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In the What makes my Pathfinder question off-topic, while the same 3.5e question is allowed to stay? discussion the problem turned out to be that some members treat my question as a shopping question. It is also too broad, but I can narrow it down to my specific situation.

But reading the policies, I did not actually find a clear definition of a shopping question, and this is the point of the discussion I am starting now. There just is no exact wording of what constitutes for one. For example, here is the definition of list questions on Meta.SE, and we also have one on Meta.RPG.SE.

But there is no such a thing for shopping requests. Neither does the Q&A is hard, let's go shopping! give an exact definition of a shopping question, only listing some of the properties. It seems like the article assumes those questions to be about actual shopping, as defined by Wikipedia:

Shopping is an activity in which a customer browses the available goods or services presented by one or more retailers with the intent to purchase a suitable selection of them.

E.g. visiting an actual retail store or choosing and buying something in an online one. It also lists some problems related to "shopping questions" that are definitely relevant to actual shopping, but not always relevant for game recs or tool recs (even though the latter two also do have some other shopping-related problems, not those mentioned in the blog post, though):

  • The price is usually low enough for all of the products to be affordable. There is usually no such a difference as with computers or photo cameras, and RPGs that can still be legally bought typically cannot wipe one's budget if you just buy a few books.
  • RPGs typically can be accessed by everyone from anywhere, PDFs and SRDs can be read by anyone who has Internet access, while a smartphone or a computer has to actually be available in a store nearby, or you would have to pay big shipping costs.
  • The information is unlikely to become obsolete in a reasonable period of time, because RPGs don't really go outdated. Computers and computer programs do, though.

Again -- I am not implying that shopping questions have no problems at all, I am saying that

  1. there is no definition given

  2. the real problems are not mentioned in the blog post.

Gaming.SE has a question asking for a definition of game recs, but it is not really given, it just states a couple of problems related to them (being list questions, being primarily opinion-based). Plus computer games actually do have the problems listed in the blog post, as they go outdated pretty fast, very few of old unsupported games actually getting new players, are subject to regional restrictions, price does matter, etc.

So what actually is a "shopping" question? How do we define it in an RPG context and how do we identify such questions?


This Meta discussion is not to argue whether recommendation questions are good, it is to find a definition of shopping requests, which seems to be a bit broader than simply "game recs are off-topic".

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    \$\begingroup\$ If this is not meant to argue for or against shopping questions, why is half the post about challenging the applicability of the problems with shopping questions to our context? \$\endgroup\$ – BESW Aug 12 '17 at 23:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ @BESW Because there are other problems that led to the bad of game recs, not only those listed in the "Q&A is hard, let's go shopping!" article. \$\endgroup\$ – Baskakov_Dmitriy Aug 13 '17 at 7:57
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm unclear how anything about the problems with game recs, much less four paragraphs explaining what our problems aren't (I disagree with your analysis, but that's neither here nor there), is helpful in a question that's trying for a neutral definition of shopping questions for our site. Maybe edit your question to be more clear on why that section's in there, or include that section in an answer of your own. \$\endgroup\$ – BESW Aug 13 '17 at 8:06
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This question seems to imply that the terms "shopping question" and "game recommendation" are synonyms. A game recommendation is exactly what it says, a question asking for a recommendation on what game to play. For (a completely made up) example:

"I am looking for an RPG that involves rolling dice. Can someone point me towards an RPG that involves rolling dice?"

Obviously there is no way to answer this question while staying within the site's guidelines for Good Subjective/Bad Subjective since there are way too many RPGs with dice rolling for an answer to be anything other than an expression of personal taste/opinion.

Identifying a shopping question

1. Shopping questions will (generally) include some required features:

Think about shopping for something like a new car. You are probably going to list some features that the car requires for it to even be considered. RPG shopping/recommendation questions are similar in that they too usually include some features that the asker is looking for (dice rolling, pre-made settings, dark and gritty etc.)

2. Shopping questions will (often) not reference a specific system:

From my understanding, a question such as "Does D&D 5e include dice rolling?" is not a shopping question since it is specific to 5e and can be definitively answered based on the rules. To put it simply, asking if system X contains features A,B,and C is allowed, whereas asking if there is a system that contains A,B, and C is not.

3. Shopping questions might be asking for a comparison between two (or more) different products.

This criteria is more flexible than the others since many legitimate questions can be asked about things like "What are the differences between 4e and 5e with regards to combat?" and other objective, quantifiable differences. It is when the questions are things like "Which handles combat better: 4e or 5e?" that we run into issues.

Feel free to request clarification/ recommend additions.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I have wrote my own answer based on your text, taking 1st and 3d points from the "Identifying a shopping question" section. I hope that it is enough to define one. \$\endgroup\$ – Baskakov_Dmitriy Aug 13 '17 at 8:15
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Based on the answer of Saladani, two basic criteria can be formulated. "Shopping" questions are:

  • Questions that ask for a recommendation of any kind of product that meets given criteria, has a given list of features. For example: "What RPGs feature pirates in space?".
  • Questions that ask which one of the 2 (or more) products is better (not just for the difference between the products). For example: "Which game is better, D&D 3.5e or Pathfinder?"
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