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The Magic: the Gathering question category is probably one of the pillars that this SE was built on. As a frantic board/card game player who doesn't play M:tG, I've always experienced a bit of a culture shock here at B&CG between myself and those who do play Magic.

Magic is so complex that non-rules (strategy etc) questions about Magic tend to be too broad and/or subjective by default. Anyone regularly dealing with these questions could assume that the same would go for any other game. I would like to make a statement that this does not always apply for 'easier' games, more 'casual' games (note the quotes, these terms are obviously subjective).

I tried to gather a few examples of cases where I feel we could have left the questions open, rather than close them:

  • This question about Risk strategies comes from an obvious beginner. The answer that came in before the lock, points to a 9 part youtube guide (typical 'book required' kind of answer) but comes with a short summary that answers the essence of the question.
  • General question question about how to learn a new game if no one knows the rules, tagged as Game of Thrones (as it's a relatively new, complicated game with a large set of rules). There are maybe 3 ways to go about this, and each of those could get a spot as an answer.

That's all I could find (all in the past 30 days) so maybe I'm overreacting a bit. Still I think these could be properly answered. Maybe not everyone would agree with every answer, but I don't think that's a requirement.

So, do you think these kinds of questions are okay for this site (or not)? And more importantly, why (not)?

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    What's the actual question? – Tim Lymington Dec 16 '15 at 13:36
  • @TimLymington "Am I touching on a site issue, or am I just exaggerating? I'd like to get some feedback on this." – freekvd Dec 16 '15 at 13:37
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    Do you have any examples of questions that have been closed that you feel shouldn't have been? – diego Dec 16 '15 at 14:03
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    I voted to close this question as unclear, but I retracted my close vote after I found the question that incited this meta post. Now that I have context, I understand where the OP is coming from. I strongly recommend editing the question to include concrete examples (plural). – Rainbolt Dec 16 '15 at 14:48
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    @Rainbolt Yea I did get triggered by that particular question, but I didn't want to include only one question as a case example. I'll sit down and find some more, but that will have to wait until after the weekend. – freekvd Dec 16 '15 at 15:05
  • I would like to emphasize that my primary issue is that I can't properly express (or quantify) this problem, hence the discussion tag. – freekvd Dec 16 '15 at 15:06
  • Well, that type of discussion is leading because it assumes there is a problem. I hope you keep an open mind if someone tells you otherwise. – Rainbolt Dec 16 '15 at 15:09
  • @Rainbolt don't worry I'm not here to pick a fight :) – freekvd Dec 16 '15 at 15:16
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    Obligatory: Good Subjective, Bad Subjective. But that's just for the subjective part, not the broad part. (Sometimes the lines do get blurred: broad questions where it's hard to figure out what's best can end up with subjective answers.) – Cascabel Dec 16 '15 at 15:21
  • It took me a bit to understand what Magic has to do with this. If I understand right, you're saying that the issue is that Magic is so complex that non-rules (strategy etc) questions about Magic tend to be too broad and/or subjective, and then that same thing gets applied to other games where strategy questions might actually be okay? – Cascabel Dec 16 '15 at 15:23
  • @Jefromi exactly. And to everyone else, sorry for just dropping this half-finished question onto the site, I couldn't shake this feeling without writing at least part of it down. – freekvd Dec 16 '15 at 15:27
  • @freekvd I think providing extra examples is going to be really important. It will help us define policy better, and it'll also avoid answers that are based entirely on that one most recent question. (Even if that one is clearly close-worthy, others may not be.) – Cascabel Dec 16 '15 at 16:44
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    I just want to point out that of the five people who closed the question that triggered this post, only two have [magic-the-gathering] as their primary tag, and two of the others don't seem to have any significant MTG activity here. So, that wasn't just Magic players applying their norms to other games; it was a group of people who collectively focus on four different games agreeing on how to handle a question. – murgatroid99 Dec 16 '15 at 16:47
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    The people who closed the second question you linked follow a similar distribution as those on the first: only two are primarily active in Magic, and the other three are primarily active in three different games. So, while we can't outright dismiss the possibility of a general problem with over-zealously closing questions, the examples you gave are significant evidence that such a problem would not be related by any game-specific subcommunity imposing its norms on the whole site. – murgatroid99 Dec 16 '15 at 18:59
  • I added a comment to the Risk question, citing the meta on which I based my close vote: Should we close question that are just “what are good strategy tips for such-and-such game”? The verdict was: yes. – doppelgreener Dec 17 '15 at 0:11
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Consider this question:

The question was closed as Too Broad. You commented, "Risk is a well-established game, there are only a few good answers to this question." Then, you voted to reopen and posted here.

