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Author Topic: Exploration Is *REALLY* King - or - System Doesn't Matter As  (Read 23453 times)
greyorm
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« Reply #30 on: April 27, 2005, 05:38:55 AM »

Quote from: Paganini
"Realizing a Creative Agenda" does not determine whether or not Exploration is fun. Exploration is "making stuff up as a group." If I personalize it, I get "I like making stuff up with my friends." This is the base-line, the prerequisite for role-playing. Exploration must be fun for it's own sake in order for role-playing to exist as an entertainment medium.

Here's the problem as I see it, Nathan: sure you like making stuff up. Everyone in gaming likes making stuff up, that's what role-playing is about. But that act of making stuff up doesn't happen in a vaccum.

You put me and you together in a room and we can "make stuff up" until we're blue in the face and not have fun doing it together unless our reasons for doing it are matching, or at least complimentary to one another.

You can't "make stuff up" in a neutral fashion: there's a reason you're making stuff up, what you want to get out of making up that stuff, something that informs or colors how you go about making stuff up. There is a purpose behind it, be it formed by emphereal aesthetic or deliberate choice. Regardless of CA, this underlying purpose exists in human behaviors and choices.

Exploration cannot exist on its own as a "fun thing" because it doesn't exist on its own; it occurs within a context, and that context (in part) is CA, and for this argument, the mental state, desires, and aesthetics of the individual. That context is the reason why the creative act is engaged in and enjoyed (without enjoyment, which arises from some purpose being met thus satiating desire, you wouldn't be doing it.)

"I like making stuff up" is not a definitive or understandable statement because it fails to indicate anything meaningful about the act. WHY you like making stuff up is useful data...that you do so is meaningless.

Again, you put me and you together in a room and we can "make stuff up" until we're blue in the face and not have fun doing it together unless our reasons for doing it are matching, or at least complimentary to one another.

Simply put, "making stuff up", in gaming, does not happen outside an individual's "Creative Agenda", or whatever we choose to call that thing, subconscious or not, that informs and guides our aesthetic and behavioral decisions.
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Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
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Simon Marks
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« Reply #31 on: April 27, 2005, 06:40:49 AM »

From what I can understand from this is the question of Medium and Message...

Let me see if I can explain how I am seeing this argument.

We have an activity that can be defined as a Medium for ideas - that is RPGs give us a way of talking and communicating with each other to exchange ideas. The 'DFK' is a tool for this and for 'adding external influences' - but in any case RPGs can be seen as a medium.

On the one hand we have the opinion "the Medium is fun, and it is possible to like it for it's own sake."
On the other hand we have the opinion "the Medium only has value in how well it communicates the Message and that without the Message the Medium is just so much wallpaper"

Now, as discussion I personally cannot concieve of how you can enjoy something that means nothing. If it means nothing then you can't enjoy it (surely).

So, 'roleplaying' is fun *because* it means something to you - because it communicates with you. And it is the *something* that is important and the 'roleplaying' either enhances or detracts from it.

If the Medium is 'meaning neutral' then it counts for nothing. Speech that means nothing to you is white noise.

So, 'Zilchplay' is possible (roleplay without meaning) - but I will argue that it is the play that is the most dull and most uninteresting to you. It literally means nothing to you.
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Andrew Cooper
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« Reply #32 on: April 27, 2005, 06:56:49 AM »

Quote from: Ron Edwards

Zilchplay
in which no Creative Agenda is discernible, and quite likely never enters any "capital letter" status (using Gordon's favored notation). Zilchplay is not well documented, to say the least.

Nathan, I think Incoherent play is very common, and Zilchplay remains largely hypothetical. Yet it seems to me that you're describing Zilchplay as "root role-playing" as well as very common.


