The Top 10 Worst Portrayals of Gamers on Television

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The Top 10 Worst Portrayals of Gamers on Television

Television has long pushed the worst kind of gamer stereotypes into the pop culture limelight.

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You can't fight common consensus, nor can you escape it. You can't fight its origin nor it's outcome. Because the point of it all is simplicity of identity, an ironic paradox intend of allowing us to judge entire swathes of people we don't know in as few words as possible.

Or maybe I'm just a bit of a pessimist.

I really dont see what the South Park one has to do with poor portrayal of gamers, most characters in that show play games and Cartman is the douche that he always is, it isnt the fact that he plays games that has him being that way, its the fact that he simply is a douche.

josemlopes:
I really dont see what the South Park one has to do with poor portrayal of gamers, most characters in that show play games and Cartman is the douche that he always is, it isnt the fact that he plays games that has him being that way, its the fact that he simply is a douche.

MovieBob still can't let go of recent controversies.

Give it time, we'll all forget about 'it' and move on.

As with the other ones...I thought Big Bang Theory was the nadir of gamer stereotypes, but those other ones are pretty bad too. BBT still holds a special place because it's consistently awful in its depiction, whereas the others were one-offs.

So yeah, a mostly fine list.

Add to that the 1000 mentions of gamers as asocial, dirty and what not.
Recent example was an episode of "Castle" where the main character is clearly a childish, nerdy, and game enthusiast.
As Contrast, they catch a suspect because he could not say away from his game.
Next week could be interesting, though.

MovieBob:
I shouldn't have to explain this one.

You really should, considering you've put the cast of the Big Bang Theory in the banner at the top. I've only seen a random selection of episodes so maybe I missed the one with the terrible portrayal of gamers but from what I've seen, gaming doesn't feature much at-all in BBT. At most there's the odd reference to the guys having a gaming night or a one-liner referencing a popular game franchise, I suppose there was that one episode where Penny became addicted to WoW but that was clearly being played for laughs, it was so silly.

Me55enger:
You can't fight common consensus, nor can you escape it. You can't fight its origin nor it's outcome. Because the point of it all is simplicity of identity, an ironic paradox intend of allowing us to judge entire swathes of people we don't know in as few words as possible.

Or maybe I'm just a bit of a pessimist.

I think maybe a little bit pessimistic :-) if you can change common consensus, then we'd still have all manner of what we consider evil in our everyday lives (Slavery, lack of Women's Suffrage, etc). The funny thing about stereotypes is that they help us a society function. Stereotypes do a great job of providing a framework of thoughts and ideals about how to interact with a certain group of people, and the vast majority of the time, those interactions are so seamless and subtle that they never even enter into our mind.

Now, where the problem comes in when a person(s) is presented with information that disproves that stereotype, but those people continue to cling to the stereotype. The thing is, stereotypes work on a macro-level, but they collapse on a micro-level. There is no one person that fits perfectly into a stereotype. A healthy individual uses the stereotype to broadly define how they should interact with a group of people, but then adjusts that for individuals, and makes exceptions to the stereotype. Enough exceptions to the existing stereotype, and the stereotype as a whole changes. Granted that's an insanely complex process of identity. meaning-making, and semiotics all rolled up for that happen, but it does happen.

So really, a stereotype has a negative connotation, but people only really ever think about stereotypes in a negative connotation. They ignore how they allow us interact with other groups of without knowing the specifics of that person. For example, a stereotype of waiter, you expect to act in a certain way towards you. We expect a health nut to act a certain way, we expect a gamer to act a certain way -- and by-in-large, these are fine. it's only when we can't reconcile the individual from the stereotype that it becomes 'pathological,' and we end up with things like sexism, racism, etc.

If you care at all about this stuff, an awesome read is Sander Gilman's Difference and Pathology. A lot of what just wrote here with stereotypes comes from this book.

Law and Order is one of my favorite show. I know the episode you're talking about and I think L&O had at least two that I can think of that addressed video games. However the tone of the episode always seemed to lean towards that people who play games like that or commit crimes after playing a video game was just fucked in the head with video games being a catalyst.

