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Author Topic: Why all the resistance?  (Read 24953 times)
Blake Hutchins
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Posts: 614


« Reply #15 on: May 08, 2001, 08:01:00 PM »

Maybe the evolution and implicit hierarchy described by the model triggers the point of resistance. Gamist seems to be the equivalent of Neanderthal Man, whereas Narrativist comes across as Homo Sapiens. Certainly most of the GO debate identified Gamist as the "old form," Narrativist as the most recent development, and Simulationist as the schizophrenic sister in the closet who mumbles, "Am I a nitpicky universal recreation or do I mirror a particular genre's mood and style? Am I simulationist or explorationist?"

On a side note, I find the threefold model equally useful when applied to players, because it's as accurate a way of describing player goals as system goals. Strikes me that the possibility of the model accurately identifying player agendas may also trigger resistance, so on that basis I also agree with Jared.

I don't think we can avoid the hierarchy of sophistication that the model brings with it. I know it doesn't say X is better than Y, but it does persistently imply X is more evolved than Y, or that X has loftier, more complex goals than Y. At least, it does in my reading.

Solutions or strategies to detox this beast for the community? Tough question. Maybe begin by acknowledging the ways in which Gamist elements find their way into Narrativist games. For example, I see Dying Earth's and Story Engine's bidding systems as a subgame mechanic (win/lose oriented) that facilitates narrativist play. Likewise, Hero Wars Action Points could be seen as an evolution of DnD's hit points. Acknowledging these components as Gamist-derived elements might help lower some defenses, at least for Gamist gamers.

Thoughts? Am I barking up the wrong basalt sacrificial pillar?

Best,

Blake
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #16 on: May 09, 2001, 06:20:00 AM »

Hey Blake,

"it does persistently imply X is more evolved than Y, or that X has loftier, more complex goals than Y. At least, it does in my reading."

However, such a view is absent from my System essay. I'll be the first to say that Gamism and Simulationism are certainly capable of complex goals - the whole notion of winning is a very, very interesting and powerful thing, when looked at carefully. Winning is always about something, and it's not always simple dominance and threat. As for Simulationism, Paul's recent thread about the funny E-thing shows some of its complexity (granted, however, your caricature of it was pretty funny).

"Lofty"? I'm not sure anyone has copped an attitude about how wonderful it is to create a story AT THE EXPENSE of how semi-OK, at best, it is to do anything else. Upon careful examination, I think that perceiving such a thing has been projected onto the discussion by readers.

Then again, that's not wholly right (I said it was careful examination). There is also the defensiveness and focus of a marginalized group to consider. It's demonstrably the case that Narrativism has had a hard time being recognized for what it really is - the worst instance is the co-opting of "storyteller" by White Wolf, thus communicating to all and sundry that Narrativism = World of Darkness, lock stock and barrel. A similar instance is confounding Drama-mechanics for Narrativist-priority, which, with respect, I think is the main error by Kim et al. When struggling to make one's point actually heard at ALL, one's commitment to that point is often perceived as elitism or contempt for all other views.

I should also point out that the term "more evolved" is an abomination. It literally means nothing. "Has more derived features," "has undergone more instances of change," are more meaningful, but neither implies "better" or "improved" in any way ACROSS categories. And besides, I don't think that either Gamist or Simulationist design has stood still as Narrativist design evolved, not in the slightest.

Historically, I can find elements of all three views reaching back to the very beginning of role-playing. What has evolved at different rates (and plateau'd in different ways) is game design, in the context of these existing goals "out there." And game design, in this context, has evolved dramatically, in all three ways.

In that context, yes, Gamism was the priority of most early system design, with Simulationism a very strong second from the very beginning. Simulationism took the #1 spot through the 80s, in my opinion because the tournament-driven D&D culture failed to persist as the driving force in sales. I also think hints and mutters of Narrativism appeared throughout, from the very beginning - see the role-playing essays in early T&T (despite its flagrantly Gamist system) and in TFT (despite its flagrantly Simulationist design); see the disjuncture between Narrativist character disadvantages in Champions, as well as its Simulationist combat mechanics and Gamist point-structure.

Again, though, SINCE THE BEGINNING, design elements for all three priorities have evolved in a kind of jostling, tripping-one-another-up kind of way. If we look at current systems and other aspects of game design, we see a whole spectrum of evolved details within each priority.