Nathan,

I don't think I'm coming to my view that "everyone who role-plays has an agenda" from outside the Big Model at all.  According to Ron's statement above, Zilchplay which is agenda-less play is "largely hypothetical".  My view is that it doesn't exist.  That's not a view at any significant disagreement with the Big Model that I can see.
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Paganini
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« Reply #33 on: April 27, 2005, 08:06:27 AM »

Gordon,

I don't think we're disagreeing very much after all. I do agree with you that, more often than not, CA does eventually show up. The reason that I'm emphasisizing Exploration and deemphasizing CA in this thread has to do with the big point that I want to make:

I think that any person can enjoy a game where any CA is present.

I'm not saying that theory allows you to enjoy any game you ever play in. I'm saying that you, Gordon, can enjoy some Gam experiences, but not all. I'm saying that you can also enjoy some Sim experiences, but not all. I'm saying that you can even enjoy some Nar experiences, but not all.

I also think that hybrids an CA switching is pretty easy, and pretty common.

Ron,

Almost all of my play has been text-based in some medium or another.

As far as instance of play goes: I think that you assume that CA is a constant. It takes us a while (an instance of play) to figure out what it is, but every instance of play after that it's the same. Am I characterizing you correctly?

I think that, given that an instance of play is as long as it is, many of Ralph's CA activating conflicts will happen in a single instance of play. From my own experience, I think it's very common for each one of these conflicts to activate a different CA. In our Pool games, for example, I think we bump back and forth between Sim and Nar a *lot.* Mike's HQ game is the same, I think. Our Fastlane and Doomchaser games, and a few others, tend to bump back and forth between Nar and Gam.

Raven,

What? You think you could ever get me alone in a room? Bite me, dude!

Anyway, I don't think the reason that goes with "I like making stuff up" is important. At the lowest level, it's really hard to pin down *why* people like things. It usually turns into an endless chain. "I like Nar." Why? "Well, theme is cool." What makes it cool? "Well, imagining people in these situations givse me an emotional response." So you like these emotions? How come? etc...

I think you have to figure out what fun is based on observation. You can't know why Exploration is fun, it just is. For some reason, we like doing it enough that we do it instead of (or at least in addition to) watching movies and reading novels.


Oh, I should also add, I have go to work today, so I won't have regular net access again until Sunday. I'll try to hit the Forge from the library and so on. But just cos I stop posting regularly, don't assume I've lost interest. :)
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Paganini
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« Reply #34 on: April 27, 2005, 08:27:49 AM »

Raven, it just ocurred to me (I dunno why the good stuff always comes to me when I'm in the bathroom... just one of those things...)

Didn't you say something like this?

"Exploration only takes place in the context of a Creative Agenda. You can't have Exploration just on its own."

But... isn't that exactly what everyone used to say Sim was? Prioritized Exploration?

For a long time, Sim was defined as this annoying catch-all that made no sense when compared to the rest of the model. But now it's defined in terms of causality and genre expecations. I think that this is a good thing. But... what happened to the old "Prioritization of Exploration?" It's still around, we just don't have a name for it. Exploration is the sea that floats the Creative Agenda boats.

What if we never get on a boat? Come on in, the water's fine!
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greyorm
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« Reply #35 on: April 27, 2005, 08:48:45 AM »

Quote from: Paganini
What? You think you could ever get me alone in a room? Bite me, dude!

Maybe once we're alone in that room together. Rrrowr!

Quote
I don't think the reason that goes with "I like making stuff up" is important.

Well, then, we will have to completely disagree on this point, because as a scientist, as a magickian, as a proponent of self-and-world-betterment through self-understanding, the "why" aspect of the equation is foundational for me, for everything.

Quote
I think you have to figure out what fun is based on observation. You can't know why Exploration is fun, it just is. For some reason, we like doing it enough that we do it instead of (or at least in addition to) watching movies and reading novels.

Isn't GNS all about figuring out what we like, answering "why" on some level? Saying, "It isn't enough to make the claim, 'I like role-playing', but that understanding why you do and what you hope to get out of it is necessary to achieving consistently enjoyable experiences."

Quote
I think that any person can enjoy a game where any CA is present...I also think that hybrids an CA switching is pretty easy, and pretty common.

