Interview on WikiProject Final Fantasy
In this week's edition of the WikiProject Report, we focus on a project that hits close to home for many of Wikipedia's nerdy editors (we know who we are): Wikiproject Final Fantasy. The project has been around since July 2005 and currently has 11 Featured Articles. Deckiller, who has contributed to most of those FAs, has volunteered to tell us more about the project.
1. What do you find challenging or frustrating about working on video game articles?
A few years ago, it was quite challenging to convince Wikipedians that video game articles could be of high quality. It took dozens of Featured Article promotions for that stigma to dissipate.
As we all know, quality standards have risen sharply since the days of "brilliant prose"; consequently, the challenge has become twofold. First, it can be difficult to find reliable sources for the non-technical aspects of video games; for instance, video game mechanics and storylines are unlikely to be featured in scholarly works. Plus, many video games are created in countries that don't speak English, such as Japan or South Korea. Most out-of-universe content must come from professional gaming websites, which offer only a handful of English interviews, reviews, and essays. Because sources are so scarce, many articles fall into two extremes: comprehensive with a few questionable sources, or poorly developed with only the most reliable references. It's hard to forge an article that is both comprehensive and reliably sourced in its entirety.
Second, our coverage of the "in-universe" aspects of games (mechanics, storyline, characters, and so on) must be brief yet informative. This is true for all articles, but the line is especially blurry with video games. Most users fall into three categories: those who advocate a brief treatment of "in-universe" aspects, those who encourage the inclusion of every detail, and those who try to strike a balance. I have spent many hours of my life trimming and expanding article sections to satisfy as many extremes as possible; it can get quite stressful. I'd say the best example of attaining such a balance is the Final Fantasy VIII featured topic.
Of course, we're always enlisting copy-editors to polish as much prose as possible. I'm a copy-editor myself, but it takes an entire team of word nerds to polish an article—especially when it features dense information such as gameplay mechanics.
2. With its large fanbase, Final Fantasy articles must fall victim to unregistered or novice editors adding original research and personal anecdotes, especially to the "in-universe" sections that you mentioned. How have you and the project members learned to deal with this?
Most issues of bias/original research are nipped in the bud by referencing strategy guides and game scripts. Although many video game articles avoid such sourcing, it helps to establish that exceptional claims require exceptional sources—even for in-universe sections. If it's not said plainly in the script or the strategy guide, then it could very well be original research. Editors who add obvious bias and original research are usually reverted and referred to the talkpage. I like to deliver a firm but reasonable response, emphasizing our policies as well as specific points to refute their claims. By bringing other project members into the discussion, the novice will hopefully realize that policies and consensus are enforced throughout the project's jurisdiction.
3. As for articles of somewhat smaller scope, such as those pertaining to specific characters, do you find that progress is ever disrupted by deletion debates and questions of notability?
We have very few debates about notability and deletion for two reasons. First, our project adamantly enforces the inclusion criteria. Second, we set an example by redirecting every "minor" keyword or character to the most relevant article; this shows newcomers that we are discouraging a stand-alone article on such a topic, and that it's either already covered elsewhere or too trivial. As a matter of fact, most of our merge discussions involve articles that already pass notability.
Virtually everyone in the project believes that articles must include significant real-world content and multiple reliable sources. We want to ensure that every article can reach good or featured status, a belief made clear to newcomers and on our project pages. This adherence to policies and guidelines is a major factor in our success; without endless debates and scattered information, we have been able to create tightly focused and comprehensive parent articles with decent potential. In short, high standards yield high results.
For instance, why have a dozen articles on every weapon, item, and monster in the Final Fantasy series when everything can be summed up succinctly and professionally in a single Gameplay of Final Fantasy article? We can prove that Final Fantasy gameplay as a whole is notable, but the same cannot be said of the virtual weapons and armor (for the most part), topics better covered in strategy guides and fansites. This is the sort of logic we try to present to our newest members, though almost all of them agree with our philosophies to begin with.
4. Most of the high-quality video game-related articles seem to be either characters from games or the games themselves. Has there been any discussion of collaboration, either amongst members of the project or between multiple projects, on the makers of Final Fantasy, such as Square Enix and Category:Final Fantasy designers?
Actually, there hasn't been much discussion of such a collaboration. The project has only two designer articles of at least GA status: Masashi Hamauzu and Nobuo Uematsu. Many are focused on elevating our game articles and subarticles to good or featured status; after this goal is reached, I'm sure members will shift their focus to the designers.
5. During the course of this interview, WikiProject Final Fantasy merged into WikiProject Square Enix. Can you tell us a little about that?
I was on Wikibreak during most of the discussion, but I've seen it coming for a while. Both projects had nearly identical rosters and philosophies, so the merger provides a broader and more streamlined jurisdiction without any major sacrifices. Discussions and collaborations can now be centralized, and the broader range of topics may entice others to join.
6. In addition to Final Fantasy articles, you've also worked on various other video games. What lessons or skills have you learned from editing Final Fantasy articles that apply to other video games? Or to editing in general?
First, I've become a decent copy-editor, thanks to the numerous FACs and peer reviews we've gone through (and more than a little help from Tony1's amazing guide to professional prose). Second, our project was one of the first to balance real-world and in-universe content within an article. We also helped to popularize succinct plot summaries, a concept now presented in the Writing about Fiction guideline. Thanks to this practice, I've become effective at writing concise synopses as well as balanced articles. Third, I've learned that debates on Wikipedia can be very intense; like every topic, video games (and fiction in general) has several points of controversy, such as the inclusion criteria for subarticles. One must keep a cool head and help form a compromise; the truth is usually in the middle.
7. Finally, what advice can you give to inexperienced users who are looking to start contributing to Final Fantasy, Square Enix, or other video games articles?
Users should understand our policies and guidelines, as well as the specific guidelines for the WikiProject. A basic understanding of these procedures prevents redundant discussion and reversions, which are common with newcomers.
I also suggest that users work on articles that have not yet reached good or featured status. Maintaining healthy articles is always necessary, but it should be a low priority when there are other articles on life support. Instead of ten users spending a week debating the length of a plot summary, I'd like to see users spend that very same time sourcing a poor article or merging redundant content.
Lastly, all editors — not just newcomers — should understand that editing Wikipedia is a team activity. An article will never reach its potential if only one person works on it; we need researchers, copy-editors, image specialists, and — most importantly — feedback from a variety of users. Everyone's opinion is important, but nobody's opinion is absolute; that is why everyone needs to come together and form a consensus, which usually requires a compromise. Users who believe in this philosophy will help forge great articles and gainful discussions.