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Based on some recent discussion on meta, this post is an experiment for our community to check in and have some semi-formal discussion about how things are going on the Game Development Stack Exchange. It's inspired by the yearly check-ins done on RPG.SE

A few key differences:

  • The RPG version happens to be moderator driven, this one is not. I'm a community member that saw a community building practice on another stack & thought we might find it helpful.
  • This is an experiment and may require some fine-tuning. Constructive feedback about the check-in is encouraged.

How this specific Q&A is run so that we get good value out of it

One clear premise per answer

  1. I'll post a few things that I want to check in about. Please share your thoughts as well! Make sure and note whether you think the thing is an improvement, a problem, or some mix of the two (one person might see the same change as bad that you see as good, or vice versa)...

  2. Post one kind of thing per answer, so that when people upvote/downvote based on whether they agree or not it's more clearly actionable - if you write an essay about 4 different things, it's not going to be clear what part(s) people agree or disagree with and thus it becomes unactionable. You can of course contribute multiple answers.

  3. Upvote or downvote the answers based on your agreement with whether you see that thing happening and concur with the answer's premise that it's good or it's a problem. (In other words, if someone says "We get too many new users and I hate them," you would upvote if you agree, and downvote if either you don't think we get too many new users or if you don't hate them.)

No long comment threads

  1. If you disagree with an answer, post your own answer, don't argue in comments. If you post more than one comment on an answer, you should consider if that is useful at all. We're interested in overall community sentiment as shown by votes, not so much that one person is so irritated they post 10 comments.

  2. This isn't the place to workshop solutions - if a problem gets a lot of votes, we should open a new meta question to do justice to that issue. Solutions hidden in a comment thread on one of these questions are unable to be clearly vetted and voted on so they will tend to go undone.

As usual, Code of Conduct applies - Be Nice.

You may strongly disagree with other users or with the mods or whoever, but find ways to express what you like or don't like without being hostile or insulting to others. Focus on actions rather than characterizing people.

With that, let the experiment commence - feel free to contribute!

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Sour comments are gone (mostly). (good)

I don't know what caused this exactly, but the amount of hate and sarcasm I see in comments has drastically decreased over the last years. (As a mod,) I rarely have to handle flags about rude stuff going on.

Keep on spreading the joy and the help folks ❤

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We're slowly becoming a Unity Stack Exchange. (bad)

Data shows that the proportion of questions tagged with is increasing year after year. In fact, in 2019, half of the questions that were asked were tagged with unity. Last year, 53% of the questions posted were tagged with unity.

This trend suggests that Unity appears to be accessible and a nice tool to help developers make games or learn about game development (which is good, I suppose?).

Unfortunately, I feel like it kind of shows a false advertisement that if one wants help folks with their questions, they'll need to learn Unity if they want to get a chance to get rep; this could also suggest to newcomers that we're a Unity club and make them turn away because they have a question about something else.


I don't have anything against Unity, nor having folks asking and answering about this here, my only concern is about the lack of diversity this could be showing (although this probably reflects a global trend--Unity's taking over the world).

I know you hate to click on links so I'll reproduce here the results from the query above; these are the percentages of questions created that were tagged with *unity*:

2016 2017 2018 2019 2020
36 40 46 50 53

FWIW, we get less questions asked year after year in general on gamedev.se, so this means that the questions about something other than Unity are fewer and fewer year after year.

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Strong response to fix codeplex links

I feel like the community stepped up to deal with the codeplex problem. There's still some work to be done, but initially I recall there being well over 300 links waiting to rot out. Furthermore, it's increasingly difficult to find salvageable entries in the problem list. It was also encouraging to see some new avatars in the suggested edit review queue helping out - this wasn't solely handled by the usual suspects. I think this is something that turned out better than I had expected.

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Concerns about community participation & the 2021 moderator election

I'm a little concerned that our most recent moderation election might indicate a decline in community participation. It took longer to get a sufficient number of candidates & the ballot count declined.

Some data:

  • 2013 : 247 ballots for 9 candidates
  • 2017 : 329 ballots for 5 candidates
  • 2021 : 221 ballots for 3 candidates

I didn't see a way to get active user counts based on year, but I think it's probably safe to say that traffic has increased over time. The pandemic may have also played a role in this, but I think the decline is still a bit discouraging.