VERY SKETCHY SUMMARY
- Simulationism: world/physics simulation (e.g. GURPS) with highly-layered mechanics evolving into LARP-style character-experiential (e.g. Purgatory) with very light mechanics
- Gamism: dungeon-crawls splitting into (a) CRPGs, (b) Magic, and (c) this new Drama-driven stuff like Pantheon
- Narrativism: covert interjections of Drama resolution splitting into (a) overt Drama (e.g. The Window, Theatrix) and (b) Fortune-in-the-middle and Director-stance (e.g. Prince Valiant, Zero, Hero Wars)

(Please note that these types of evolutionary change do NOT require the disappearance of the previous form in order for a new form to appear; it is cladogenic, not anagenic. Therefore old-style dungeon crawls are still with us in new games - no judgment implied.)

Regarding bidding mechanics, I see them as resource management rather than competition. We do a lot of bidding in my Hero Wars game, and I'm looking forward to playing The Dying Earth soon ... but I don't see WINNING a bid, in terms of strategy, as the goal of these activities. In fact, in both games, it's kind of fun to lose every so often, if it makes for a really great scene/story. Losing in a Gamist system is like losing for REAL - "damn it!" said with good or bad sportsmanship. Losing in one of the systems we're talking about is just one way the scene can resolve, or begin to be resolved.

Well - I guess this turned out to be one of those Edwards rants/perorations. Hope it was helpful or thought-provoking.

Best,
Ron
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Blake Hutchins
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Posts: 614


« Reply #17 on: May 09, 2001, 08:25:00 AM »

You're preaching to the choir here, so rant away. I still believe the G/N/S model -- or at least the way it has been discussed on GO (I wasn't pointing at your essay, Ron) --implies an evolution from a mechanic-heavy wargaming model to a mechanic-light storytelling one. And since the original question is, "Why the resistance?", I dare speculate that the majority of the gaming community views G/N/S as having a hierarchical architecture. Thus, some folks who are comfortable with Gamist and Simulationist goals react defensively and reject the model entirely. If there was a way to disarm that reaction, we might see more open discussion of the model, discussion that didn't always seem to tread over the same ground of explaining how no one mode or style is superior to the others.

Jared's categorization argument posits a reason folks may turn up their noses at the model. My "perceived hierarchy" offers another take, but both Jared and I seem to be pointing to the perception of elitism as the core issue. The DnD guy who loves his battlemats and miniatures may read the threefold model and think, "Jeez, they're saying my take isn't worried about story or character," when he thinks he's running a cool storyline with lots of character development. If you're a narrativist, you don't worry about being told, "you're not interested in competition or the win-lose result," but if you're a gamist, you may bridle at someone saying, "you're not really focused on story, and your game has a lot of clunky features that get in the way of telling a good story." Now nobody I've read who discusses a narrativist point of view comes off like this to me, but that's not to say it doesn't come off as judgmental to others.

Anyway, I'm rambling, and this isn't nearly as well reasoned as Ron's response. Thoughts?
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joshua neff
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« Reply #18 on: May 09, 2001, 02:44:00 PM »

* the worst instance is the co-opting of "storyteller" by White Wolf, thus communicating to all and sundry that Narrativism = World of Darkness *

actually, what gets up my nose regarding white wolf is not that they've led people to believe "storytelling=the world o' darkness" or even "storytelling=pretentious artiness (& therefore no fun)" but "storytelling=ignore the rules for the sake of story"...so, instead of mechanics that facilitate story-creation, we have "here's a host of traditional gamist & simulationist rules...you want to create a story? cool, ignore what we just gave you" & the subsequent interpretation "ah, so narrativists are people who like rules-lite (or rule-less) games"...

& i used to feel that way! i used to long for "freeform", rules-lite rpgs...but only because i'd never thought you could have viable mechanics that supported story-creation...

& you find that all the time, both on rpg.net & GO: the mistaken belief that "narrativism=no rules" ("but, gee, then how do you run the game? won't players just run roughshod over the story the gm carefully constructed?")...
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--josh

"You can't ignore a rain of toads!"--Mike Holmes
Jared A. Sorensen
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« Reply #19 on: May 09, 2001, 03:07:00 PM »

Thinking about this topic reminded me about another resistance: that of RPG's as works of art and RPG designers/authors as artists.

I think the two resistances are related -- people may be hesitant to embrace a concept which (they think) elevates (ahem, er, or simply moves) something they like a lot into some "higher, unreachable plane of existence."  Like, they think that you're saying, "Everything you know is wrong!"  And boy, do geeks hate being wrong.  Does this make sense?

