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There's a type of question that sits right on the edge of our old game-recommendations set of questions: the “does it exist?” question.

Viewed in one light, these are just game recs in sheep's clothing. In another light, they're asking for a discrete piece of knowledge about our field, not for us to tell them what game choose.

So these present us with an uncomfortable corner case that isn't always clear.

One example that was contentious early after overturning our special permission for game recs was Is there a xianxia role playing game? It's very much on this border, but the overt question is just “does this exist?” It's not overtly looking for recommendations of games, just for knowledge of whether it's a genre that has even appeared in the realm of roleplaying games. That would seem OK, wouldn't it? On the other hand, the worry (as the worry was then) is that it would just become a slowly-expanding list of every Xianxia RPG, as more are published, with no way of meaningfully voting on the answers.

Another example is today's Is there a generic rulebook for Powered by Apocalypse?, which I answered before even recognising that it was a question living inside this corner case. “I know the answer to that!” was what I was thinking, knowing that there's only one answer. And the question is, like the other, asking only for existence, not recommendation. What is the difference, then? A differences, I suppose, is that this question is asking for the (assumed) existence of a singular game (a generic edition of Apocalypse World), which doesn't hint at an expanding list — and yet, it could still gather a list, so is that difference significant or superficial?

I don't know. But I wonder if we may have room for “game existence” questions, or at least a subset of them that are safely on this side of some kind of line, where the line is defined by the other extreme of existence questions that are just looking to compile a list of games that they can browse at their leisure.

What do you all think?

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    \$\begingroup\$ I think it's worth noting that the two questions have notably different scopes. There could be zero xianxia games in existence, or hundreds, or any number in between. A generic Powered by Apocalypse rulebook, on the other hand, is more concrete; there could be zero such rulebooks, one official rulebook, or a handful of unofficial rulebooks, but that's about it. \$\endgroup\$ – Oblivious Sage Nov 17 '15 at 21:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ObliviousSage There could be hundreds of official generic rulebooks, it's just unlikely. \$\endgroup\$ – Please stop being evil Nov 24 '15 at 7:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ As a note, we allow 'How can you do X in Y system' on a case by case basis, which would seem to be the same class of question. \$\endgroup\$ – Please stop being evil Nov 24 '15 at 19:37
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To my dismay, I think "Does X exist?" is usually a very poor fit for our site. I'm not advocating a blanket ban, but they should be looked at carefully because they often fail to meet existing site definitions of Good Questions. This sort of question tends to suffer from not explaining the problem the querent is trying to solve; I'll talk about why that makes 'em hard to answer in a way the site will find useful, and how there's an existing solution to this problem when it arises.

If I don't give an example to support an answer of "yes," then most affirmative answers to this sort of question wind up being just a terse unadorned "Yes, X exists." That's not the quality of information this site wants to accumulate. Answers should provide support for their conclusions; we frown on "left as an exercise for the reader" implications.

However! If I do give an example to support an answer of "yes," then it quickly becomes indistinguishable from a recommendation that doesn't explain about why that particular thing is being recommended. Each answer mentioning a different example can be equally right and the voting breaks down.

Often these questions are also running afoul of failing to understand the scope of the RPG landscape. It's very difficult to prove a negative, and while these answers can sometimes be useful, they're also contentious and easily toppled by someone with a better Google result: answering "no" to the question of whether something exists, without knowing what the thing is to be used for, is liable to wind up being wrong without its wrongness adding value to the site. We already know not to answer these questions until their scope is narrowed.

So while I don't think we should ban all "Does X exist?" questions at this time, we should keep an eye on them and suggest that querents rephrase the request as a problem to be solved. This is a solution we're already implementing for tool recommendation questions.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Hm. The analogy to tool recommendations being rephrased to be “how” questions comes to mind. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Nov 17 '15 at 21:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie Yes, exactly! I added that to my answer. \$\endgroup\$ – BESW Nov 17 '15 at 21:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ It seems to me that a "does this game exist" questions is a case of "since you have the internet and you can type in that name, you can find out this yes/no answer easily" and therefore is a lot like a "read the book to me" question, which we discourage. I realize that people have varying search savvy, but Good Questions are preferred. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Nov 19 '15 at 19:20
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast This meta is relevant. \$\endgroup\$ – BESW Nov 19 '15 at 21:01
  • \$\begingroup\$ @BESW OK, thanks \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Nov 19 '15 at 23:01
  • \$\begingroup\$ A partial solution to the "No" problem is to remove them outright. For a question that has no examples of such a thing, it would simply be left open to be answered in the future when such evidence is found. However, this leads to an indefinitely unanswered question. I feel that the lack of an answer to such questions would still be valuable. \$\endgroup\$ – Axoren Dec 1 '15 at 20:13

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