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When it comes to video games, some people that I know personally don't consider them as software while I do and game recommendations are off topic on Arqade. Assuming that a user posts a detailed question would video game recommendation questions be on topic? if so would consoles be included as well or will they have to be for PC games?

Example Questions

  • What game is set in a sandbox world, has crafting, resource collection and has bosses to fight

  • What RPGs are there which come shipped with a game editor and support loading mods

  • Where can I find a First Person Shooter which uses real world military language/procedures/practices and can be played in single player

  • What editor for [GAME] would be best suited for a beginner modder

  • What [CONSOLE] games have a modding community

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As far as I know, there is no common definition of software by which video games would not be considered software. Wikipedia explicitly includes video games as a form of "application software". The term "entertainment software" is a common technical term for video games. It is true that games would not be considered software tools, but I could not find anything on Area 51 or here which would restrict questions to being solely about tools. Ergo, games should be technically on topic here. There should not be a de jure ban on questions asking about games.

Perhaps the strongest reason for not explicitly banning games is that it is then necessary to define what is a game, which is a slippery slope. There is no sharp line separating games from tools. If I want an orbital mechanics simulator, then Kerbal Space Program is one of the best for its price. The use of "edutainment" games as serious educational tools is increasingly common in schools today. Flight simulators are regularly used as training tools for pilots, but are also often marketed as games. If I wanted a program to design and practice with virtual flashcards, it would be silly to exclude those that keep score "because they are video games". And is Magic Cube 5d a tool for visualizing an otherwise impossible object, or a video game? There isn't any useful way to separate what is a tool from what is a game in these cases.

It is true that the concerns of most people asking for video game recommendations will be different from the concerns of most people looking for tools. It requires different expertise to recommend games than it does most tools. This is not really a problem any more than with other types of software. It would also require very different expertise to recommend a robust gyrokinetic simulator for calculating turbulent transport in a particular type of fusion reactor (namely a familiarity with a number of deep issues in magnetohydrodynamic simulation) than it would to recommend a good antivirus program. The former is undoubtedly still a tool, and it's software developed for a specific practical purpose, but it isn't exactly mainstream software and it's far from guaranteed that the answers here would be good or useful. In this regard, the fact that video games aren't what most people here are experts on is a problem, but not any bigger of a problem than this example question would have. Nor are they worse than asking about software for creating artwork on a tablet or for teaching students in a classroom, each of which also requires significant knowledge outside of just computer software to answer.1

With that said, there should not be any special arrangements or concessions made for game recommendation questions. They need to still be good questions by the standards of the site. If the question is narrow enough to have only a few possible answers, and focuses on technical aspects of the game as a piece of software rather than subjective aspects, it will not be any worse than other questions here. If the question is highly subjective (e.g. "I liked X, what else should I play?") or overly broad (e.g. "Recommend me a first person shooter with zombies") it is a bad question, and should be dealt with the same as problem questions for other types of software. This will probably result in a de facto situation where most game rec questions just don't work well here. However, there's no reason at this early stage to be excluding all such questions, which are not yet demonstrably a problem and aren't really any worse than other types of questions.

TLDR No special policy is needed yet for dealing with game recommendation questions. They should be judged the same as questions on other types of software. So long as the community moderation here works properly for other types of software, it will also work for questions where the desired software happens to be a game.

1 This is honestly going to be a big problem for this site, but it's a pretty fundamental one given this site's nature as the source on SE for all types software recommendations. That entails that experts need to be knowledgeable about all types of software. Banning games does nothing to fix the problem, as one still needs to be knowledgeable about tools used in every industry and profession in the world to cover the full scope of this site.

  • Sample question softwarerecs.stackexchange.com/questions/826/… – Braiam Feb 10 '14 at 2:18
  • I agree - games are still software. We do have a community specifically for gaming elsewhere on the network (Arqade) where these types of questions are off topic but if we went ahead and allowed gaming recommendations we could probably come to an agreement with them to draw upon their expertise to answer them. – Flyk Feb 10 '14 at 8:59
  • "As far as I know, there is no common definition of software by which video games would not be considered software" - dictionaries are not a good way of resolving these questions – Casebash Feb 19 '14 at 13:14
15

If Software Recommendations SE is able to put together a great method of entertaining certain types of quality recommendation questions, it's entirely conceivable that other sites might pick up on the success and begin relaxing rules pertaining to these types of questions. I discussed this a bit at the end of the introductory guidelines that Gilles cites.

