A few months ago, there was a debate on the Gaming Meta site about “help me remember this game” questions. Jeff came out very strongly against them, and many voices in the community spoke for them.

Now the issue has come up again on the Science Fiction site: Are book / movie / TV series identification questions allowed?

My understanding is that Gaming does allow such questions. I don't see a prohibition in the Gaming FAQ. But some people think there is a ban on them. So is there a Stack Exchange policy, or is each community free to decide?

  • unix.SE had a similar type of question lately: Looking for an old classical Unix toolkit textbook
    – miku
    Commented Jan 23, 2011 at 1:22
  • @The: No one objected to it, even though it's far outside our normal type of questions. But that's an isolated case. I think amongst the existing sites, only Gaming and SciFi are likely to get such questions. Commented Jan 23, 2011 at 1:25
  • The overwhelming upvotes on your meta question is what prompted me to ask the question on the parent site, I was under the assumption that if that kind of question was controversial that you wouldn't have so many upvotes. Commented Jan 23, 2011 at 1:43
  • Also on English language meta -- meta.english.stackexchange.com/questions/1654/…
    – DanBeale
    Commented Aug 26, 2011 at 21:25
  • @DanBeale That's not the same thing. Identify-this questions normally have a single correct answer, even if the answer is hard to determine. Single word requests may have no answer or many answers. Commented Aug 26, 2011 at 21:34
  • @Gilles - yes. Unless the asker has mashed two (or more) games / books / films / IDEs into one, or where the asker is looking for a generic game of a type. See this tron question for a generic game style - gaming.stackexchange.com/questions/11293/… and this question for a mish-mash of two games gaming.stackexchange.com/questions/26503/…
    – DanBeale
    Commented Aug 27, 2011 at 8:10

2 Answers 2


The current policy is that it is up to the individual community. There is no network-wide ban on them currently. But they're a very dangerous question type, so it may be all the better to avoid them if possible.

To clarify Gaming's exact stance, identification questions are tentatively allowed under increased scrutiny. And I would suggest that if any other site wishes to entertain them, they'd do well to be very mindful in monitoring them as well.

You can think of these in a similar vein as to how Code Golf exists on Stack Overflow - it's a bit of a game compared to a normal question. Past the original author, it is unlikely to help many users outside of the sport of naming the items; this unlikelihood is amplified by how scattered the memory of the question asker is in providing known info. As well, any truly vague ones will tend to fester and accomplish nothing by staying open other than attracting yet more junk questions of similarly lacking detail.

So taking the above into account, if you do plan to allow these on your Stack Exchange site, exercise moderation and be cautious not to let this sport overtake your standard Q&A. It feels good to help someone out with something they forgot. But remember that our ultimate goal as a part of the Stack Exchange Network is to help the larger number of people in the internet, not to be simply a personal support line for individuals. Time spent helping individuals reduces our resources to help everyone else. As JavadocMD put it wisely in a chat message,

[...]it's easy to forget that each question has a real cost: the cost of clutter and the decrease of visibility for all other questions

  • Re: "overtake your standard Q&A" - Hilariously enough, [story-identification] is now the #1 tag on Sci Fi & Fantasy, by quite a long way. The sky doesn't seem to have fallen, though.
    – Kevin
    Commented Apr 18, 2017 at 5:38

My opinion on this is here:


If we get an excellent user who asks a good, thoughtful identification question and sticks around in our community to participate, then it’s worth allowing it in those rare cases as a high quality “getting to know you” fun question.

  • Unfortunately, many of these types of questions are just awful.
    – DanBeale
    Commented Aug 26, 2011 at 21:27
  • I do not disagree with that at all Commented Aug 26, 2011 at 22:31
  • "...these questions aren’t educational in any way, because there’s no way to learn about the process of discovery. A particular community member, by virtue of their experience in the field, just happens to be able to take the limited information you remembered and fill in enough of the blanks to guess the correct answer... guessing game questions do not meet our goal of making the Internet better." (blog.stackoverflow.com/2012/02/lets-play-the-guessing-game)
    – gnat
    Commented Jan 27, 2014 at 16:15
  • @gnat the reputation system means everyone's definition of "good and thoughtful" gets very, very, VERY, strict over time. See: career questions on Stack Overflow. They used to be allowed. Commented Jan 29, 2014 at 22:24
  • agree, strictness is a function of scale. I added comment only to help readers find out how things evolved over time
    – gnat
    Commented Jan 30, 2014 at 5:00
  • 4
    @gnat the #1 side effect of the rep system I didn't foresee is strictness over time. Once lots of people have rep, they don't want others to "devalue" their rep by earning it for easy/invalid reasons. The more people you have, the more this effect increases in strength. Not sure this is at all a bad thing, but it is a fact. Commented Jan 30, 2014 at 7:32
  • I think I understand. It's not only about scale, reputation seem to play distinct role, I did not look at it from that angle yet. That's a pretty good food for thought, thank you!
    – gnat
    Commented Jan 30, 2014 at 8:02
  • ...oh my, I think I just found myself in that protect my precious rep camp! "hope they get impressed by my contribution blah blah". The point you made looks very well worth thinking about
    – gnat
    Commented Jan 30, 2014 at 9:02

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