I'm in a weird place in that I regularly watch BBT or at least proxy-watch whenever someone else is watching (mostly reruns) but I cannot for the life of me explain why. Despite throwing out some impressive references every once in a while (I'm still amazed they had a legit[?] discussion about Crisis on Infinite Earths), their pool of topics is mainly Star Trek, Star Wars, and whatever comics people already know about - no Mother or Final Fantasy (for God's sake, Stephen Colbert said Tifa Lockheart's name on-air - when has that EVER happened in mainstream media?), no PewDiePie, no debate on a recent movie's merits other than whatever popular consensus seems to be, hardly any cosplay, and exactly one (maybe 1 1/2) instance of a woman un-ironically understanding and enjoying geek culture instead of the hen-pecking "What is this stuff?" I like the cast and honestly believe some of them deserve to move on to bigger and better things (re: Jim Parsons) and I think some of them have made interesting strides in character development, but for the most part they act however the plot dictates and continuity is half-assed. It doesn't help that Sheldon is the worst version of "Jerk Best Friend" that's becoming common to the point of baffling (WHY DO THE OTHERS HANG OUT WITH THIS GUY?!)

As for gaming representation, does it piss anyone else off that we live in a time where researching game mechanics is as simple as watching some Let's Plays and that practically Hollywood movies in terms of production value, yet A)no one knows how MMO avatar interactions work and B)the default sound effect is STILL Pong-like bloops and bleeps?

Good read Bob, but I do wish you had gone into a bit more detail about Big Bang Theory. I've only seen a couple episodes here and there and from that all I know about it is that the characters are annoying and the show isn't funny.

Also holy crap Cartman is the perfect personification of Gamergators.

I hope that Felicia Day's character from Supernatural is on the good portrayal list. I was super impressed by it.

JoJo:

MovieBob:
I shouldn't have to explain this one.

You really should, considering you've put the cast of the Big Bang Theory in the banner at the top. I've only seen a random selection of episodes so maybe I missed the one with the terrible portrayal of gamers but from what I've seen, gaming doesn't feature much at-all in BBT. At most there's the odd reference to the guys having a gaming night or a one-liner referencing a popular game franchise, I suppose there was that one episode where Penny became addicted to WoW but that was clearly being played for laughs, it was so silly.

I think he's probably referring to the fact that there have been a lot of blog posts and essays written about how most of the time the audience is laughing AT the characters in the Big Bang Theory and not with them. I'm not sure its as cut and dried as all that, but its a longer discussion in any case.

Bob on the (Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, "Bullseye") one you made a mistake and put your own picture there instead of one from the show.

C'mon guys you knew someone was going to say it.

I'd say "Gamer" still holds a particular cultural place as a prime descriptor for one whom "Primarily games" after all when asked what hobbies I do, Gamer is more succinct than: "I play video games, dungeons and dragons, warhammer, some board games, a couple of TCGs..." kinda kills the conversation, saying "I'm a pretty big gamer," can then lead the person to "Oh cool, what else do you do?" or "Oh cool, what types of games do you play?" and I can react accordingly, thus avoiding the drooling obsessive fanboy archetype.

And whilst yes saying "Oh I mostly play games", sounds kind of childish and doesn't really give people room for movement in the conversation. After all, if we're going down the "everyone is a gamer" route now, that includes people who play crib or darts in the pub, because after all, those are games too.

"Gamers are just an annoying cultural blip that needs to go away" well gee, thanks for telling me a big part of my time spent in intellectual, creative and rewarding pursuits is essentially worthless because you don't like the term I use. (I'm aware that's not the intention but that's how it comes across dude, may want to think how to better communicate this).

Other than that, interesting read.

vid87:
-snip-

Someone needs to watch Spaced methinks.

And if Tim Bisley isn't on next weeks list, so does Bob.

*accidental double post, meant to edit into my previous, apologies*

josemlopes:
I really dont see what the South Park one has to do with poor portrayal of gamers, most characters in that show play games and Cartman is the douche that he always is, it isnt the fact that he plays games that has him being that way, its the fact that he simply is a douche.

I think Bob neglects to mention the fact that the only reason Cartman is all obsessed over either the new PSP, Wii, or GTA: Chinatown Wars is because Matt and Trey are big fans of gaming themselves. The reason you hear Cartman talking about it in the particular episodes, is likely because Matt and Trey at the time were looking forward to these products as well.

JoJo:

MovieBob:
I shouldn't have to explain this one.