For this to work, we can't start getting into just general recommendations - because then we not only have to work at dealing with the problems that are intrinsic to recommendation questions, we also pick up the problems of our failed 'Gadgets' site - where nobody was really an expert since the range of questions was so huge.

Let's stick to software for now. Still, I recommend you read the 'What if this works?' section of the guidance I wrote up, if you haven't yet done so.

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    We're in beta. How about just giving it a try, for instance 50 questions, and decide based on that? It is too early to start closing all game questions, which is what some are trying to do already. For instance at softwarerecs.stackexchange.com/questions/255 – Nicolas Raoul Feb 6 '14 at 3:13
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Most of this answer is inline with my thoughts on the subject. Ruling something like "being related to video games" as off-topic on a large scale seems to be looking in the wrong direction. Games are basically a kind of software and much like the line between genres in games has gotten fuzzy over the years, so too has what is and is not a game. There's a lot out there that is marketed as a game but can be used otherwise, and vice versa.

It also gets messy when you start to look at the line between games and game development. This is something that our two existing sites, Arqade and Game Dev, have oft wrestled about. Things like map editors, mod making, and the like, where do these fit? Ultimately we shipped off the ones that deal with content creation largely over to Game Development, only keeping the stuff that's constructed inside the "play" portion of the game on Arqade. But even that gets fuzzy when you look at, say, the RPG Maker series of console games. Messy, messy, messy.


To me, though, the issues largely fix themselves just by looking at the scope and nature of what we're building here. What we're constructing is a haven for people that have something they need to get done, to find software that does that for them. We aim for those who can scope their needs to a nice set of features, but at the top level, the point is to enable someone to complete a particular task or job.

We focus on that, we knock off a good portion of game-related recommendation questions - boredom and personal desire aren't problems that we solve here. Someone who asks for an alternative to what software they're using, it's because their current software isn't doing the trick for them and they need a solution that does this trick. I ask for a new game featuring platforming witch combat because I finished Tobari and the Night of the Curious Moon, the current game is done yeah but the problem is the resultant boredom I have in not having a new game to play, and that I have a particular fondness for witches. That's not a thing we strive to solve. So by looking at it this way, we knock off the mass generic "What games fit this genre?" or "What games play like this other game?" questions that make up a large portion of the potential "threat" of feasibility of the subject matter. While we serve, on a certain scale, as a directory of options for people, we strive beyond that with our focus on solving the underlying problem. That's why we require the amount of effort in answers and the like. "Something new to play with" sits quite easily underneath all our existing rules.

Once we get past that class, though, the rest of the questions should be handled neatly by our normal guidelines and requirements. Taking a look over your example questions, 2/5 are boredom solvers / taste finders that don't fit our mission, while the other three are all too broad in varying levels. If you want to find particular mod tools, you'd approach it the same way you'd try to find a particular kind of, say, architecture software that has all the specific key features you need out of it. If you want a game that simulates certain kinds of physics or mechanics, then you ask about those requirements and you get yourself what is basically like every other software recommendation we permit, just that it happens to also be a game.

Which is really where this ultimately sits - the fact that it is a game is usually tangential. Games can be valid answers to software questions if the game happens to actually solve what the person needs. They might even be the best solution. Meanwhile, questions about games that we wouldn't like on here, quite frankly we wouldn't take whether or not they were games. That the majority of questions about games will most likely fall in this category of unacceptable is a consequence of their general intent and the general nature of the search for entertainment, but that's how it goes. That's all consequences of what someone is seeking to do - and at the end of the day, it's not our job to entertain people. We solve problems on this site - that's what the experts here are geared to do.

