Education: Agency – How Games Empower Us – Extra Credits

once when visiting a lower-income school James had students play the original Super Mario Brothers as they played he watched the kids try and fail and then try something new and succeed he was planning on talking to them about the scientific method about hypothesis and confirmation but the conversation that evolved was much much different this was the sort of school where students didn’t think of going to college where pregnancy was just something that happened this was a school where many students lived completely in the present without too much being spent on goals or thoughts for the future and I don’t mean that to sound harsh this wasn’t the students fault and it wasn’t the teachers fault Society had failed these kids and so had their communities even though they both often have the best of intentions when these kids started playing Mario they did what everyone does when they play games try something and if that doesn’t work try something different but instead of this leading to a conversation about the scientific method it led to a conversation about agency about the fact that their choices mattered and it wasn’t all pre-written that what they did now affected who they’d get to be this is an incredible empowering thing it’s something that we all need to recognize to hold our own in the modern world and while that classroom session was nowhere near enough it was a first step that talk wasn’t gonna change the reality of these kids being in poverty or change who they were but no one takes control over their life without first realizing that it’s a possibility so one of the most valued uses for games in education maybe one of the most overlooked the fact that they can help impart agency in a game all of your choices are your own and you get to see their consequences on a compressed scale in the real world you may have to wait weeks or months to see the ramification of a choice heck in the real world you may not even be able to connect a choice to its real consequences or the choice might be so small that its impact can’t be seen but compounds over time say I just ate a candy bar instead of a balanced meal what are the consequences who knows it’s one out of ten thousands of eating events I’ll have in my life what I even really put together the cause and effect if I made the same choice hundreds of times if I did what I even feel like I had the power to change it well in games you have none of that abstraction you make a choice and you see its results for right away often in a few seconds never more than in a few hours your choices are often very casual and very concrete you lived or you died you made numbers go up or you made them go down these things train us to think about our choices to understand that all of our actions have ramifications what’s more by letting us remake our choices over and over in games let us see just how variable these ramifications can be they teach us that minor changes can be the difference between glorious success and abject failure and in this way they get us to care about the decisions we make games take us away from being solely rooted in the present even in games that many people may not associate with planning you always have a goal and you always have a route that you think will take you there even in Call of Duty or in Mario you’re always thinking about the thing you’re trying to accomplish and crafting strategies for how to do so even if that thing you’re trying to accomplish is just getting over a pit or racking up another kill unlike in life in games we never do something without having a reason even if that reason is just to mess around or amuse yourself in life you may observe a website or choose a restaurant to have lunch or even take more serious actions like saying things you can never take back to the one you love without forethought without consideration and that’s the abandonment of agency games trained us to not act this way the other half of agency is the feeling of being empowered of not taking choices off the table because you don’t think they’re possible for people like you and actually our schools are pretty good at this even though they may not have a plan to get there go to any school in America and you’ll have kids telling you that they want to be an astronaut or a president or a rap star or an athlete and video games can help reinforce that games let you tell your own story they make you the hero or the one who has to save the world what’s more a well-made game can help channel this away from turning into ego and towards becoming a healthy empowerment that helps kids escape the idea that it’s not their place in the world to do better than their parents their community or even their peers that’s an amazing thing it’s a magical thing that our games can give and our schools can give this feeling of agency this idea that you have some control over your destiny it’s something that is every person’s right and something that we can without a doubt achieve in a world as prosperous as ours so as we draw this series to a close and as we for the last time responds to that all-too-frequent question why should we have games in schools I’ll just say this one of the most important gifts we can give children of tomorrow is the freedom to choose for themselves the world they want to live in and to let them know that they have the power to make that world to know that there is greatness in us and that only by thinking that we don’t matter that we don’t have a choice that we can’t affect their influence things do the greatest evils get perpetrated you should allow games in schools because when it comes to the young when it comes to learning and the future it is a shame out of bias to dismiss any tools we might bring to bear but more than that you should allow games into schools because they help reinforce one of the greatest lessons our schools teach that in the end it is up to us to make of this life what we will see you next week [Music]

100 thoughts on “Education: Agency – How Games Empower Us – Extra Credits”

  1. I love this series. Just wish that more than the gamer community could see it. Hopefully a teacher will see this and link it to a bunch of their friends.