You know what else is a well-established game? Chess. Thousands of books are written about Chess strategy. It is definitely not the case that just because a game is well-established that it has only a few easily documented strategies. In fact, it seems to me that the more well established a game is, the more strategy material there exists.

I agree with the close reason. You obviously disagree. That doesn't necessarily indicate a problem, just a difference of opinion. It happens on every site because the close reasons are subjective.

To answer to your more general question: I reviewed ten of the most recently closed questions. I identified one question that I feel deserves to be reopened, and I cast my vote. I understand why some feel that it deserves to be closed - it is one of those borderline questions. Most importantly, I observed no widespread epidemic of Magic players unfairly closing questions.

Although I was critical at first, I appreciate the feedback in the comments, which prompted me to perform a more thorough review of recently closed questions.

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  • It seems like you're taking a bit of a leap from the Risk question being bad to all broad/subjective closed questions being bad and correctly closed. It's also maybe not the most helpful thing to say that it's just a difference of opinion. Yes, almost everything on meta ends up being at least partially opinion-based. But that just means it's hard to figure out what's best, not that we should just leave everything exactly as it currently is. – Cascabel Dec 16 '15 at 15:52
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    @Jefromi I did not say the Risk question was bad, nor I did even imply that all broad/subjective questions are bad and correctly closed. That is an outrageously far-fetched interpretation of what I have written here. The entire point of my post was that there is no correct side. I'm not trying to keep things the same just for the sake of keeping them the same. When I see room for the community to evolve, I speak up. I advocated leaving explanatory comments when one user had an issue with closed questions. – Rainbolt Dec 16 '15 at 16:11
  • All of that said, if the community decides that my definition of too broad is overly aggressive, then I'll happily adjust my voting patterns. I hope that doesn't happen, because I feel that my definition of too broad is right where it needs to be. – Rainbolt Dec 16 '15 at 16:14
  • Okay, when I said "bad" it was shorthand for "deserved to be closed", which your answer absolutely does say. Please don't get too caught up in my use of a single word in a comment which by design has to be short. – Cascabel Dec 16 '15 at 16:22
  • And yes, you didn't actually say that all broad/subjective questions should be closed. However, you strongly implied by your last paragraph that you think the current state (pretty close to all closed) is fine. If that was deliberate, then that's what I was referring to: you think things are fine now, and the support for it is this one Risk question and it's just your opinion. My point was that's not a strongly supported argument. If you didn't mean to imply that, okay, that's fine - but it means you didn't exactly address the general question. – Cascabel Dec 16 '15 at 16:23
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    @Jefromi My direct answer to the general question is that there is, to put it bluntly, no widespread epidemic of Magic players closing questions unfairly. It goes without saying that a handful of questions do get closed unfairly - no amount of policy is going to fix that so long as humans are involved. I am open to suggestions as to how I can communicate my position more clearly, so long as none of your suggestions make it sound like I am acknowledging the existence of a widespread problem that needs to be fixed. I am of the opinion that the level of closure is right where it needs to be. – Rainbolt Dec 16 '15 at 16:40
  • Okay, so I did read correctly, and my comment stands: given that all you've done in the answer is discuss that one question, it's a bit of a leap to your general answer. – Cascabel Dec 16 '15 at 16:41
  • I started by discussing the specific question, and finished with a more general answer to the question. Would you have me turn my answer upside down, so that my example comes after my conclusion? Is your problem solely with the organization, or did you just completely miss the last paragraph? It would help if you would be more specific. – Rainbolt Dec 16 '15 at 16:41
  • I saw the last paragraph. It doesn't support your view, though. It just says, as far as I can tell, "it's my opinion, and it's a problem if we argue a lot about it." – Cascabel Dec 16 '15 at 16:43
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    @Jefromi Where did I mention that we argue about it a lot? Can you provide a direct quote? – Rainbolt Dec 16 '15 at 16:44
  • Gladly: "It becomes a problem when two parts of the community are constantly battling over close and reopen votes..." – Cascabel Dec 16 '15 at 16:44
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    @Jefromi "It becomes a problem when" is not the same as "It is a problem." With that sentence, I was trying to point out what the real problem would look like if it were a problem. I was not saying that is is currently, as of right now, a problem. – Rainbolt Dec 16 '15 at 16:45
  • Let us continue this discussion in chat. – Cascabel Dec 16 '15 at 16:48
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    @Jefromi I edited the answer per our discussion in chat. I realize that it's probably not exactly how you wanted it, but I hope it's at least closer. – Rainbolt Dec 16 '15 at 18:43
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    It's a lot better like this, thank you! I appreciate that you took the time to look at some questions, and that the answer now focuses on a real sample, rather than just a statement of opinion. Much easier to see why you had that opinion now. – Cascabel Dec 16 '15 at 18:52
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It's definitely an issue if we're unnecessarily closing questions. From looking at your examples and several other more recently closed questions, I think we're being a little more aggressive than I'd like, but not insanely so: we could try to close questions slightly less often. However, this is a very small number of questions: we don't close that many in the first place, and most closures are boring and obvious. So no matter what, I don't think we should think of it as a severe site culture problem.