More data:

Election Date Voters eligible Visited the site Visited the election page Voted Percent eligible voted Percent eligible visited Percent visited site voted Percent visited page voted
1 February 5 2011 455 ? 102 58 13 ? ? 57
2 June 25 2013 2161 740 441 247 11 34 33 56
3 November 7 2017 4163 1035 676 329 8 25 32 49
4 May 4 2021 6669 889 753 223 3 13 25 30
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  • \$\begingroup\$ I've added more data to your post, based on the election pages (+ /3, /2, /1). I did not want to change your post so I rolled it back. You can use the data if you think it's useful. \$\endgroup\$
    – Vaillancourt Mod
    Jun 23 at 14:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Vaillancourt Thanks! I did do the rollback, as I think it's useful context. I appreciate the effort you went through to dig it out & table it up. I had been only looking at the "view a summary report online" election results - your contribution was the sort of data I was hoping to include. \$\endgroup\$
    – Pikalek
    Jun 23 at 14:22
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    \$\begingroup\$ I knew the site had less active users, so I wanted to see if the lower ballot count matched the activity (in which case we could have concluded that there was not less interest in voting), but when comparing site activity with vote related activity, we see that indeed, we have had a lower interest in this election. \$\endgroup\$
    – Vaillancourt Mod
    Jun 23 at 14:28
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It's hard to find high-level questions

I enjoy algorithms, problem solving, and general game techniques that are applicable to a great many platforms and situations. GDSE seems to be predominantly “how do I get this very specific code to work” nowadays—questions which have little broad application, and are about implementation and not general principles—which I almost always can't help with.

I don't know if it's confirmation bias or not, but I found a lot of high-level questions early on. I got to write answers about:

I really enjoy these kinds of questions! I get to learn a lot from the answers to them (including the answers that beat mine). I get to hone my own skills in creating answers for people—the “teaching is the best way to learn” effect I'm sure we're all familiar with.

As time went on I found it harder to find these, and mostly found just super specific debugging questions I couldn't do much about, and so I drifted away and didn't drift back. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy programming, but I don't much enjoy niche programming problems.

I don't know what kind of solution to offer to this situation, just that it's there for me. I'd really like a way to more easily find high-level problems that I can actually do stuff about.

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New devs don't know how to debug their code and we don't have ways to tell them how they could do it (i.e. teach them to fish). (bad¬)

A lot of users ask questions about bugs that an experienced developer will spot by reading the code, but that the asker could have figured out if they had known relatively basic debugging techniques (such as using the step-by-step debugger of their IDE, or spamming stuff to their debug console).

I understand it's easy rep¤ for those who answer (good for them! ^_^), and it helps get the issues fixed for the ones asking, but I feel like we could help those new devs a bit further if we could direct them to guides or I-don't-know that would show them a few basic tips to help them get unstuck by themselves in the future.


¬ The bad part is about "we don't have ways to tell them how they could do it", and not about "New devs don't know how to debug their code". We've all been there.

¤ By "easy rep", I really mean "satisfaction of having helped someone".

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Does the text for closing basic programming/debugging posts compound this problem? Pointing new users in the right direction with a comment addressing the problem is more welcoming than closing & saying "wrong stack, post on SO". But a comment doesn't seem like an adequate way to explain/teach inexperienced users general debugging skills. \$\endgroup\$
    – Pikalek
    Jun 29 at 20:19
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm not sure this problem is covered by what you've linked in the image. That "ask on SO" close reason is about syntax errors and such, while the issue I'm trying to highlight here is more about "my code/logic doesn't work, it behaves like X while I'm expecting it to behave like Y". The most "convenient" way I though of so far to handle this would be to still answer the question and add something like "Note that this error would have been easy to spot if you had used a step-by-step debugger as explained [here]" either in the answer or as a comment. This could be discussed in another meta post. \$\endgroup\$
    – Vaillancourt Mod
    Jun 30 at 13:31
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Legal questions are still being asked (bad)

It's a fact of life that we get questions of the form "is it legal to do X?", and the numbers and frequency are quite low, but still high enough. The three main variants are:

  • Something that's definitely legal, but the OP might not be aware.
  • Something that's definitely illegal, typically involving breach of copyright law.
  • Some weird edge case or grey area.

For all three, the responses, typically in comments, are always along the lines of "i am not a lawyer, if you want legal advice engage with a qualified legal professional". We certainly can provide discussion and guidance around these questions, but is that even appropriate for a Q&A site?

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    \$\begingroup\$ I think game dev legal questions are fine and appropriate here actually. You ask if that's even appropriate for a Q&A site: RPG.SE allows legal questions about the RPG domain and they're fine and actually within our area of expertise because people who create and publish RPGs are well placed to know about the specific legal hurdles that face people who create and publish RPGs. (See: We are not lawyers. Why do we allow law topics?) Likewise, game devs are a group very well positioned to know about legal issues that face game devs. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 26 at 17:06

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