We get an unusually large number of questions along this line. This question comes up because of this recent closure. I'm bringing it up because our handling of this is... inconsistent.

This question is roughly identical in nature to the above, except it's not downvoted at all (possibly due to being slightly less ranty-looking?) and it is not closed. They're both asking "Why did developers/publishers make this choice in this situation?".

I had an early spot with badp during our Beta about this question that approaches a different facet - "Why did the game developers design the mechanics in this fashion?", as the superset. I've always stated that this is a side of game development, as it deals not with the game, but the motivation behind the design. And there's also the part where sometimes the answer simply is "They wanted to make it that way."

A lot of these motivation-behind-design questions, sometimes we'll know a general answer (as demonstrated with the region-lock), and sometimes we just know it's simply a matter of design decision.

What do we think about our policy for this? It's honestly in limbo right now. I originally continually espoused that "This is off-topic for us, it's a matter that is primarily known by the game developer, and while it may impact gamers to an extent it is not always a matter that gamers will, or should, answer." But this policy hasn't really ever gone through any review, so I've honestly been lax on its enforcement. As such, let's spend some simple time to decide how these should be handled. Do we accept "Why are games made in this way?" questions, only under certain circumstances, and most importantly, how can we make it a simple policy that is both easy to enforce and easy to explain?

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So, I've seen this post uses at the reason for a couple of close attempts‌​. Now I completely understand how "curiosity" questions aren't motivated by a real problem. But it seems to be that the effect of patches on the current meta-game (as both of the questions I linked are about) are germane to our site. –  tzenes Aug 16 '11 at 3:55
    
Now, I think you can make an argument that patches are localized in time (as they are), but keeping a historical record of how the metagame progressed might also be useful. Regardless I think that is a separate topic from this one, and this should not be used as a close reason for that. –  tzenes Aug 16 '11 at 3:56
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I agree, this isn't about patch notes and how they affect balance or game changes. –  Grace Note Aug 16 '11 at 10:37
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5 Answers 5

They should be disallowed.

The whole "Because they did, OK?" problem has been discussed, so I won't go into that.

Their often greater suitability to Game Dev has also been discussed.

The other problem I see: They're not real questions. Beyond the facet that many aren't answerable, they contradict this guideline from the FAQ:

You should only ask practical, answerable questions based on actual problems that you face.

"I'm wondering why they did this" is not a real problem needing a solution from the perspective of a gamer. How to deal with or alter the game mechanics may be a problem, but the "why" of it is not. Game devs might legitimately wonder about this as they design and market their games, so again they might be better on Game Dev; but they are not useful here.

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"'I'm wondering why they did this' is not a real problem needing a solution" -- nice and solid argument. –  jmfsg Jun 22 '11 at 17:12
    
Why is this tidbit cited for questions about "Why did they design it that way", but ignored for questions about game backstory? –  ElephantHunter Jun 11 '12 at 23:10
    
If you want to get technical, people do not need to know gaming.stackexchange.com/questions/65181/…, or gaming.stackexchange.com/questions/29707/…. These are not real problems presented in the games. You could get through both Diablo 3 and Deus Ex without ever knowing these things. –  ElephantHunter Jun 11 '12 at 23:26
    
@ElephantHunter To be honest I'm not particularly a fan of those, but I do differentiate "what" (those questions) from "why" (the questions under consideration). Story questions have at least on-topicness going for them, whereas game dev questions don't; the "no actual problem" and "speculative" facets are the nail in the coffin for them, I think. –  Matthew Read Jun 12 '12 at 0:23
    
@MatthewRead You have assumed that "why" questions are speculative. When I do a search for the word "why", I see plenty of questions that have solid, factual answers. So, how are questions about canon any more on-topic than questions about the purpose behind game elements? If the question is technical, I can see how it would belong in Game Development... but what about Diablo 3 Item Identification? This topic was closed as Not Constructive even though there was a solid answer gaming.stackexchange.com/questions/69899/… –  ElephantHunter Jun 12 '12 at 6:09
    
@ElephantHunter No I haven't, I just said I distinguish them. Potential (or existing) answers do not change the nature of the question, however; the fact that a small number of these questions have answers from the right source doesn't make the category useful and worth weeding out the large percentage of unanswerable junk. Again, I don't like story questions either, so I'm not going to argue for them. However story is generally relevant "in game", whereas "Why did they do this?" is an extraneous concern. To my mind at least. –  Matthew Read Jun 12 '12 at 15:12
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I think the general questions about why people would even consider things like region-lock or different release dates in different countries are certainly answerable. Game Dev might be a better place to get answers about them, but since the people that are asking are asking from a gamer perspective, not a developer one, they seem to fit OK here.

Questions about why a specific decision was made in a specific case seem unanswerable unless we happen to have someone who was actually involved in the decision, so I think those should be considered "Not Constructive".

