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There has been a recent spate of 'identify this game' posts that are woefully short on content. The general style is that the questioner remembers playing a game, provides vague details ('it was on a Windows PC'), and invites the members to play guessing games.

No screen shots, no solid information, just childhood memories.

I understand we permit 'identify this game', but surely that means presenting something more concrete about the game that is to be identified?

Even if some answer is magically elicited, it seems like a dead end for the forum. Is anyone else likely to find the answer useful?

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    After two weeks the consensus seems to be we grudgingly allow them? Too bad SE's embrace of AI doesn't extend to progeny: It would be nice if Retro.SE and Arcqade.SE got together and had a baby.
    – davidbak
    Aug 13, 2023 at 20:29
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    I'd say that the consensus among the small amount of answers are more "if they should be allowed they need to be better controlled".
    – UncleBod
    Sep 16, 2023 at 15:02
  • More of such crap: retrocomputing.stackexchange.com/questions/27815/… retrocomputing.stackexchange.com/questions/27809/… What the heck do arcade games have to do with retrocomputing?
    – dave
    Oct 7, 2023 at 23:16
  • I propose that we reject questions about arcade games.
    – dave
    Oct 7, 2023 at 23:22

5 Answers 5

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On sites like SciFi.SE where they allow identification questions, they are quite strict on requiring detail. They also regularly close such questions as duplicates of earlier identifications.

I wouldn't expect a screenshot in a question. After all, if you can't remember it, you haven't got it to screenshot. However, a level of detail is essential.

Maybe we should just be stricter in closing as "needing details or clarity".

Personally, I'm happy to allow identification questions but if the consensus is to ban them entirely I won't be upset.

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I understand we permit 'identify this game',

I'm not happy with any non-technology-related questions in general(*1) and gaming especially. After all, this is Retro-COMPUTING, not Retro-GAMING.

But I also see that this community does have some deep knowledge about games. We all had (or still have) our joystick-waggling days (*2). Bottom line, I can see some reasoning, but I do not have to like it.

but surely that means presenting something more concrete about the game that is to be identified?

Good point. Some my have noticed my habit of asking for more information, in such cases and, if additional information is given in comments, redirecting them to update the question instead. Works sometimes, but less often than desired. Quite a few get obviously abandoned, like if it was just a quick post without any interest in following up, essentially wasting everyone's time.

Worse are those presented with an attitude of entitlement to an answer. A behaviour which seems to me notable more common with game questions than with any other type of question.

So if we continue to accept identify random game (*3), we need to employ common sense if the data provided is sufficient and vote for closing as "needing details or clarity", which is - unlike some assume - not a punishment but basic procedure. I will continue doing so. In contrast, I will not go for immediate down-voting, as there should be time to react and improve a question. Only if that doesn't happen in any way, should a question also be down-voted for "unclear or not useful".

Even if some answer is magically elicited,

(*4)

it seems like a dead end for the forum. Is anyone else likely to find the answer useful?

That's a general issue with all 'identify-this' questions - and in fact many others as well. After all, what good is a question about cartridge slot cost why a certain decision was made with the C64 memory mapping?

What especially the last one shows (by a high access count) is that useless knowledge is liked when it's about some topic linked to one's own past (*5). And that's what 'Identify-Game' questions can bring: the great moment of remembering that particular game when reading the answer. Nothing ground-shaking, but definitively lighting up the day.

Long story short:

  • I don't like them,
  • I don't want them, but
  • I can see a benefit for the site if kept in line, thus
  • they need to be tight regulated.

*1 - With the exception of History questions.

*2 - Heck, I still put my left hand automatic over WASD when it's about fast reaction, even with web-based purely mouse controlled games. It's deeply engraved in my muscle memory.

*3 - Which I still would like to differentiate from 'Identify Random Arcade Game', which IMHO has no place here.

*4 - Had to look that word up. Like it :))

*5 - Assuming that most hits come from people who had or still have a C64, being fond of everything related.

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    I agree. I'd rather they were not here at all, but since the site in general disagrees with me, can we at least require some substance behind them? I am trying to not be a curmudgeon about game questions in general, but it does seem to have gone downhill recently.
    – dave
    Jul 29, 2023 at 17:26
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    But I do propose that we reject "identify this arcade game" questions. An arcade game is an appliance. That it probably contains a "computer" does not make it suitable for retrocomputing. Should we permit "identify this movie" because DVD players used a microprocessor? "Identify this detergent" because washing machines are processor-controlled? Where would it end? A rule of thumb might be whether the device is intended to be programmable by the purchaser.
    – dave
    Oct 8, 2023 at 15:33
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I am probably out of step with the majority on this, but I always ask myself "how does it hurt me?". Obviously these are not the best types of questions, especially when the details are vague, but really. Who is being hurt? Is it just being annoyed at having to scroll past a question in a web browser? What about the feeling of elation the user experiences when someone actually helps them find that childhood memory? I guess I remember my BBS days, and I hated boards that were over-moderated. I've lived my life in the information should be free (and all that jazz) camp, and denying people a forum to ask civil questions feels elitist to me. But then, what do I know? It's all opinion based anyway. I'll shut-up now.