  2. Also to expand on that, languages like Japanese that have words spoken different than the writing for it could shoot out the direct Kanji related to the word/ sentence (adding some challenge to the mix) I could do this in the future, however I'm more focused on particular games already set as my goals, and I'm not bilingual, maybe this would help,

    By the way, for all of you who have listened to my trant (tri-rant)

  3. Strange… weird as it may sound, this is something that I do struggle with myself. I'm in college, I try to make something out of myself, but the results of my hard work won't be seen until much after graduation. This is something really depressing, and games feel like a good way to escape from that. I want to remember what games taught me and…. try harder for a better tomorrow! 

  4. I completely agree with everything you said. Games act as a perfect catalyst for that glimmer of efficacy in a microcosm world where consequences unfold rapidly and have no major lasting impact on us outside of the game. As a slight devil's advocate here though, I think it is important to temper this message in a way that does not lead to the expectation of instant gratification. You brought up the food example, and I agree that you want that seed planted that every choice matters. However, I can see an instant gratification mindset arising from games that will lead to eating healthy for say, a week, and then be overly dissuaded by the lack of results given inflated expectations of the pacing of efficacy.

  5. I thoroughly enjoyed this episode and I believe very strongly that games have the potential to grant us knowledge and access to our own agency. But a thought did occur – what if this sense of agency never moves beyond the game? In an environment where a child controls so little, would he not cling to that which he has the most control over? Would this not lead to game compulsion?

  6. I had to take a test recently for school that measured learning styles among 3 options. The questions reminded me of when I play games and at the end I was a perfect 33.3% split for learning styles. 

    Agency is actually a bit of a problem for me. I am the kind of person that just does well. How can anything give me a sense that I am the master of my own destiny when I coast through life succeeding?

  7. Have you ever looked at a bird and wondered: Why does it ever stay in one place? Birds have the freedom to fly and can go anywhere it likes, but yet most birds will find one place and stay there… And then it hits you. The same thing can be said of Humans. We have so much available to us that we can go anywhere we like on this little planet yet so many people just sit in the same corner where they were born and never see any of it… It's a shame. Don't you think?

  8. This is incredibly real talk. Unfortunately, although the majority of the world would benefit from the ideas this video expresses, the ideas will fly undetected on the majority of the world's radars.

    Spreading this knowledge is still only the first step, but because of Extra Credits, more and more people will realize the subtle things we can [collectively] fix in our society, slowly but surely.

  9. Just a question here.  Aren't you worried using games to create that feeling of agency could lead to game compulsion?  In your series on compulsive playing you say a lot that the need for the feeling of agency that games can provide is a primary driver of compulsive play.

  10. Hi guys! I just wanted to say a few things (I doubt you'll see this comment anyway, but here goes!)

    I wanted to thank you for making this series as many teachers would have never considered playing games in schools to be a viable opportunity, especially in secondary schools.

    I gave a presentation to the Senior Leadership Team, which basically means I showed them your videos (giving credit of course) and connected them to British Education as it is today. They liked it so much, they want me to give the same presentation again, but this time to every member of staff.

    Hopefully, this will get staff thinking about ways that they can change their teaching style to encompass the use of games in the classroom to teach different things, although this does lead to a question which I hope you (or someone else in the comments) can answer.

    Let's say that a school really wants to do these kinds of things, but doesn't have the facilities nor the money to make a major investment into these kind of innovations. Is there any way that these kinds of schools can take these ideas on board, if they have limited funding towards such an endeavour, or is it still fairly reliant on some initial funding to get off the ground?

    I'd appreciate your feedback and your continued work with the Games for Good initiative.

    Oh, and one more thing…

    Not that it would mean anything to you but the Assistant Headteacher at my school Mr. Murray said he would be spending the night thinking long and hard about what you've said in this series.

    and again, thank you!

    Mark Mander

    P.S. Sorry for the essay!

  11. @Maximo806 I would say, card games like Yugi Oh teach you some basic math and probability. And might motivate you to learn japanese. As games did motivate a lot of people to learn english. Even my english teacher said that gamers are generally better in english than non gamers.