  • It's good to have your perspective since you have some experience in game recommendations on Stack Exchange. I find myself mostly agreeing with your answer, but not completely: I still think that the fact that it is a game is important. A question like “game is set in a sandbox world, has crafting, resource collection and has bosses to fight” doesn't call for a good recommendation if it doesn't involve good gameplay, and I don't think we should allow such questions. – Gilles 'SO- stop being evil' Feb 6 '14 at 19:47
  • @Gilles I'd say that example ultimately boils back down to the goal of the recommendation is to find something new to entertain one's self, which dials back to the part where we don't deal in boredom fixes here. The notion of the game aspect being "tangential" is after we sift out that whole class of questions about what games meet criteria as needed for finding something new to play. – Grace Note Feb 6 '14 at 19:50
  • "GTD" (Getting-Things-Done) is the key-point here (as long as not messed up with "getting done with my boredom" ;) That meets my expectations of this site pretty much. Thanks, Grace, for the clear words! (+1 from me) – Izzy Feb 13 '14 at 13:22
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By and large, this site is built around the concept that people are looking for software with a practical purpose in mind. Quoting the ground rules established before the site was launched:

It's important to keep your questions as narrowly-scoped and specific as possible, because this is what's going to steer the types of answers that you receive.

Explain in detail what you hope to get out of [the software] in terms of features, license or cost

Do anything else to encourage answers to be as specific as possible

Game recommendations are very different in spirit from run-of-the-mill software recommendations. Games are a creative medium, in contrast with most software which is pragmatic (thanks to Blargh for this formulation).

Furthermore games call for very different expertise — this is not unsurmountable (there's a lot of variety of expertise in software) but games are a clearly separate category with a separate community. Just like Arqade doesn't do software support and Super User doesn't do gameplay, I think game recommendations and software recommendations belong on different sites.

Note that by game I mean recreational games — educational games, which have a practical purpose, are a different breed and should be fine like any other kind of for-a-purpose software.

Also, among your examples, one isn't a game recommendation. “What editor for [GAME]” is a software recommendation that happens to be related to playing games — again, that's for-a-purpose software, so it's fine.

Of course, for some people, gdb /dev/mem is a game… but a question asking for debugger recommendations is on-topic. A question asking what OS is most fun to debug would not be. Conversely, a question asking about Minecraft or Kerbal Space Program mods for worldbuilding would be on-topic. The distinction is not the primary purpose of the software, but the primary purpose of the recommendation.

TL,DR: A recommendation with a concrete, reproducible purpose is fine. A recommendation where personal entertainment is a primary factor is not.

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    Games are also software :) – Bernhard Feb 5 '14 at 8:24
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    @Bernhard Not really, they have different characteristics. I think computer games should be grouped with non-computer games (and possibly with other entertainment mediums) rather than with other computer software. – Gilles 'SO- stop being evil' Feb 5 '14 at 10:12
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    Games are software, development libraries are software and are much different from Microsoft Word or Adobe Flash. Target is different, but software is software. Prohibiting Games is identical as prohibiting recomending libraries on StackOverflow - both are bad ideas. – MᴀʀɪᴜsᴢS Feb 5 '14 at 15:59
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    You describe software as tools, but software tools are only a subset of software as a whole. – Kelly Thomas Feb 9 '14 at 8:19
  • @KellyThomas Tools have a purpose, which is what makes them work. I think we're coming to a consensus that we want recommendations of software for a purpose, i.e. we consider software as tools. Games tend to fail this because their purpose is to entertain rather than to be tools. – Gilles 'SO- stop being evil' Feb 9 '14 at 12:04
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    As long as we are clear about the assumptions being made here. As an analogy it is a bit like having a site titled "Book Recommendations", but only allowing discussion of non-fiction. For my part I agree with the quote, in that questions should be narrowly-scoped, but do not believe that necessarily excludes software that's primary purpose is to entertain. – Kelly Thomas Feb 9 '14 at 12:28
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    I think one of the most important points here is that Games are a creative medium, while most other Software is a pragmatic medium. Recommending a game is more like recommending, say, a music track or the like, than actually recommending a player in which that track would be run. – user98085 Feb 11 '14 at 20:07
  • @Blargh Thanks, that's a nice formulation. Stolen with attribution. – Gilles 'SO- stop being evil' Feb 11 '14 at 20:13
  • @Blargh I like that phrasing. That's a very good way to put to words some of my concerns about the matter. – Grace Note Feb 12 '14 at 3:29
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Here is a review of what we have learn from the test questions:

(Community Wiki, Please Edit)


Android educational games for small kids

Question Traits

  • System: Android
  • Mentions genre
  • Dot point requirements

Observations:


Two-persons keyboard-only racing game for Ubuntu

Question Traits

  • System: Linux
  • Mentions genre

Observations:

  • Good question score
  • 1 high quality answer

Looking for First Person, Physics based, Puzzle games

Question Traits

  • System: Linux/Windows
  • Uses Must/Should/Ideal
  • Mentions genre
  • Was specifically rigged as a test question. (As the question author, I knew roughly what answers existed before asking ~~~~Oxinabox)

Observations:

  • Good question score
  • Many high quality answers

2D Turn-based FOSS Linux game with online and hotseat multiplayer

Question Traits

  • System: Linux
  • Doesn't mention genre

Observations:


PAL Dreamcast game which still can be played online (on official server)?

