As we speak, certain vigilante Wikipedia users are hard at work erasing whatever scraps of little-known BBS door game history that resides in Wikipedia's databases. The first casualty in this war was the entry for Space Empire Elite, which was deleted early this morning.
(For those of you unfamiliar with BBS door games, here's a brief definition: BBS door games are computer games, usually text-only, that were traditionally played over modems and accessed through dial-up BBSes. They are called "door games" because users pass through a figurative "doorway" from the BBS software into another program (the game program) to play them. One of the most notable examples is TradeWars 2002.)
The problem, it seems, is that the games aren't "notable" enough and lack the sources for a Wikipedia article.
Here's an excerpt of the conversation between Dr. Chad Nilep (Cnilep), the Wikipedia user who nominated Space Empire Elite for deletion; Sue Rangell, another user who doesn't like non-notable games; and Josh Renaud (Kirkman), a door game proponent who authored several door game pages on Wikipedia.
Aside from some of the snippy remarks made, this game was not notable even back in the BBS era. I'm old enough to remember. Tradewars, Wolfenstein, and Zork are all names that became legendary, and we still hear about them even today. You can still find "Remember when?" articles that mention those games. Those articles fail to mention this game. That is why it isn't notable. This game doesn't make that cut. It was a just another door game, lost in thousands. Some people played it, but it never stood out. My apologies to the nostalgists, myself included, but it lacks the "wow factor" the others mentioned have. I will agree with a merge into a list of old BBS games, but this article has no stand-alone value and adds nothing to Wikipedia. –Sue Rangell ✍ ✉ 03:23, 1 December 2012 (UTC)
So something's significance depends on whether people still talk about it? I'm sorry, that doesn't wash. This game *was* notable in the BBS era. It was one of the most popular games played on Atari ST BBSes. This game is an early creation of Jon Radoff. It was one of the early BBS door games to implement inter-BBS play, making it a precursor of massively-multiplayer games. And Space Empire Elite directly inspired the creation of Solar Realms Elite and Barren Realms Elite, both of which people still remember (and play) today, not to mention all the other SRGames and others like Space Dynasty. Kirkman (talk) 23:52, 1 December 2012 (UTC)
Kirkman is correct that WP:Notability is not temporary. The question of whether Space Empire Elite is notable does not relate to the game's current fame. On the other hand, WP:Subjective importance does not constitute notability by Wikipedia standards, either. The WP:General notability guidelines require published sources. If such publications can be found and cited, notability might be established. I tried and failed to find independent publications (beyond the two books by Wolf currently cited), but others might have more luck. Cnilep (talk) 05:39, 2 December 2012 (UTC)
Agreed. It wasn't notable even back then. If it had been, it would be remembered with the other games that were notable from that time. Being an inspiration for other notable games does not make it notable. Notability simply isn't tranferred like that. This article fails all five points in WP:GNG, WP:NRVE, and WP:NNC. The ability to stand with it's own article simply isn't there. –Sue Rangell ✍ ✉ 19:57, 2 December 2012 (UTC)
The kind of arguments put forth by Sue Rangell here boil a historian's blood. Oh, the sheer audacity required to judge what is or what isn't notable enough to be part of online history!
But let's be honest with ourselves. Wikipedia isn't a historian's or archivist's paradise. It's a living, breathing collection of documents with its share of flaws, biases, and tastes that aggregate from territorial users that can be fickle and cruel. Entries have to battle to survive in that environment, and that is unfortunate for history at times, but that's the way the system is set up over there.
If you go by Wikipedia's guidelines, most BBS door games are not "notable" by Wikipedia standards — or "Wiki-notable," as I will now derisively call it. And true, they were not played by very many people and they were very little known (relative to games like Super Mario Bros. 3, for example), but they were, as Josh Renaud argues, important parts of history that should not be forgotten.
I want to blame the Wikipedia users who delete this history, but the truth is that Wikipedia is not the place to write original history, and articles without sources will eventually get axed. As a result, this is not a battle worth fighting until we have the proper ammunition.
So lets make some sources ourselves.
We Can Write BBS Game History Together
If we want to preserve BBS door history, let's do it the right way. If you have information on a BBS door game you'd like to enshrine in a Wikipedia-proof format, write it up in an article with some screenshots and email it to me. I'll publish it on VC&G, and the game will be one source closer to being official history in Wikipedia's eyes.
Even if Wikipedia users don't like the result, the info on the game will still be out there on this blog (and eventually mirrored on the Internet Archive).
Meanwhile, I'll be working on some articles about BBS door games that I have been promising myself I'd write since I started this blog in 2005. Expect the first one soon.
[ Update: 12/09/2012 - I forgot to mention that two other BBS door game Wikipedia entries have recently been threatened with deletion: Solar Realms Elite (definitely an important game) and Space Dynasty. ]