  12. Hi guys, this episode tells the story of my life. I do feel games have been a huge inf;luence on my daily decision process. Keep up the good work

  13. I still think the most important thing to keep in mind is that we will always need tradespeople, farmers, assembly line workers, food service staff… Any education system needs a safe out for people who genuinely don't give a crap about intellect, or are incapable of higher order thinking. I think creating a system aimed at only producing engineers and creative thinkers would create a society filled with over trained and unemployed, skilled workers.

    This really doesnt seem to encourage diversity to me, beyond the entirely shallow diversity of queer/coloured people.

  14. is the backdrop of the vid the same shade of grey as youtube on purpose to make the vid seem bigger? or sheer un-probabilistic coincidence

  15. Another thing along the same lines that I think games help give to kids is an opportunity to practice problem-solving in stressful situations.

  16. This probably explains why, in school, I generally liked playing games where I could make more decisions–like that tanks game.

  17. Thank you for this series. I actually used it for a research project in my English class. I'm with you 100 percent on video games being an awesome to for schools to use.

  18. Thanks for the plug about net neutrality on the end.  Went over straight away and filled out my form. 

  19. I love going down all the wrong paths in a game and looking for hidden stuff, and seeing where all the wrong turns and dead ends are before going down the right path. I wish life was like that.

  20. Good points – independence, not conformity, leads to prosperity. Change the system from serfdom to freedom.

  21. The Walking Dead game series is a brilliant example. I told myself when I played: No It or going back when I made a choice. Even Xcom enemy unknown made me think about the actions I made. "Your efforts will have considerable influence on this planets future. We urge you to keep that in mind as you'll proceed." Is what I hear every time I had to make a tough move. It was a brilliant way of showing the consiquences of actions. In TWD I at first made decisions based on logic. Than I started making desicions based on characters and agreeing with the people I liked more. It not only showed me what my actions did, it showed me how I think about what I do in real life. Do I use logic, or do I choose to side with the person I agree with more of the time almost blindly? It not only shows about the affects of the choices you make, it also can show you how you make them and what influences you.

  22. I'd be interested to see a video exclusively talking about the negative effects of games and gaming.  Not from the perspective of someone avidly against gaming.

  23. I don't mean to provoke anyone, but I'd like to offer another point of view:
    While they may lend a sense of agency, games also very often tend to present options in a very black and white sense, being either completely right or completely wrong. True, there are games that escape that, but for the example given of the original Mario game, either you lived or died. Could it be that this gives a much too simple view that there is actually a pure right and wrong? I feel that life has too many more complex decisions than this.
    I realize that, for the people in question in that school, it might have been more necessary to give them a boost in agency rather than consider this. For people in general, though, do you think that this could be a valid concern?
    This is definitely NOT a reason against having games in schools- just an attempt to look at the consequences that may result if we do, and how careful the choices of games must be.

  24. James, I enjoy your videos, but I think you need a larger perspective.  You seem to advocate gaming as some kind of panacea for society's ills.  I do think games can help in the education realm (e.g., thanks to Chrono Cross for teaching me the word "panacea"),  But I think you're exaggerating if you think that getting your mage to Level 90 will make you a more courageous person.  Learning to take control of your life is something you can only do in… life!

  25. ''Society have failed them''. I'm sorry, but no. They have failed themselves, it's time to stop blaming everyone, but yourself. 

  26. I've read quite a few research papers about the effects of priming in simple, (mostly non-digital) cooperative game experiments and how it influences how near-future, but also far-future behavior, with most of them having quite significant results. Though most of them are focused on adult participants, I wonder how well it work (I hypothesize better) on children. Maybe priming isn't exactly the most ethical way to enforce and empower the existence of choice in our lives, since it is mostly refers to the subconscious, however when it is used for the well being of the future generation, I can't see why we shouldn't make the metaphor of choice inside games and other interactive devices.

  27. While this is a good argument, I think many gamers don't take such things into consideration nor do they actively apply their deductive reasoning and willpower into school or into careers.  Often, I find games and videos to distract me from my work…..Plus, unlike games, some decisions you make cannot be reversed.  Not everyone has a restart button…and for those few instances that we do, it's not infinite. I do think that breaks are necessary and that games should be played in moderation as a way to connect with others though……

  28. Soooo, Youtube popped one of your videos up on my 'Suggested Videos' page and look an hour later and I'm still here. You guys do an amazing job of communicating and representing your ideas, keep it up!
    Loving it, 10/10

  29. The problem I seem to face is that I adopted so much to the simple game system of getting instant rewards that it seems I am just not patient enough to… you know, make actual, meaningful decisions in real life and see their results.
    Games still can do harm. Wonder how they could help undo it! 😀

  30. I really love the little trans girl wanting to grow into a beautiful woman. Thanks for the nod, Extra Credits <3

  31. Huh. I have to say I haven't put it in these terms before, but I've always known games teach the reality of choice. Teach Agency, that life is in your own hands.