Question Traits

  • System: Deamcast (a console that is many generations old)
  • Doesn't mention genre

Observations:

  • Seems unlikely to have a answer, because of the strict requirement (in this case "Official game server"), much harder to match than any genre.

Fantasy action RPG (first/third person view) for LAN co-op

Question Traits

  • System: Windows
  • Mentions genre

Observations:

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    I'm hoping the question authors will contribute towards this community wiki. Though Others should also feel free to edit in there observations and question traits etc – Lyndon White Feb 10 '14 at 5:54
  • (note that these notification didn’t work; don’t know if the comments just have to start with the @ or if, in addition, the users would have had to comment on this answer before) – unor Feb 10 '14 at 14:04
  • Bother, I guess I'll redo them. – Lyndon White Feb 10 '14 at 14:19
  • Pings won't work if the users haven't actually been in the post. For example you couldn't ping me in here until I just commented now. Same goes for all those authors you just named. – Grace Note Feb 10 '14 at 18:14
  • Would a ping from chat reach a user who has not entered the chatroom? – Kelly Thomas Feb 11 '14 at 3:31
  • @Kelly No. Moderators have the ability to do a special ping but normal circumstances do not allow someone to be pinged in a room they haven't been in. – Grace Note Feb 12 '14 at 19:39
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If a question has specific requirements, that will avoid too many options and provides direct answers with content and specification of "why I should follow this answer".

As the Ground rules states:

It's important to keep your questions as narrowly-scoped and specific as possible, because this is what's going to steer the types of answers that you receive.


At the moment there are 316 questions on the site, with only 9 questions with the tag

They tend to overrun a site.

This entire site is dedicated to this type of question, so this is obviously a moot concern.

Based on the actual situation, I say that the will not overrun the questions that tend to overrun SE sites.


the comment made by Blargh, shows a really good point:

I think one of the most important points here is that Games are a creative medium, while most other Software is a pragmatic medium. Recommending a game is more like recommending, say, a music track or the like, than actually recommending a player in which that track would be run.

If a question is well structured, independent if it's about Linux IDE to Python or Game to play at my lunch hour. There will be between 1~4 great answers.

If I say "I would like a music about love that has tragedy, sang in English (may have in other language, but I want it to be original recorded in English), that was recorded by various bands, with a slow ballad from 60~80, that also appears in TV series or movies and being well know for the public" I'll answer this with "Last Kiss"

Rule out a software of entertainment, just because it's not "educational" or "productive". It's kind harsh.

We have some questions on the site already that shows that games can co-exist with the rest of the "normal" software on the site.


PS: I think of Software Recommendation SE as a "support" site for all SE sites out there, ARQADE is one SE site as well. being ruled out by the "bullies" is not nice.

  • "Based on the actual situation, I say that the game will not overrun the questions that tend to overrun SE sites." - I'm saying that the game tag will not overrun the other questions posted on the Software recommendation SE – Michel Feb 12 '14 at 17:09
2

On-topic if the requirements are detailed enough.

The requirements should be verifiable, for instance:

  • Supported platform
  • Game genre
  • Size on disk
  • Hardware requirements

Requirements should not cover subjective experience.

If more than 5-10 games satisfy the requirements, then the question is probably too broad.

See for instance: Two-persons keyboard-only racing game for Ubuntu

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    You can't make a useful game recommendation that doesn't cover gameplay experience! – Gilles 'SO- stop being evil' Feb 5 '14 at 10:14
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    @Gilles So? The same it true for "regular" software. – Bernhard Feb 5 '14 at 18:24
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    I can't make a recommendation about a software for Linux, because I don't use Linux on daily bases. But I can for windows or mac. The same goes for games. If you can't do a recommendation, there are others that can. This is why it's a community site. It's impossible to one knows everything. – Michel Feb 12 '14 at 16:33

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