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This question is sparked by the following three questions:

All three are ostensibly similar in that they observe that a bug exists in an old game, and ask for an explanation of how the bug causes the behavior (or, at least, imply that that's what they're really looking for).

The community's (and my) reaction to the three questions is distinct in each one.

The Super Mario Minus World question is highly-upvoted (although that's also because it was on the HNQ list), and has two good answers that explain why the bug behaves as it does. The Mario 64 Parallel Universes question was less warmly received, and has a single good answer. The Goldeneye question was not well received, and has been closed. (For the record, I was one of the close voters.)

My reaction to the first is that it's a famous bug that became a part of gaming lore, that an explanation of how it works is interesting, and that the code behind the game is simple enough to understand to be able to make this explanation. My reaction to the second is that it's a bug that makes speedruns faster and is potentially interesting to some people. My reaction to the third is that it's a bug related to invalid input, so of course buggy things are going to happen, and what goes on behind the scenes isn't particularly interesting or relevant.

Retro games and games consoles are on topic. Retro coding is on topic. Are questions about bugs in retro games on topic, and do we need guidelines about them?

I'll post one answer that can be voted on, but, as a fairly casual user of the site, I'm more than happy to see what the community comes up with.

  • It also occurs to me that this question could be easily broadened into one about retrocomputing bugs in general, and whether most are or aren't on topic, but some famous ones are (such as the Morris Worm, or Y2K problems). Let me know if making it more general might be better for the site. – Dranon Oct 30 '19 at 16:43
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    I don't see why bugs in general shouldn't be on-topic. We accept questions about the workings of old software, bugs are just part of their working, as written. – Chenmunka Oct 30 '19 at 17:38
  • @Chenmunka Bugs in general are on-topic, as far as I'm aware. But there's a case for special-casing computer games (it's been brought up a lot, in several different ways, before on meta). I disagree, but there are legitimate arguments for it. – wizzwizz4 Oct 30 '19 at 18:56
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Yes

Computer games are just as on-topic as any other software. While questions about incredibly niche, potentially-unintended reactions to extremely specific inputs to uninteresting programs are probably not good questions, they're on-topic.

Any line we draw is likely to exclude good questions, and I see no real reason to tie our scope to something that correlates with quality; that's what voting is for. (And, in fact, I don't see that correlation in this case; questions about the behaviours of computer games when given certain input tend to yield interesting answers about the games' implementation.)

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    Having slept on it, I agree with your opinion. I also realized that my criteria would exclude questions about the Pac Man kill screen, which is a notable piece of gaming lore that will never be directly encountered by a casual player. – Dranon Oct 31 '19 at 14:28
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Mostly not.

The majority of bugs are not on topic, because bugs are bugs, and can cause all manner of nonsensical or undesirable (or desirable to speedrunners but no one else) behavior.

The only exception would be for bugs that are fairly notable or famous among casual players at the time the game was current, and can be triggered or encountered by casual players.

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Rather Not.

While I would, in general, like to accept game related questions, all of the mentioned are not in any way retro computer related. They are all about game play, not the underlaying hard or software. And that's where I would try to draw the line.

  • Not because they may not fit in some way RC.SE
  • But because they way better fit other sites.

Places like Arquade within Stack Exchange but more so dedicated gamer sites focus on that kind of questions. There is no reason to compete. Strength comes from focusing, not fading.

Having said that, there is as of course an intersection with such topics, especially when they leave the area of joystick pushing and dig into coding or real (*1) hardware relation. So as with many on-off-topic decisions it's about common sense.

In addition, as Dranon already mentioned, there are topics that have left the realm of obscure and found a place in the general public, outside the gamer culture.


In general, we should never foster the idea that focusing will cost us 'good' questions. Beside having the baseless implication that we have to beg for questions, it is as stupid as politicians avoiding any decision, to move forward, out of fear of loosing votes.

Not questions are the value of RC.SE, but answers are.

We have a serious base of great people giving incredible answers surprising me every day. We should be looking forward and focus on collecting answers, not longing for questions disregarding quality and relevance.


*1 - Not just assumed ones, like in the N64 question.

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