    It's because of games like Age of Empires and Supreme Commander that I learned my own choices matter so much for my life. Problem, solution, failure, new solution, failure, new solution, success, new solution, success. I still make choices I know will carry consequences, but from a position where I understand the consequences and consider them worth it for what I gain from that choice.

    It's also games which convinced me that my worldview is incompatible with the idea of a God or anyone who can see the future. By its existence, a God forces a certain future, and if a certain future will be then we don't really have any choice. Love the series – I wanted to be a teacher once, but I'm probably going to become a social worker or a police officer now. I'll still keep this in mind if I get the chance to weigh in on education reform.

  32. I'n my opinion I would never have games at my school because there is 9 people who understand games then there's the call of duty get no scoped mlg kids and the minecraft playing creeps who are dicks to my friend cause shes a girl who actually plays other games

  33. I know there are games out there about strategizing but I like to see a game in education that teaches leadership applied in real life. How you might combine different groups of people and their skills to a problem and the different avenues you can take to reach a chosen desire goal. Or the ethics needed in leadership – lots of people feel heavily about this. To explore a perspective in great depth driven by agency. Don't get me wrong, teamwork is important and one of life's most enjoyable experience of camaraderie but this would be awesome to explore in depth and is an avenue worth adventuring into,

  34. 1:58 I'm sorry but you guys need to play The Witcher – they are making a big deal there of having consequences of your actions happen few hours after the action.

  35. It really depends on WHAT games should be allowed in schools . because although you can learn and get some benefits from practically any game (yes , even …flappy bird) some popular games are high on violence and low on morals , or are just too simple and almost mechanic that don't require too much from your brain .

  36. I think that playing games my whole life has made me believe that I have more power in my life than I really have. For instance, last semester in college I spent about a month finding a part time job. I felt frustrated when all I could do was wait and hope that I was chosen for an interview, when I had been trained by video games that acheiving a desired result depended entirely upon me and how well I made my choices. I kept feeling as though there was something I had to do to increase my chances of getting an interview, when there was nothing I could do except bide my time.

  37. I'm a teacher. I liked this video, and all the others, but I've been left with an overall sense of disappointment as I was hoping for more!!

    I want ways I can use games in my lessons NOW! Practical ways. I was really hoping this series would give me some ideas. I have the students, the classroom, a laptop with a projector and the willingness to experiment. What I don't have is game recommendations for use in the classroom, and ideas about how those games might be used.

    You have made a very good case for games as educational tools. I have learnt a lot in my life through playing games! Like most of your subscribers I'm sure, I'm very much for using games in class! However, I feel as if 4 more videos have been spent preaching to the choir when I need concrete recommendations.

    I teach physics, chemistry and ESL. I have tried using the old point-and-click adventure Monkey Island in my lessons as 15 minutes here and there of listening to English and making decisions in English. However, most of the humour and even a lot of the language is over my students' heads, and I feel as if it has only been worthwhile for maybe the top 30% of my students. I can stop and give explanations, but it breaks up the flow of the game.

    I wanted to try playing The Walking Dead with students. It'd really grab their attention and make them enjoy listening to and understanding native English conversation! We could also do things like discussing and maybe even voting on decisions e.g. "who shall we save"?! However, the amount of violence and swearing makes it unsuitable for a classroom where I live, even though my students are 17 or 18 years old. The students wouldn't mind, but the parents and other staff would. 

    I think story-based games, especially RPGs could work well for ESL lessons. I just need the right game.
    If anyone has any ideas, please reply to this comment. 

  38. I think the fact, that games provide instant, or at least really short term feedback will make young students look at their actual life as an environment, that lack stimulation for them. And the youngsters, is in the most need for stimulation, will dive deep into gaming for even more stimulation. Even thought it gave them a deep understanding of the test the actual game provides them, they won't be able to transfer it to solve real really often long-term problems, due to lack of real life experiences So, it draws away the most innovative minds from real world tasks. I do accept all points on the pro side, but I really miss the cons side. So after all, I find it a great risk, and an enormous commitment both financially and pedagogywise. 