I would try to avoid making this about Magic, though. It's possible that there's some interaction there due to the difficulty of asking good subjective questions about Magic, but it's just as possible that we're being overly aggressive about closing those questions - not all non-factual Magic questions are impossible to write good answers to either. And bottom line, it's always going to be hard to tell whether the issue is Magic or not: StackExchange users in general are pretty skeptical of potentially broad or subjective questions, and the Magic community here is large, so the two are going to overlap whether or not there's a causal connection.


I think this issue is best addressed by examples. You've provided two, and I'm happy to try to address others too.

Risk strategies. For now, I'm a little skeptical - it doesn't seem very narrowed down, the existing answer seems to show that it might be a bit of a rabbit hole, with a lot of small pieces required to provide a real answer. But I suspect there are other examples of strategy questions that might not be so potentially problematic. This particular one might also be salvageable, but I have no idea - I don't really play Risk so I don't know how to narrow it down.

Learning a complex new game. I think is one that we should try to improve and reopen. It's a totally reasonable, practical question that a lot of people will face: a game is difficult and time-consuming to learn, so how do I address this, get over that initial hump, and actually end up playing? There are definitely multiple approaches, and probably some approaches will work better for some people than others, but it seems like exactly the kind of experience-based good subjective question we should try to help people with. If https://rpg.stackexchange.com/ can exist, surely we can manage something like this.


In general, with the aim of closing a few less questions (ones that right now are more borderline), what should we do? A few things I try to keep in mind when looking at questions:

  • Hard questions are not always bad. Yes, it's hard to say what the best strategy is for a game or situation, but you can still say some pretty useful things. To look at it another way, even if you don't know the answer and think you'd have to write a book to figure it out, someone else may be able to do a decent job in an answer.

  • Answers do not have to address every detail. It may be true that if you take the question literally and attempt to answer it exhaustively, you could write a book about it. That doesn't make it impossible to write a useful high-level answer. And again, even if you don't know how to find those important high-level points, someone else may be able to.

  • The possibility of subjectivity is not inherently bad. It's very easy to say "it'll be impossible to prove answers, so it's all just opinion." That's not a constructive way of looking at things. The issue is whether answers will be completely dominated by opinions, or whether there's room for some reasoned arguments and experiences to back things up.

  • We don't always have to do something right away. It's easy to find yourself searching for something to do on the site, and trying to always close questions before anything bad happens. But it's also okay to let things go for a bit; we can always close a question later if it gets plenty of bad answers and no good answers.

  • Read the whole question. Don't get caught up in specific phrasing, or in the title. Read the whole body. One bit of phrasing might sound subjective, but the question overall might be fine. If there is some non-ideal phrasing, this leads us to...

  • Questions can be improved. Often when asking a question, the OP doesn't realize how broad or subjective it is, but others with more knowledge of the subject will be able to help refine it to attract more useful answers - possibly just by editing. Obviously we can't always have time to fix everything, but it's helpful for your first thought to be "can we fix this?" rather than "do we have to close this?"

I think we should keep those points in mind when looking at new questions before voting to close, and also when looking back at old questions. Let's let some slightly subjective, slightly broad questions (perhaps about strategy) get answered. In many cases, we'll probably find that nothing bad happens, and the site will be better for having those questions.

Of course, I should also be clear: many strategic questions really are too broad or subjective. If there's nothing in the question to help narrow it down, just a wide-open "how should I play this game?" it probably won't work well. But not all questions are like that.

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