You really should, considering you've put the cast of the Big Bang Theory in the banner at the top. I've only seen a random selection of episodes so maybe I missed the one with the terrible portrayal of gamers but from what I've seen, gaming doesn't feature much at-all in BBT. At most there's the odd reference to the guys having a gaming night or a one-liner referencing a popular game franchise, I suppose there was that one episode where Penny became addicted to WoW but that was clearly being played for laughs, it was so silly.

Ah, but as a nerd/geek you're SUPPOSED to hate the show. Because.. you know, it's sooo bad at portraying "our culture."

Fun fact, I know plenty of nerds who act exactly like the characters on that show. The whole "they want us to laugh *at* the characters instead of *with* them" argument? Uh-huh, yeah. That's called a sitcom and 90% of them are set up like that.

I can stand with the argument of the show being incredibly sexist. The earlier seasons were some of the most sexist moments not on Spike TV, and the latter seasons haven't done as much as they could to improve that.

But the idea of the show being so popular to rag on, to the point of such a smug "I shouldn't have to explain this" on an otherwise detailed list of entries, is really starting to get on my nerves. It isn't the best thing on television, but it's far from the worst thing either.

Lvl 64 Klutz:

JoJo:

MovieBob:
I shouldn't have to explain this one.

You really should, considering you've put the cast of the Big Bang Theory in the banner at the top. I've only seen a random selection of episodes so maybe I missed the one with the terrible portrayal of gamers but from what I've seen, gaming doesn't feature much at-all in BBT. At most there's the odd reference to the guys having a gaming night or a one-liner referencing a popular game franchise, I suppose there was that one episode where Penny became addicted to WoW but that was clearly being played for laughs, it was so silly.

Ah, but as a nerd/geek you're SUPPOSED to hate the show. Because.. you know, it's sooo bad at portraying "our culture."

Fun fact, I know plenty of nerds who act exactly like the characters on that show. The whole "they want us to laugh *at* the characters instead of *with* them" argument? Uh-huh, yeah. That's called a sitcom and 90% of them are set up like that.

I can stand with the argument of the show being incredibly sexist. The earlier seasons were some of the most sexist moments not on Spike TV, and the latter seasons haven't done as much as they could to improve that.

But the idea of the show being so popular to rag on, to the point of such a smug "I shouldn't have to explain this" on an otherwise detailed list of entries, is really starting to get on my nerves. It isn't the best thing on television, but it's far from the worst thing either.

On the other side: Eh I don't find the show that funny, it has some laughs I won't deny that, but I'm not really interested in the over arching narrative of who's doing who. I don't particularly like the characters, I hate that because of it people at work call me Sheldon now, because you know, actually having informed opinions on things, makes me like him apparently.

But for the most part, it's not that well written in my opinion, I think that's more down to me just not being a Chuck Lorre fan more than anything, he's not really made anything that resonates with me, and that's ok. I just watch other shows instead.

JoJo:

MovieBob:
I shouldn't have to explain this one.

You really should, considering you've put the cast of the Big Bang Theory in the banner at the top. I've only seen a random selection of episodes so maybe I missed the one with the terrible portrayal of gamers but from what I've seen, gaming doesn't feature much at-all in BBT. At most there's the odd reference to the guys having a gaming night or a one-liner referencing a popular game franchise, I suppose there was that one episode where Penny became addicted to WoW but that was clearly being played for laughs, it was so silly.

Seconded. As someone who doesn't watch the show, saying "Here it is. Because reasons," makes no damn sense.
Bob, if you're not going to take the time to explain yourself, don't bother listing it.

Rellik San:

Lvl 64 Klutz:

JoJo:
[quote="MovieBob" post="6.864852.21598711"]I shouldn't have to explain this one.

You really should, considering you've put the cast of the Big Bang Theory in the banner at the top. I've only seen a random selection of episodes so maybe I missed the one with the terrible portrayal of gamers but from what I've seen, gaming doesn't feature much at-all in BBT. At most there's the odd reference to the guys having a gaming night or a one-liner referencing a popular game franchise, I suppose there was that one episode where Penny became addicted to WoW but that was clearly being played for laughs, it was so silly.

Ah, but as a nerd/geek you're SUPPOSED to hate the show. Because.. you know, it's sooo bad at portraying "our culture."