Does anyone have any thoughts on the reticence of many (the majority?) of gamers to view an RPG as a valid form of artistic expression?
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joshua neff
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« Reply #20 on: May 09, 2001, 03:18:00 PM »

oh, christ, jared, don't even get me started on the art factor...i have very strong feelings about art & i'm constantly bewildered at people's resistance to being classified as artists--art, to them, is what other people do...

altho i just had a thought--art, i believe, is play...it involves a playful attitude w/ life & the universe...now, in our culture, "play" is the binary opposite of "work", & both have all sorts of concepts associated w/ them: "work" is serious, sober, important, useful, necessary; play is frivolous, trivial, & necessary only as a a break so that people can get back to work...one sign of this is art in school: everybody in elementary school takes art class, but as you get older ("more mature" & "more serious"), art is no longer required (like the more practical classes are: science, math, history), & kids that take lots of art classes (especially those that go on to art colleges) tend to be viewed w/ suspicion & get comments like "oh, you have it easy, you just take art classes--that's not real work"...

so, maybe the reaction against the whole g/n/s thing is a reaction against taking rpgs "too seriously", because after all, it's "only" play, not serious like a job...

(oh, & for the record, i think the idea that "work" & "play" are opposites, & that work is "serious & important" while play is "frivolous" is absolute bullshit...)

[ This Message was edited by: joshua neff on 2001-05-09 19:20 ]
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--josh

"You can't ignore a rain of toads!"--Mike Holmes
greyorm
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« Reply #21 on: May 09, 2001, 07:44:00 PM »

won't players just run roughshod over the story the gm carefully constructed?"

I hate that...I mean, I hate the whole dependency on the narrator syndrome.  To quote myself in a recent rant in another discussion group:  its time RPGers grew up and stopped playing like a bunch of spoiled children out to break the system and beat the GM, or worse yet, suffer from the "pander to me, oh great Narrator" syndrome.

(Did I just slam gamism?  No.  That part is out-of-context here, though a valid point, and was applied to a specific type of player in the discussion

I despise, to the core of my being, the words from a player, "Oh, I don't know.  It's your plot, I don't want to mess anything up." ::drives steak knife through player's heart in frenzied fit::

As to RPGs as artwork...
I've been calling it the "art of roleplaying" and "the art of game design" for years now...I didn't even know there WAS a controversy over the use of the word art as it related to gaming.  Seemed dead-on obvious to me.

-Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
http://www.daegmorgan.net
"Homer, your growing insanity is starting to bother me."
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Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #22 on: May 10, 2001, 06:27:00 AM »

Josh and Raven,

I'm damaging my neck in all this nodding in agreement.

Make DAMN sure to come to Milwaukee in August, both of you - we'll be sure to role-play all weekend long.

Best,
Ron
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George Pletz
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Posts: 18


« Reply #23 on: May 10, 2001, 07:47:00 AM »

Quote

On 2001-05-09 19:18, joshua neff wrote:
...so, maybe the reaction against the whole g/n/s thing is a reaction against taking rpgs "too seriously", because after all, it's "only" play, not serious like a job...

(oh, & for the record, i think the idea that "work" & "play" are opposites, & that work is "serious & important" while play is "frivolous" is absolute bullshit...)


I have little to add to this, Joshua. You absolutely nailed it. The fear that analysis will somehow dissolve entertainment is pretty pervasive. And it's no different with most gamers. :roll:

George
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Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« Reply #24 on: May 22, 2001, 11:17:00 AM »

Well, I thought I'd de-lurk this new set of fora the way I did GO just a few months ago, rearing up in opposition to G/N/S and Ron's interperetation (ironic that it was Ron himself that gave me the URL to get here, eh?).

Actually, don't get me wrong, I'm a convert myself, but a sort of skeptical one. I believe that there is value to the G/N/S model. However, just like any theory it isn't etched in stone. Dr. Edwards would have to agree I'd think. So while I think that there are a lot of irrational reasons why people object to G/N/S, I believe that there are some serious indivduals out there with some interesting and thoughtful criticisms of G/N/S as a whole. I'd like to get S. John Ross over here. Though somewhat of a curmudgeon on occasion, I respect him as a designer and I've heard him dismiss G/N/S out of hand on occasion. I'm sure he's given it some thought and would like to hear his opinion. I recently heard another interesting criticism of G/N/S on rpg.net (yes, really insigtful; insight is where you find it not just here or on GO).