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So, it seems that "publishing/business motivation" seems to be more acceptable than "mechanics motivation", that sound right? That actually makes a bit of sense, too, as the former tends to have very stylized reasons, while the latter generally comes from "This is how we wanted the game to play". –  Grace Note Jun 22 '11 at 13:25
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Honestly, I think those questions belong more in game-dev than here, but I admit gamers are often the best equipped to answer some of them. I'm not sure they are close-worthy, but I personally often downvote questions that have a "why" in them based on the "not useful" guideline - they do not help any other gamer.

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Is there a stated number of gamers that a question needs to help? –  Ragnar Jul 1 '11 at 10:53
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@Ragnar I think that by Jeff's definition, "too localized" basically means "of almost no help to anyone else". In fact, in the case of "why" questions, usually it doesn't even "help" the original asker... –  Oak Jul 1 '11 at 12:03
    
OK, sure; what about questions that refer to a single country? Are those too localized? (by which I mean questions that ask, as an example, for servers from a particular country) –  Ragnar Jul 1 '11 at 12:08
    
@Ragnar this has been discussed in a recent podcast, Jeff and Joel said they don't consider that too localized. –  Oak Jul 1 '11 at 12:11
    
Link; Also, there's a podcast? WHY WAS I NOT AWARE OF THIS? –  Ragnar Jul 1 '11 at 12:12
    
@Ragnar (1) I'm not sure if that was before I heard that podcast or not; before I heard it, I thought country-specific things are frowned-upon. (2) I think it's also very time-localized - in a year the answer might be completely different. So I stand behind my vote. (3) blog.stackoverflow.com/category/podcasts –  Oak Jul 1 '11 at 12:25
    
There's also a blog? DUDE! Also, by the logic of (2), shouldn't all Minecraft questions be closed as "too localized"? After all, the game is still in development, everything could conceivably change. –  Ragnar Jul 1 '11 at 12:32
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@Ragnar that's an interesting point... but all games can get updates that sometimes change considerable things. Every Civilization V patch, for instance, required editing some questions and answers. I'd say that's definitely not something we want to forbid... we just need to make sure to update the answers each time. A server list, on the other hand, is more of a repository than a straight answer, and we should not go around maintaining repositories. I guess that the server question may get a single authoritative answers which is kept always up-to-date, which solves these issues... but... –  Oak Jul 1 '11 at 12:49
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I think that question should not be closed. Or not if they can be turned into an intersting question.

With the region locked topic, the best answer talks about legal restriction and so on, providing interesting content (and not too localised, but example could serve a general purpose after all).

But we absolutely need to avoid question like the trial one. Eventually, if this question was oriented on "Why there is a trial version for this game in PC but not on XBox", this would have raise interesting answer on reason that can bring devs to do demo on some platform and not the other. This can be due to the console distribution system or Idk.

Question is : how do we make people change orientation of their question? Maybe we need a special close reason for gaming, like : this question is solely dependent of editor's decisions. If problem is larger than this, please enhance the scope of your question. Or something like this.

But maybe we'll stay in topic that are too subjective after all...

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These questions should not be closed.

An earlier post by Matthew Read quoted the FAQ. Specifically:

You should only ask practical, answerable questions based on actual problems that you face.

Just look at other Stack Exchange websites with the exact same statement in the FAQ... Science Fiction & Fantasy, English Language & Usage, even our beloved Stack Overflow.

Every one of these sites contains a plethora of questions about "Why is x designed this way?":

Beyond that, all of these questions reference some point in the development process (story design, programming language design, English language design.) So, what is the goal of removing these questions on gaming?

As others have mentioned, it only hurts our site when these questions are dismissed. It is my personal theory that this misguided policy came about from a misunderstanding of the official FAQ. The intention of the FAQ is to prune unnecessary chattiness and speculation, not to eliminate relevant and factual information from being presented.

When a question has a clear answer, and it is related to game history or canon, it should be allowed.

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Can you elaborate on "When a question has a clear answer"? Are you saying that the validity of the question should be based on whether or not there is an existing answer from a reliable source? –  bwarner Jun 12 '12 at 21:33
    
Yes, in part. Questions with existing answers from reliable sources tend to not lead to speculation and chattiness. It only helps our site when we have clear questions and answers in the scope of a particular game. –  ElephantHunter Jun 12 '12 at 21:49
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So how do you prove that a question does NOT have a clear answer from a reliable source? At what point should a question be closed for not meeting that criteria? –  bwarner Jun 12 '12 at 23:32
    
The same as any other question on the site. Questions are closed as Not Constructive every day because they have no clear answer. I think you are going into a topic that is independent of this discussion. There is nothing special about "Why did they design it that way?" questions :) –  ElephantHunter Jun 12 '12 at 23:54
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Besides the fact that you can't prove that something doesn't exist, we simply don't ever close questions because no one has happened to post an answer. Questions are closed based on fundamental aspects of them -- they ask for opinions, they don't relate to gaming, etc. etc. -- and not based on the particular facts involved. "Why did the developers do X in Game Y?" and "Why did the developers do X in Game Z?" should either both be closed or both be left open; it should not matter which game it is because they're exactly the same type and style of question. –  Matthew Read Jul 5 '12 at 20:31
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