Fun fact, I know plenty of nerds who act exactly like the characters on that show. The whole "they want us to laugh *at* the characters instead of *with* them" argument? Uh-huh, yeah. That's called a sitcom and 90% of them are set up like that.

Yeah, I really thought that was a cheap move. Particularly in a list that also features that X-Files storyline which I remember even as a child watching and going 'WTF?'.

I actually really like the show, it reminds me of me and my friends growing up and I'm bored of people trashing it because non-geeks seem to like it.

I've actually never seen TBBT, but most of my gamer friends enjoy it, so I'm not sure what's up with it. Though I do remember all those posts getting angry at how they were `appropriating our culture` which gave me endless giggles.

But yeah, every time gamers are introduced in TV shows its usually pretty much the same thing, big sweaty dudes with no social skills.

I look forward to the positive list. I'm not much of a TV watcher and can only think of one good example.

I loved Code Monkeys and was super sad when it ended. It really wasn't about the games, it was a workplace situational comedy kind of thing, like The Office but with the freedom to do crazier things that animation brings.

Otherwise, all the things I expected to see. The closer to prime time, the worse the portrayal.

EDIT: You know, I don't think Cartman is actually shown to be super into gaming. Sure, he wants the latest greatest console in a few episodes, but that is because he thinks having the latest greatest, and most expensive thing makes him cooler than everyone else. Not because he is super into gaming. I think that is a real stretch, and may be you selecting him because he posses those qualities that are often associated with gamers, especially online since the whole gamergate thing blew up.

Oh boy this topic

I might as well come clean and loud: BLOODY SODDING HELL, WHY ON EARTH CAN'T POPULAR CULTURE PORTRAY US AS JUST NORMAL PEOPLE INSTEAD OF SOCIOPATHS OR PSCYHOPATHS?!?!?!

This is why I hate most pop culture, it twists and distorts, it sells fantasies and doesn't challenge. This is pure comfort food for a population of people who don't want to live in reality even more than the so called "power fantasy" fools. Times need to change and our media has to adapt in order to treat idiots worldwide of their condition.

Sorry, I get miffed about portrayals like this. Yeah, it's time to change people's perceptions of our little world. Call out the assholes, the delusional and the ones who forgot reality all you want, I will side with you there but you start showing every gamer like that and I will give you no quarter and no mercy.

Also, I got another example. Criminal Minds had an episode called "Wheels on the Bus" which had two brothers from divorced parents play violent video games and had their latent sociopathy increased to the point that they kidnap a bus full of kids to play out a real life version of one of their games.

Serrenitei:

Me55enger:
You can't fight common consensus, nor can you escape it. You can't fight its origin nor it's outcome. Because the point of it all is simplicity of identity, an ironic paradox intend of allowing us to judge entire swathes of people we don't know in as few words as possible.

Or maybe I'm just a bit of a pessimist.

I think maybe a little bit pessimistic :-) if you can change common consensus, then we'd still have all manner of what we consider evil in our everyday lives (Slavery, lack of Women's Suffrage, etc). The funny thing about stereotypes is that they help us a society function. Stereotypes do a great job of providing a framework of thoughts and ideals about how to interact with a certain group of people, and the vast majority of the time, those interactions are so seamless and subtle that they never even enter into our mind.

Now, where the problem comes in when a person(s) is presented with information that disproves that stereotype, but those people continue to cling to the stereotype. The thing is, stereotypes work on a macro-level, but they collapse on a micro-level. There is no one person that fits perfectly into a stereotype. A healthy individual uses the stereotype to broadly define how they should interact with a group of people, but then adjusts that for individuals, and makes exceptions to the stereotype. Enough exceptions to the existing stereotype, and the stereotype as a whole changes. Granted that's an insanely complex process of identity. meaning-making, and semiotics all rolled up for that happen, but it does happen.

So really, a stereotype has a negative connotation, but people only really ever think about stereotypes in a negative connotation. They ignore how they allow us interact with other groups of without knowing the specifics of that person. For example, a stereotype of waiter, you expect to act in a certain way towards you. We expect a health nut to act a certain way, we expect a gamer to act a certain way -- and by-in-large, these are fine. it's only when we can't reconcile the individual from the stereotype that it becomes 'pathological,' and we end up with things like sexism, racism, etc.