Honestly, I agree, 100%. I can't hink of any good reason why either of the above could not be true or would be impossible (note that I am reading certain unspoken qualifiers into the above, without which they would not work; ex: "can" does not equal "would"). Obviously I don't agree with your supports for the argument, though.

Quote
Oh, I should also add, I have go to work today, so I won't have regular net access again until Sunday. I'll try to hit the Forge from the library and so on. But just cos I stop posting regularly, don't assume I've lost interest.

You're just running away, you chicken!
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Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
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John Kim
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« Reply #36 on: April 27, 2005, 10:56:46 AM »

Quote from: greyorm
Quote from: Paganini
I think you have to figure out what fun is based on observation. You can't know why Exploration is fun, it just is. For some reason, we like doing it enough that we do it instead of (or at least in addition to) watching movies and reading novels.

Isn't GNS all about figuring out what we like, answering "why" on some level? Saying, "It isn't enough to make the claim, 'I like role-playing', but that understanding why you do and what you hope to get out of it is necessary to achieving consistently enjoyable experiences."

I don't see it that way, and I've at least heard other people echo this.  Really, "why" is answerable only on the Social Contract layer.  People will game to get what it does for them as real people.  i.e. No one games "to explore" or "to address Premise" or such.  Those are at the fictional, creative level.  The true "why" is what it does for the real player -- i.e. emotions, social benefits, etc.  

So Creative Agenda is really a "what", not a "why".  It is what process you are using to get at your "why".
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Gordon C. Landis
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« Reply #37 on: April 27, 2005, 11:39:36 AM »

Hi Nathan (and all),

Just a quick check on old issues - IMO, Prioritized Exploration is NOT "Exploration on its own."  It's Exploration plus Agenda (just like all CA's), where the Agenda largely includes particular aspects of the Exploration.  I see causality and genre-cues as fully included in that.  The Prioritization is the key, for me, but that's always been my key to understanding/accepting the theory.  And it clearly doesn't work for everyone.  Not sure what to do about that . . .

So onwards to what seem to be your central points:

1) Any person can enjoy a game where any CA is present.

For me, you are correct - but the particulars vary depending on what the CA is.  CA still matters, very much (heh - maybe that's what this thread title should be: Does CA Matter?)  For others - like I said, I know people for whom if Gamism is ever an actual Agenda (actually becomes a social priority for the group), they are outta there, pretty much no matter what.  A little bit of competition that's not prioritized (small g gamism, as Ron points out I used to say), that's all they want to see.

2)  Hybrids an[d] CA switching is pretty easy, and pretty common.

Here's where I part ways in a big, though not absolute, way.  As I tried to point out in this unremarked thread here, it seems to me that a big part of why CA matters is that they often (not always - that's me not absolutely parting with you) get in each others' way.  Including the little g, little n and little s IS pretty easy and common (basically inevitable, IMO), but Agendas . . . Agendas can get mutually exclusive.  Often.

Which you could avoid by not having any Agenda at all.  I personally can't imagine actually enjoying such play, but I do acknowledge that people theoretically might.  I have participated in and observed play groups that (to the degree they even talked about it) would claim that was what they were doing, but to my eye CA always shows up.

So encourage people to lighten up and enjoy a wider variety of play?  I'm all for that, and think it can often work.   Try and uncover more detail about ways in which hybrids can and do succede?  Sounds great to me (I've been thinking lately that some Mekton Zeta I played years back was an attempt to hybridize Gamist mech fights with Sim?/Nar? character interaction - that failed mostly because the Sim?/Nar? question was never resolved, rather than because hybridizing in the Gamism doomed it).

But stop thinking about CA?  Stop making it one of the key components to discussion about RPGs?  That doesn't seem like a good idea to me.  So to the degree I see you saying that, I'm agin' it.

Allow me to include CA as fully part of what you're arguing for, and I'll join you in that room with Raven.  Maybe.

