On the whole, despite the substantial shortcomings that people have pointed out, I tend to think that the system as-is is a net positive for the site as a whole and for people whose use case for IFDB is primarily finding games or looking up information about a specific game. That’s just my personal opinion, and it’s not to say that it doesn’t have meaningful shortcomings, nor that there’s no possibility for improvement; it’s just to say that I tend to think that the existing system is a net positive for a large number of users on the site.
I think that “anybody can add any tag” is a good thing: it allows for someone to correct gaps in existing data simply by adding the missing data. It’s an “if you see a problem, go ahead and fix it” approach that works quite well in some communities where there is a baseline expectation that everyone operates in good faith. I take it that that is what the IF community largely is, at least so far as I can observe it. Yes, there is always the possibility of vandalism or bad-faith data entry, and maybe there’s more of that than I can see as someone who has no administrative responsibilities for the site. I also admit that I don’t know how much work cleanup and moderation are currently requiring from the people doing it, and perhaps I’m undervaluing or underestimating that amount by default; but from the outside, it seems to be working well. (The one example of defacement of an IFDB article that I ever saw involved altering a game’s name and description to insult the authors; and by the time I’d finished typing an email to describe the problem, a quick page refresh showed it had already been solved by [presumably] reverting the relevant article to a previous version.)
I think that being able to add any tag is a good thing because it allows interested people to indicate what meets those interests to like-minded other people: maybe there should be a tag for the (possibly many? I don’t know) games concerned with World Cup victory afterparties. If that’s one person’s specific interest, there’s a decent chance that its the specific interest of other people, too. Maybe there’s a whole slew of them that the stuffy ivory-tower categorizers have simply never noticed, or are prudishly suppressing out of a sense of disapproval, or are trying to bury because of a Plot to Suppress the Truth, or … . Doesn’t mean that we pleebs shouldn’t make it easier for us to find and enjoy other World Cup victory afterparty stories to interact with. It would be depressing to have to get the blessing of some grizzled committee of stuffy gatekeepers to have to tag the game so other World Cup victory afterparty game fans can find it.
That’s not to say that there shouldn’t be more of an effort to develop a standard ontology of common tags and encourage people to use them: I’ve been occasionally frustrated by finding incorrect or insufficiently specific tags on IFDB. (To pick one tiny example: I’d like to see more tags for very old games indicating which systems a downloadable file is playable on, because I want to have some idea of what emulator I’ll need to run the game in. I recently downloaded an old game thinking I could run it in one kind of TRS-80 emulator only to discover that the game was actually for an entirely different and incompatible line of TRS-80 computers. Yes, this is partly Radio Shack’s fault for slapping that label on every machine they ever sold, including at least one calculator, without any regard for the compatibility of underlying architecture or software; but it would still be nice if our own tagging had tags that distinguished between TRS-80 Models I/III/IV, the TRS-80 Color Computer line, and the calculator, if any games were ever released for it. It would be nice to have those tags reorganized.) And on that note, it would be nice to have a process to rename and combine tags, and to remove tags that are malicious or simply incorrect. But it’s nice to see an emergent descriptive system where people can simply indicate that yes, they played this game, and it is a Lovecraftian horror piece, with a female protagonist, and very puzzly, and has thematic interests in cheese and in World Cup victory afterparties.
I would like to see efforts be made to tag more games, and to tag games more comprehensively, and I suspect there are probably comparatively lightweight ways to do this. One way might be to prominently encourage people to add game-related tags (and not just review-related tags) as part of the process of entering a review, or have a non-obtrusive popover when a game entry is displayed that says something like “Know this game? Want to tag it? Want to write a review?”