If you care at all about this stuff, an awesome read is Sander Gilman's Difference and Pathology. A lot of what just wrote here with stereotypes comes from this book.

the stereotype of gamers should not be so negative now. Times have changed and the population of gamers had encompassed everyone no matter what device. The world needs to change whether it wants to or not.

This just feels whiny to me. The truth feels like the only people who really give a shit about what everyone thinks about gamers are people who actually fit that stereotype in one form or another. I am a gamer, which is just one aspect of myself. I also am a professional in IT (clearly, can be considered part of the stereotype for some), but I also go to the gym 5 days a week, was an amateur boxer and MMA instructor, and also an artist.

I don't fit a lot of the negative stereotypes. I am a gamer. And I couldn't care less about what anyone perceives about me as a gamer.

Lvl 64 Klutz:

JoJo:

MovieBob:
I shouldn't have to explain this one.

You really should, considering you've put the cast of the Big Bang Theory in the banner at the top. I've only seen a random selection of episodes so maybe I missed the one with the terrible portrayal of gamers but from what I've seen, gaming doesn't feature much at-all in BBT. At most there's the odd reference to the guys having a gaming night or a one-liner referencing a popular game franchise, I suppose there was that one episode where Penny became addicted to WoW but that was clearly being played for laughs, it was so silly.

Ah, but as a nerd/geek you're SUPPOSED to hate the show. Because.. you know, it's sooo bad at portraying "our culture."

Fun fact, I know plenty of nerds who act exactly like the characters on that show. The whole "they want us to laugh *at* the characters instead of *with* them" argument? Uh-huh, yeah. That's called a sitcom and 90% of them are set up like that.

I can stand with the argument of the show being incredibly sexist. The earlier seasons were some of the most sexist moments not on Spike TV, and the latter seasons haven't done as much as they could to improve that.

But the idea of the show being so popular to rag on, to the point of such a smug "I shouldn't have to explain this" on an otherwise detailed list of entries, is really starting to get on my nerves. It isn't the best thing on television, but it's far from the worst thing either.

Yeah, I've always thought that the non-geek characters get ragged on just as much as the geek characters in that show, I mean how many thousand 'Penny is dumb' jokes have we had so far? Everyone gets laughed at and I don't see why anyone would have a problem with that, it's healthy to be able to laugh at yourself / groups you are a part of every now and again. It's a shame as it would have at-least been interesting to hear Bob's views on how this applies to gaming in particular and if there's any episodes are particularly bad at representing us in his mind.

Hey, I liked Code Monkeys...

But yes, gamers do tend to still be stereotyped as fat and/or unattractive losers still living in their parents' basement. Not just in TV shows, though: movies, news reports, and sometimes even within video games! (look at ZP's review of Infamous: Second Son)

Oh well. At least we know that you'll never resort to using those stereotypes, right Bob?

Honestly, that was kind of a lame list given the stretches for half the entries. Villain of the week crime dramas aren't exactly supposed to represent reality as, well, they need their bad guy every week, so they just turn something into a lunitic. That's 5 off the list. Code Monekys and South Park are supposed to be about douchebaggery in exaggerated levels, so again, nothing to take seriously. This leaves the short lived show no one watched, a couple of cheap shots by the Simpsons (like they do anything else) and BBT which went without explaination despite actually being the one grounded in reality, and usually not that flattering. Gaming doesn't come up often, but some of the times it did was to demonstrate Sheldon as a horrid loser when Penny beats him at Halo, Penny's online gaming addiction, Sheldon's taking console choice far too seriously, Howard (and occasionally the others) avoiding wife and chores to play Batman (though that plot goes back to football games in 1950s sitcoms), and a few rounds of "here's how dumb you look playing the wii and DDR." It's rarely flattering, but then again, we've all kind of been there in our lives, and it's good to laugh at it.

Less concern for our portray on TV than why anyone still takes TV as some mirror of reality instead of shitty and contrived plot devices and joke generators.

JoJo:
Yeah, I've always thought that the non-geek characters get ragged on just as much as the geek characters in that show, I mean how many thousand 'Penny is dumb' jokes have we had so far? Everyone gets laughed at and I don't see why anyone would have a problem with that, it's healthy to be able to laugh at yourself / groups you are a part of every now and again. It's a shame as it would have at-least been interesting to hear Bob's views on how this applies to gaming in particular and if there's any episodes are particularly bad at representing us in his mind.

