaming.stackexchange.com/questions/54408/… - comparing two humans who have different eye colorations and asking for the significance :) – agent86 Sep 8 '12 at 17:03
  • Thanks. DV'd and VTC'd. Now that I think of it, if the eyes do have any significance, it would probably be covered by this. So it is either NC or a dupe. That being said, if someone were to ask something like "What are all the Reaper variants?" I think that would be far more acceptable and cover the Harbinger question. – user9983 Sep 8 '12 at 17:07
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    @agent86 Counterpoint: A great deal of attention is brought to the Illusive Mans eyes, both through cinematography and dialog, throughout the trilogy. Attention is never given to the number of arms on Harbinger. It could just as easily be a mistake as a plot point, for all of the diegetic attention it gets. – LessPop_MoreFizz Sep 8 '12 at 23:04
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    @LessPop_MoreFizz, I don't think "speculative likelihood of the subject of the question being a plot hole" is really a good criteria for closing or not closing a question. – agent86 Sep 9 '12 at 3:07

In this one particular random case, it happened to be a thing that actually meant something. I am pretty much convinced that that is an outlier at best - most of the time, these questions are just random stuff that is speculative or completely unanswerable other than by rampant theory or the developers, and well, we have close reasons for that sort of stuff.

I could ask a million zillion questions of this type. "Why is Darunia the only bearded Goron?" "Why is Mario red and Luigi green?" "Why is Wario short and round, and Waluigi tall and thin?" and so on.

This strikes me as very similar to a discussion we have had before, about why things got designed the way they did in games or gaming industry practices. Matthew Read's answer on the first question I linked sums up the point I am trying to make - more often than not, we are not going to be able to answer these sorts of questions, they're not practical, and they're not something that really fits with what we do. If we allow every speculative "why is this thing this way" sort of question, I think we will just end up with a bunch of random trivia-esque questions, which we have kinda made clear are something we don't want to attract.

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    The bottom line here is that "Answerability does not make a question okay". Just because it has an answer, doesn't mean it should be answered. – Raven Dreamer Sep 6 '12 at 3:15
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    @RavenDreamer Well, here at least. I think that this question would do quite well on SciFi.SE. We don't have to be everything to everyone, especially when there's a site that does this one thing far better and more enthusiastically than us. – user3389 Sep 6 '12 at 4:08
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    So if in "In this one particular random case, it happened to be a thing that actually meant something," why was the question closed? The cited reason was that the question could "solicit debate, arguments, polling, or extended discussion," but any debate about this question was geared toward relevance of plot questions in general. I agree that there are questions out there that would not be constructive, but given the fact that there was a factual answer to this it seems it should have remained open. – SocioMatt Sep 6 '12 at 12:11
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    @SocioMatt Because questions like this aren't about a problem anyone is having with the game. It borders "Why did the devs design it this way." As LessPop said, we don't need questions of "Poke the plot hole". It doesn't matter if it can be answered or not; the base question type is not a good fit. – Frank Sep 6 '12 at 12:46
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    @fbueckert I don't really want to get back to the discussion of whether plot questions are problems or not since it was played out in the OP. And it may border on the dev question, but it doesn't cross it. I don't think that taking a shotgun approach to all questions of this type is the best solution. In this instance there was an explanation that was plot driven. That doesn't mean it will be the case for every question of this type. – SocioMatt Sep 6 '12 at 13:02
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    @SocioMatt If the whole Identify-this-Game debacle taught us anything, it was that one good question isn't going to save the category. I see this as no different. Just because some people think this question was good doesn't mean the overall category of questions is allowed. – Niro Sep 6 '12 at 13:51
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    @Fluttershy The Identify-this-Game question dealing with the Alienware advertisement also wasn't closed. I don't see either of these as "save the category questions", but they shouldn't be closed just because the category as a whole is generally terrible. Individual instances where questions are good stay open (as evidenced by the Identify-this-Game question). "Plot and characters in games" is a viable question, so I'm not sure why this question falls into the not allowed category. It deals with a specific plot point that can be answered. – SocioMatt Sep 6 '12 at 14:01
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    @SocioMatt And that's where RavenDreamer's and MarkTrapp's comments come in. Answerability doesn't make a good question. I voted to close the Alienware question as well. And I will continue to cast close votes on questions that I feel aren't well suited for Arqade. – Niro Sep 6 '12 at 14:26
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    I'm with Fluttershy on this one. If we allow one because it's answerable, we open the door to all the bad and borderline questions that fall into the same category. Ergo, I will be voting to close any question that I feel fall into this category. – Frank Sep 6 '12 at 14:43
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    @SocioMatt Please stop making the argument that plot questions are on topic. Nobody is saying plot questions are off topic. This is not a plot question. It is asking about a trivial cosmetic difference that happens to be explained by a plot point. See Ashley's Darunia example for why this is not constructive. – user9983 Sep 6 '12 at 23:42
  • @OrigamiRobot gaming.stackexchange.com/questions/53692/… Last question: how is this constructive? You're asking a question about what will occur in a game, not a problem you were having with the game. – SocioMatt Sep 7 '12 at 12:25
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    @OrigamiRobot And for that matter, gaming.stackexchange.com/questions/76451/… should probably also be removed based on this discussion. – SocioMatt Sep 7 '12 at 12:26
  • @SocioMatt - The former: I wanted to know if I should be actively trying to get Legion to be a member of my squad. It very much affects how I play the game. The latter: I agree it should be removed. Also, you can edit your comments within 5 minutes. Or just delete the first one and post it again with the additional content. – user9983 Sep 7 '12 at 16:23

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