Am I allowed to say it?
I've often said in comments as well as in other meta discussions that if we really took the "opinion based" rationale for closure as seriously as is normative elsewhere on Stack Exchange, we'd literally have to VTC 95% or more of all our questions.
By definition we deal in the irrealis. That is, things that don't exist, places that aren't, events that didn't or never will happen. Questions about dragon hide resiliency, far future starship propulsion, Elves mating with Trees and what kind of offspring they'd have.
Almost every question we answer here is, to a very large extent, opinion based. And I do think we are, as a community, a little too quick to VTC opinion based queries that are actually perfectly answerable within an imaginative context. And I concur re the colour choices of starmada admirals for their uniform jackets, or the like! Those are opinion based questions that should ought to be closed, and with good reason. But questions that really have no basis in known reality are equally opinion based, but it's simply the case that these are the kinds of questions we need to be addressing here if we are to follow our own mandate to help people build, devise, improve or otherwise tinker with their fictional worlds and settings.
As a matter of my own practice, when reviewing queries in the VTC queue, I almost never agree with opinion based as a closure rationale. I might wish to close it for a different reason (most usually such questions might lack clarity or focus), though. And that is a different matter for a different discussion!
In comments, one person wrote that these kinds of questions (opinion based) "do not belong here". I wonder, since this must by definition include the majority of all questions asked in this forum, where else would they belong?
I hold that to say "those questions do not belong here" is an ill conceived opinion given the nature of this forum. Very few of the questions asked here even cán have a "single best answer" the way we find in other SE forums. Even when an OP delineates very clear criteria for evaluation, this can not guarantee that only one answer will fit. The quoted text from the help centre applies to SE generally, not very well to WB particularly. Our forum is radically different in scope & practice from every other forum here. Some people may do better better jobs of writing questions to elicit a specific answer, while others simply have questions which can not be so easily tailored. I think one of the very best ways to kill this forum is to apply the letter of the law too forcefully and too broadly.
Another commentor brought up our VTC policy. While I agree with the overall policy and with the specific subsection in general terms, I don't believe that every single question asked in Worldbuilding needs to list three or five criteria by which to judge the answer. Sometimes the question simply isn't broken when left criterialess: the OP may be looking to cast a wider net; and there is also the risk of making a question too narrow, to the point where it may no longer be useful to the OP and may not even be useful to anyone else.
Lastly, even when an OP lists criteria, restrictions & limitations (per the excellent linked policy statement) we as a community can still easily come up with dozens of equally good, equally opinion based answers! And this is the essential problem that I deal with here, a problem that puts our hobby / art / activity at odds with Stack Exchange's stated goals. And we see an excellent demonstration of this with the examples in Johnny's response.
Quite simply put: WE DO NOT DEAL IN FACTS --- WE DEAL IN THE UNREAL!
Worldbuilding will never be able to follow the basic POB rule of SE to the letter. We can't even really follow it in spirit! The very best we can do is write up a policy & point to it. But in the end, when I look at that policy, it's just so easy to poke a hole in that particular section, because opinion -- creative opinion -- is the heart and soul of what we deal in!
Even the paradigm question in JBH's example can easily have a number of opinion based answers that all conform to the criteria and guidelines given in the query itself.
And then what?
I'd ask you, though: what do you think needs to be done? It's all well and good to ask the question; and I get to use tall caps and lots of exclamation points in response! But what's the next step?
Me I'd like to consider, if it's possible, a rewriting of the "opinion based" closure rationale to severely restrict its scope. Right now, the blurb reads: "This question is likely to be answered with opinions rather than facts and citations. It should be updated so it will lead to fact-based answers." This is the same blurb that one will find on all other SE forums.
The problems with this rationale as stated, and as it relates to Worldbuilding, are obvious.
- Most of our answers are, in point of fact, pure opinions! Even when we bring science to bear in our answers, there is no way to offer that answer as the single and one best non-opinion answer.
- Most of our answers derive from creativity rather than from citeable sources of fact.
- There are no factual resources we can turn to for an unbiased answer for the vast majority of our question types.
That sort of logic is great in Chemisty & Physics where you can either point to a text book or a reliable webpage or a journal article to get the answer. There are certainly scholarly articles and text books we can point to --- but those are someone's opinion! Not universal fact.
"This query asks for a non-creative opinion, each of which is as perfectly likely and perfectly reasonable as any other response. Queries should pose a worldbuilding problem or issue that can be answered by proposing creative solutions."