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    On that basis, we could admit any and all questions. The RC its-not-a-forum (!) has a certain focus, and thus some things are in scope and some are not. The question is therefore, where are the edges?
    – dave
    Nov 11, 2023 at 0:33
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    @another-dave, I'm not disputing there are boundaries, I'm just weighing in on the side of keeping those boundaries as wide as possible. Raffzahn used a question about C64 memory mapping as an example of 'useless knowledge', and while I respect his opinion; I found that question very interesting; so my takeaway is the moment you start deciding what is/is-not appropriate, you invariable are going to get it wrong for someone. Give that choice, I choose to err on the side of caution. Just because I don't see the merit, doesn't mean that someone else won't benefit.
    – Geo...
    Nov 11, 2023 at 15:51
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    The question, though, is surely whether 'playing a game' is anything to do with 'retrocompuing'. Playing a game in an arcade certainly is not.
    – dave
    Nov 13, 2023 at 1:36
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One thing we gain is USERS. This may not always seem immediately apparent, and I suspect that if we did an analysis of people who posted these questions we would not see a very high conversion rate, but they're not the only people we can potentially gain by being a resource which helps answer questions like these.

I can sympathize with those people who don't want the feed cluttered by "I vaguely remember this game that sounds like a fever-dream mashup of Quake and Civilization". It can be trying to spend time and effort unravelling proper historical questions which can't be answered otherwise. How many answers here to questions about older systems find the attention of an engineer who worked on those systems and who is willing to share their expertise? Making this place a space for something reputable helps us feel like we are contributing to an important larger project.

However, I can think of one other community which decided that it didn't want to be a dumping ground of video game information for much the same reasons and took strong action on the subject. Wikipedia circa 2007-2008 embroiled itself in a community struggle variously called "the notability wars" or "the pokemon wars". Users of the site, who wanted some respectability for the serious and important work they undertook, sought to discourage new editors from creating voluminous video game articles and deleted many thousands of articles sourced largely or only to games or their associated marketing materials. Users who wanted to create or maintain articles on Pokemon could go to Bulbapedia. Those who wanted to write about Star Wars could go to Wookiepedia.

Lots of people took up that invitation.

Whether Wikipedia is, in the net, worse off for having made this decision is hard to answer. What is clear to me as someone who was around for this period and involved with arguing for deletion of these articles is that we irrevocably lost large swaths of users--not just those who wrote those sorts of articles but those who would become acclimated to the environment of Wikipedia by searching out the information as readers. I can't and don't intend to estimate how large a loss that was but I suspect it was large. Not only did we lose out in numerical terms but we lost a diversity of perspectives and interests which helps keep a site like that healthy.

Given that Geo...'s answer offers a strong argument for considering a pretty limited downside, I strongly recommend that we consider the potential weight of lost future user and reader interest seriously. The people coming by to ask about random video games are using and contributing to the site, even if they're not doing so in a way or arena that we consider respectable. Ask them to leave and we just may find that they'll listen.

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    I see this as an argument for network television shows rather than serious film-makers.
    – dave
    Dec 9, 2023 at 4:21
  • what's that supposed to mean? Dec 9, 2023 at 6:13
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    It's an argument for lowered standards in order to attract the largest audience.
    – dave
    Dec 9, 2023 at 14:05
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Probably the better question to ask would be what the site might lose. On Movies and TV, the decision to ban ID questions turned out to be wildly unpopular (currently scoring -79). It alienated a lot of people, some of whom left the site upset (or greatly reduced their activity). For others, it meant fewer questions to ask or answer, and their participation also dropped (and led to them asking and answering fewer questions that weren't ID related too, simply because they weren't on the site as much).

If the problem is just that you don't personally like game-id questions, you should hide them from view by adding to your ignored tags.

If the problem is that the questions themselves are often low quality, a tag warning similar to the one for ID questions on SFF should be added.

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    it's not about keeping eyeballs for the sake of keeping eyeballs - it's whether "I vaguely recall playing a game when I was 13" has anything to do with retrocomputing.
    – dave
    Feb 2 at 22:25
  • Because Retrocomputing accepts other retro hardware and software ID questions, and also accepts non-ID retro-game-related questions that are almost always well received.
    – Laurel
    Feb 2 at 23:44

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