The "Penny is dumb" jokes are mostly "Penny doesn't get some concept from physics that half of the audience won't either" or "Penny zones out when someone is talking about something geeky."

By comparison, the jokes the guys are the butt of tend to be "the guys are into such-and-such geeky thing, isn't that hilarious?"

Let's not forget these gems, descriptions taken from the BBT wiki:

The Dumpling Paradox:
While the gang is playing, Penny and her friends, knowing the guys are too engrossed in the game to notice them, have a laugh by telling the gang they want to have sex with them. Leonard does look up wondering what just happened and then goes back to his gaming.

The Extract Obliteration:
She leaves and then returns to Amy and Bernadette in her apartment. She says that she doesn't think that Leonard will be making that mistake again. She also tells the girls that if they ever tell Leonard that they helped her with the paper, that she will beat each of them with a bag of oranges. They both agree. Penny then explains that next time maybe they can put their heads together and get an A. Bernadette explained that her "B-"was on purpose to make it believable. Penny snapped back that they didn't think that she was smart enough? "No, no", the two girls replied in unison after Penny's bag of oranges comment. "Good" she finished. The girls felt like they were back in high school doing the prom queen's homework so that she would like them. Amy finished with that it was finally working.

The latter of those really kind of turned me against the show.

Hey...i really dont get this apparent offense im supposed to take here. Ive dabbled in all these shows at some point and not once does it bother me when these "stereotypes" pop up. TBBT does remind me of some younger days, though the writing has dived more into dumbed down relationship arcs and simplified science analogies; i find that to be the only gripe of the show.
Also with Lisa's problem, i fully empathise as i used games as a coping mechanism for depression and isolation when younger, to the point it did affect my GSCE work a lot, amongst other tings. Stereotypes will always be. Just go along and humour them and please...why so serious? ;)

MovieBob:
So, basically, Gus' petty revenge/empowerment fantasy using his ex's image (without her consent, incidentally) now has her marked for literal death by supervillains on a weekly basis, and somehow he's still the good guy.

And yet, he didn't purposely bring them to life and send them after her, nor did his game portray her as the bad guy you're trying to kill, but rather someone you're trying to rescue.

Sad how recent events can actually make this guy look good by comparison.

Yup -- our actual premise is that a woman asserting herself in game development creates a (literal) man-eating monstress that kills guys and wrecks the game. Delightful.

Hey I never knew that Anita Sarkeesian appeared in a 90's X-Files episode!

Wow, already alienating me on #10, that's a new record!

Probably the worst thing about the list is that it justifise bad examples of men and chastices bad examples of women. Double standards much?

Bob, hate to break it to you but Cartman isn't a portrayal of a "gamer" he's a portrayal of a total douchebag sociopath who happens to be a gamer. I think his gaming is less about being a "gamer" and more about lording it over Kenny (well everyone but Kenny especially) how he (Cartman) has all these neat things and Kenny is just "poor white trash."
I'd not put Cartman at #1 just because of how your list is skewed by everyone else on it (except maybe #10 who I wouldn't have even remembered existed). You wrote about one-off portrayals of gamers and then threw Cartman in at #1. If you've an axe to grind about Eric Cartman and South Park in general, go ahead and do it. Don't make a disingenous list so you can bitch about a few minor portrayals in the entirety of Eric Cartman's TV existence. Because any of those gaming episodes are minor when compared to the slew of other things that encompass Cartman.
I'm not necessarily defending Cartman, but I am calling you out for writing an article that fails to live up to the premise and goes off the rails at the end.

Fun little read. I'd like to hear your thoughts on Big Bang Theory some time Bob. I first watched the show and thought it was amusing, but the more I watched it, the less funny it got. Struck a wrong cord with me I guess. The way the main characters acts is too much like the stereotypes I often see and hear about nerds and geeks. And Sheldon just got too annoying for me to handle.

Looking forward to seeing next week's list. Is Clarissa going to be on there, since you did an article on her a while back?

JoJo:
I suppose there was that one episode where Penny became addicted to WoW

Age of Conan.

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