    P.S.: One general thing I would like to recommend to you on this otherwise amazing and quality content providing channel (which is rare on the YouTube, to be honest), is to try to say some things on the con's side of the topics you talk about. Or maybe there is no such a big need for that one, because if viewers listen, you always drop the worrying questions in the scripts, that you can think of. Anyways, thank you for running this amazing channel.

  39. You make numbers go up (Demonstrated by healing) or making numbers go down (Casting a fire spell on the person they just healed)

  40. can you guys talk about Elder scrolls online i love the game but hate that they make you pay 60$ 15$/mo & 80$ if you want a race which wasnt ever exclueded ever in their games

  41. This isn't about getting video games into education, it's about making education interactive and responsive to the student.

    I think.

  42. I agree with this, but I also think it's important to differentiate between instilling agency and independence and instilling an "end all, be all of the universe; world revolves around me" self-entitled mentality.

  43. you make a leap in your argumentation there.
    If you can feel more in controll in games than in the real world this does not automatically have to mean, that playing people will feel more empowered outside of games.
    In my personal experience it rather did the opposite, but anectodotes are not data..
    just saying: Unless you do some empirical research your argument sadly is invalid.

  44. Hey Extra Credits, everything you said was awesome and beautifully put but there was just one fault I found in your speech, at 3:24 you begin to say games will help us escape the idea of being forced to be better than others around us, not that it's a bad thing to want to be better than someone else. My point is that this can happen in games as well, people feel forced to become better than others by bullies telling them horrible things. Of course this bullying can be monitored at school if this type of educational learning game thing was more freely available at schools but outside of schools kids who mistreat others can't be monitored. These days educational games are being used frequently. I'm in year 11 at school so I don't have time to do those things in my VCE and neither do my class teachers, but in the below years there were heeps of games like that, online and IRL. Anyway I support you argument and I hope this method of learning, teaching and interacting is used more frequently at schools. Hope you read this, BYE 🙂

  45. I know this video is over a year old, but I feel it's still important to say thank you.

    I've been working my way through all of your videos from the beginning, trying to fill in any I hadn't seen or listened to yet.

    Life has gotten pretty rough for me – I've been unemployed several months, and even before that there has been an overwhelming sense of powerlessness. This video somehow really struck a chord, and feels like a breakthrough – that I do have some power over my life and fate. I'm sitting here crying, touched and inspired, and I just wanted to thank you guys so much for your unintentional help. I already really enjoy Extra Credits and Extra History – they're wonderful for both education and entertainment, this is just extra special. Thank you.

  46. Tbh I almost started crying when I realized that one person was trans. Games really need to show us more of that side of life too. Love you guys, keep up the good work!

  47. One thing I have seen mentioned though is the idea that games also teach us to expect instant gratification, so we might get frustrated and give up on things if that instant gratification isn't present.
    Granted, not all games are even like that though. In Minecraft, especially if you are by yourself, it can take upwards of /months/ to build that massive city, or fortress, that you have been wanting to build. RPG games can do a good job of this too, where there are times that you have to go back and improve your skills over the course of several days, if not at least a good several hours, in order to be strong enough to beat that boss. You might be missing an item you need to proceed, and have to go back and look for it. I know there are other games too that drag out the 'task' to 'reward' a bit more.

  48. I was researching Waluigi for a project in school and I couldn't get into the Mario Wikia page because in contained "restricted games content."

  49. I don't mean to twist this message from its original focus, because what was said here is absolutely right and is a brilliant point. But I want to add that this is the #1 reason why we need more well written female characters in games. If I may: I am a young woman who grew up with games. But for so, so, so long, I did not get the full benefit of this idea of agency and choosing and being whoever you want, because I looked at these characters and they were ALL something I could never be – yes they were heroes or adventurers etc. but they were also all men. And that somehow seemed very attached. It grew a lot of internalized misogyny in me that I am only just now at 23 years old finally starting to get over, with the help of people like Commander Shepard, and the new realistically-proportioned Lara Croft, and Evie Fry, etc.they let me see not only that it's possible to shape destiny, but that it's possible for ME to shape my own.