But what I'm really opposed to is G/N/S becoming a regimented dogma or canon to anyone. Its important to test theories and hypotheses regularly to see if they stand up against scrutiny. Critical thinking would encourage us to constantly question our own suppositions and positions. Only that way will this model improve, evolve, and become something more; a better practical tool. So, I'd welcome any opposition here or elsewhere as an opportunity to help G/N/S grow. To that extent, I'd be careful with that policy about sending all newbies to a pre-prepared set of essays or a FAQ about the nature of G/N/S. While this might be useful to some, it might be insulting to others who might just have a valid point, or at least something that might be helpful down the road. I would suggest encouraging debate over simply dismissing it.

While I'm probably coming off as reationary to an extent here, I want to emphasize that I don't think that most of this is a problem for anyone here. Most of the posts are insightful and even questioning, hardly pedantic. And I'm sure that the regulars will treat the new folks very well. But I thought that a cautionary note might just be called for amongst all of this pro-G/N/S fervor.

Mike Holmes

P.S. I wondered where you had all gone.
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james_west
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« Reply #25 on: May 22, 2001, 11:40:00 AM »

Mike -

I guess the conclusion we'd come to here seemed to be that, while it may not be an ideal system, it was still workable enough that if everyone could agree on a set of definitions, it was workable as a jumping off point for more in depth discussion (as opposed to trying to come up with a perfect and mutually agreeable classification system.)

So I don't think anyone's claiming it's the best possible system for classifying motives (well, maybe some people are), but I don't think that's a consensus opinion. The consensus opinion is that, even we aren't perfectly agreed on the relative merits of the system, we all understand it well enough at this point to discuss its implications.

                                       - James
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Logan
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« Reply #26 on: May 22, 2001, 11:48:00 AM »

If Ross were to arrive, I'd be very interested to hear what he thinks, beyond "This is destructive crap." There is critical thinking, which is good; and there is closed-minded dismissal which is useless. Unfortunately, most of what I've observed in Ross's rhetoric on the topic is the latter.

As far as having a basis document or a faq, I think it's a good idea to have the document as a reference for the current state of the model. Of course, to be effective, it must be kept reasonably up-to-date. The value of the faq is that it gives the newcomer a basis for understanding what the debate is about. In my opinion, there will always be a need for periodic recapping or summing of ideas, just to see where we are and what progress has been made. Otherwise, the bulk of our effort should go toward making the model better, faster, and stronger.

Best,

Logan

[ This Message was edited by: Logan on 2001-05-22 15:55 ]
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Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« Reply #27 on: May 23, 2001, 05:27:00 AM »

Good points James, Logan.

Yes, Ross can be abrasive, he's a curmudgeon by nature. He's also undenyably intelligent. Maybe he doesn't have a cogent opinion on the subject; OTOH, maybe he does. I'm betting that he'd add something to the debate if he did come over. I seem to get the feeling that his opinion is that it is destructive because it tends to cannalize thinking on certain subjects instead of leaving things open to different viewpoints. I liked Paul's alternate phylogeny and the attempt to shake up the model as well as your look at the axes, James, because they challenge the model. This kind of debate makes it possible to expand beyond any limitations on thinking that Threefold might impose. I think that Ross fears (in a more or less instinctive fashion) the potential for people to follow cannon blindly. This fear may not be justified, but it can't hurt to keep in mind the potential danger involved.

BTW, I'm also not for changing the model daily just because a new theory comes along; only after serious consideration of the usefulness of a change should it be imposed. Note my use of the word usefulness. This is important. A lot of the arguments about Threefold are semantic, and I fail to see what the practical advantages are to the new system that is being proposed. I understand that a better model might increase understanding, but all additions should increase the practical usefulness of the model. We are building tools here after all. Argue the deep philosopy of some of these points if you wish, but please keep in mind that I and I'd think most others as well are looking to Threefold to make RPGs better.

Ron acts as a pretty good defender of the model for this purpose, though, so I don't worry about it too much. However, if it ever becomes obvious that he is defending Threefold without concern for reason, we can always stage a palace coup and usurp the throne. (You're not going to kick me off the demo team for abusing you Ron, are you? I take it all back!)

As far as the FAQ, I'm all for it, or at least for a Glossary of terms. Yes people need to be able to reference the terms being used here and what they mean in this context. However, what I'm advocating is being careful with new guests and not assuming that if they are ranting against Threefold that they aoutomatically need to be sent to a 101 course on the subject. As I said, this might be insulting to some who might actually have good points to consider. It doesn't hurt to reference the FAQ, but the impresion I got was that these people would then be summarily ignored until they had done their basic reading and returned with their tail between their legs. Well, I don't always see that happening, and assumng they have some salient point, I'd like to see them engaged appropriately.

But as I said, I am not really too worried. The level of discrimination between Trolls and people with valid arguments is pretty high here, and I don't forsee too many problems. I'd hate for such a nifty site to get a reputation as eliteist, though, because there are some good minds out there that would be put off by such a reputation.

Yes, it is good to have defined terms and a structure to debate from. And I think that there are some ideas in Threefold that have power to improve game design and play. We just can't assume that were at the end of the debate; it seems to me that the debate has only just begun in earnest with these definitions.

Mike Holmes
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joshua neff
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« Reply #28 on: May 23, 2001, 05:55:00 AM »

i'm not interested in having s. john ross on any g/n/s discussion simply because i have yet to see him offer anything constructive to any discussion even vaguely related to g/n/s...declaring "it's stupid shit" isn't constructive or even a valid alternative viewpoint, it's just juvenile...& it goes back to the whole question of "why the resistance?"--i certainly acknowledge the anti-intellectual strain that runs thru american thought, the fear of "isms"--but i don't really understand it, except as an infantile response to something misunderstood...
to be honest, i have very little patience w/ that kind of kneejerk anti-intellectual response, & i don't think it would contribute anything to this discussion, to be sure...
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--josh

"You can't ignore a rain of toads!"--Mike Holmes
greyorm
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« Reply #29 on: May 23, 2001, 08:19:00 AM »

I rather agree.
I did some checking for discussion of the model elsewhere and whenever Ross' name appeared in regards to that discussion, it was tied to puerile, foul-mouthed name-calling.
I'm not too interested in having an individual with that kind of attitude hanging around here, regardless of their intellect.

As far as perceived elitism goes, I'm not too worried about it.
"Elitism" appears to have been turned into a dirty word by people afraid of anyone smarter, more knowledgable or simply better in any way than any other group.  I personally believe it stems from the American attitude which demands "we're all equal" and everyone be included in everything.  This attitude is provably misguided, despite what we want to believe as a culture.

How?
Simply, if not being allowed into a discussion as an equal participant with valid points because you haven't studied said topic marks the discussion group as "elitist", then there is something seriously wrong with the critical thinking and logic skills of the ones marking the group as such.
After all, since when does anyone listen to someone who doesn't know anything or very little about a given topic?  Would you listen to a medieval peasant about neurosurgery?  Or a medieval king?  Or even your next-door neighbor (even your smart-as-whip but non-doctorate neighbor)?

The main problem is that both reasonably and highly intelligent individuals (and, of course, not-so-intelligent) seem to believe the mere fact that they are intelligent and can use logical thinking gives them the right to discuss and (worse) to judge the merits of anything, without training in or more than a passing/basic/sound-byte knowledge of the subject.

As cases in point, I'd cite the number of people I know who think that because they took high-school physics, they are qualified to discuss quantum theory or astrophysics or various other physical sciences matters; or the people who talk about evolution and biology who haven't spent more than a semester of college studying the subject and aren't really qualified to "point out the flaws" in anything related to the subject.

For example, I know someone who claims that eagles have 360 degree vision because their eyes are on the sides of their heads, and they are certain of this because they went to school for medicine and it "seems logical."
However, a quick check reveals that eagles are predators and thus are more likely to have forward focused eyes, like all other predators (that I'm aware of).

I also know someone who claimed that the size of a planet determined the color of its sky, and used high-school physics and knowledge about the way light bends through the sky to try and back this up...but a quick check will reveal size has nothing to do with the color of the sky.
One of the same people says that "chaos" is a state of perfect, unchanging similarity (sounds chaotic to me...), because this is supposedly what his astrophysics professor told him.

This is the kind of situation pointing people to a FAQ or similar basic document would help prevent.  Putting us all on more-or-less equal footing in terms of subject knowledge.

I think that's all that is being asked...that anyone who wants to discuss have the decency and foresight to *study the subject first, not just spout off based on sound-byte knowledge.

Now, because the above could be touchy, I hope no one takes this examination as hostile or derogatory towards anyone specifically, but on the chance that someone will, I'm disavowing the existance of any such material in here.
My intention is to make a case and provide supporting proofs, if someone takes offense to the proofs, it shouldn't be because I've been deliberately insulting in their implementation.

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Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
Wild Hunt Studio
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