  50. The only problem with this type of education is the fact that we need it to be integrated early on. Other than that is better in any way possible.

  51. The chief problem, and it is a fundamental problem, with this series is that you assume that community is necessarily a good thing. Or rather, that community is something we need to feed into and sacrifice our "ego". Ego just means "I" in latin. By forgoing ego, you could interpret that as literally sacrificing our individual selves for the benefit of "the community. This is extremely problematic because if you reflect back on many great thinkers like Hegel or Mill, they would remind you that a society exists only as a collection of individuals. That is to say that there isn't any society; there are only the individuals who comprise it. So to have individuals sacrifice their ego, their self-interest in favour of the society is self-defeating because with every sacrifice the society becomes poorer, not richer.

    People should try and do better than their community, parents or whatnot. That's how we progress as a species. We reject to settle for what came before and in doing so, we are motivated to, effectively, drive civilisation further.

    Stagnation kills civilisation. If we were all just happy to be what our parents are or what is "normal" in our societies: a part of us dies. We'd all be living in mud huts and life would be short and miserable. When we are great as a society it is because as individuals we are great. It is because we are fully realised individuals with mastery over our own lives. To try and do this while kowtowing to the customs, wishes or values of society is nearly impossible.

    Having a society worth living in isn't about trying to create a good society. If people are good, society will follow. The best way for people to be good is to abolish impediments to them reaching their potential. Subsuming them back into the society they came from is placing more impediments in their way, not liberating them from those already there.

  52. Games give you retries. Life doesn't.
    Games give you reloads. Life doesn't.
    Games give you inconsequential choices affecting only fiction. Life doesn't.

    Also, there is such saying in my country, not sure if there is an equivalent in English – Hell is paved with good intentions.

  53. What if the way to overcome certain school's lack of gaming computers was something like Dungeons & Dragons, but in a if you solve the problem you get xp/power instead of ruling a die to determine it, the closer your answer the closer you get to the best option. I never played dungeons and dragons, but I played a similar thing where there is a player and a dungeon master, the dungeon master puts the player in a position with options and the player has to try to win.

    An example is you are in mincraft surrounded by lava while fighting a dragon, if you choose to step forward the dungeon master could say you died or it was fake lava that gave you super powers and you win, just like getting a math quesion right or wrong. You don't need a computer to make school fun.

  54. I think schools don''t do enough with the choices you want to make. Smaller kids want to be an astronaut or a lawyer etc. but as kids grow up and they start hearing that they need to get a proper job with a steady income and classes teach them that you need to become something that society sees useful (because that creates a steady income).

  55. Any idea how these guys got so big? Not that they don't deserve it, but quality content like this rarely does.

  56. I wonder if James told the students to look into Learned Helplessness or went over it specifically in class.

  57. I was reading the comments, witting that they would be about as they were and that I'd have nothing to add. That was pretty much the case, so I just went down the line thumbing up and down comments and y'know something? Disliking doesn't work. Press the "like" button and the number goes up immediately, press the "dislike" button and nothing changes. After having watched some twenty videos on systems designed to manipulate people… well. It takes zero effort to connect the dots. I know they did a video on Sesame Credit. Do we just acknowledge when we see other systems manipulating people?

    Heh. A big important point this video missed, likely due to the very biased view point of the EC staff is that some things are immutable. In many things you don't have agency, your decisions don't matter or are based on lies. Thriving is not just about choosing differently, it's about accepting fact. Of course, that's too silly to address.

  58. I don't know why, but this video makes me depressed. I am still in school and have had several actually possible dream jobs, but they all fail in some way.

    Animator: good at math in three dimensions, but not at all artistic
    Game designer: I hate risk and am not very creative when I am looking for a solution or ideas
    Biologist(Several types): I am fascinated and want to know more, but am not eager to go out into nature with risks and Shiver Animals that bite and more specifically, sting.
    Musician: I am not the best at the two instruments I have tried and liked playing. One feels like I never get anywhere with practicing and one never truly feels rewarding after I play and preform, even if I did very well, which I don't tend to feel like I do very often.

  59. "No one takes control over their life without first realizing that it's a possibility."

    …Where have you guys BEEN?!? : )

  60. today I learned that the fact that im not telling my doctor my kidney hurts could lead to my death.
    I should tell my doctor..

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