Gordon
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Walt Freitag
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« Reply #38 on: April 27, 2005, 11:45:42 AM »

A few comments with regard to Zilchplay as it relates (or doesn't) to the thread topic:

"Just making things up with no Creative Agenda" is not (or at least, not necessarily) Zilchplay as I've tried to define and characterize it. Zilchplay is the absence of interesting contribution on a player's part, with "interesting" given a very specific meaning of "relevant, but not predictable." If a player's contribution is limited to choices that just about everyone would make the same way given the same situation, or to actions that are part of the player's own well-established routine, that player's play is Zilchplay.

The equivalence of this description of Zilchplay to "play with no discernable CA" is based on my own theory, outside of (but AFAIK compatible with) the Big Model, that role players express Creative Agenda by, and only by, such relevant-but-not-predictable contributions.

"Just making stuff up" strongly implies interesting and relevant stuff being made up (as opposed to, say, making up the same "I waste it with my crossbow" event at every opportunity, or making up nonsense). In that most-likely case, "just making stuff up" does have a CA. Something makes the stuff someone's made up interesting to the other participants. Whatever that something is, is the CA. Thus, excepting when the stuff being made up is predictable or formulaic to the point where all players would be interchangeable or the player's contributions could be duplicated by a simple mechanism, I agree with those who've argued that "making stuff up with no CA" is not possible.

If Zilchplay is the absence of interesting contribution on a player's part, does that mean that it's the absence of Exploration (and therefore not role playing at all)? No, because the term Exploration makes no distinction between making stuff up, and listening while others make stuff up. A "Zilchplayer" might very well be paying rapt attention to, and reacting emotionally to, what's going on in the game. Zilchplay does not imply apathy, any more than watching a play without jumping up on the stage implies apathy about the drama being performed.

As to the rarity of Zilchplay: Zilchplay as the totality of play around the table, as the only play going on when all participants are considered over an instance of play -- that is to say, the total lack of a discernable CA in a group -- I believe is indeed rare. In most cases, at least one participant has to be making something up, or at least presenting something that's new to the other participants, for the group to find the activity worthwhile at all. But Zilchplay as a consistent behavior of an individual player is not so rare, Zilchplay by all players other than the GM is not as rare as we might hope, and Zilchplay as an occasional behavior of a player (lower-case-Z zilchplay?) -- that is to say, periods briefer than an instance of play in which a player does not noticeably express a CA -- is not rare at all.

Simon, except for your final paragraph suggesting that Zilchplay must be dull and meaningless to you, I agree with your analysis with regard to Medium and Message. Turn that last point around: when you're Zilchplaying, your actions are meaningless to the other participants. (But not necessarily dull, because for various reasons, you and they might still be having a great time.)

- Walt
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #39 on: April 27, 2005, 12:02:38 PM »

Hello,

Lots of stuff is getting brought in and clarified. Here's one more point:

Gordon wrote,

Quote
IMO, Prioritized Exploration is NOT "Exploration on its own." It's Exploration plus Agenda (just like all CA's), where the Agenda largely includes particular aspects of the Exploration. I see causality and genre-cues as fully included in that. The Prioritization is the key, for me, but that's always been my key to understanding/accepting the theory.


And he's right. Just because the phrase "prioritized Exploration" seemed to make no sense as an explanatory device does not mean that we weren't trying to describe something real. All the stuff about celebration of source material (of which genre-focus is only one example) through confirmation of what we put in - that's just a better way to phrase it.

So, Nathan, I think it'd be helpful if you took whatever beef you had with "prioritized Exploration" as a phrase and just shelved it. Your problem was with the explanation, but you're posting as if your problem is with the thing. And as far as I can tell, it isn't.

Best,
Ron
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greyorm
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« Reply #40 on: April 27, 2005, 12:04:44 PM »

Quote from: John Kim
I don't see it that way, and I've at least heard other people echo this.  Really, "why" is answerable only on the Social Contract layer.  People will game to get what it does for them as real people.  i.e. No one games "to explore" or "to address Premise" or such.  Those are at the fictional, creative level.  The true "why" is what it does for the real player -- i.e. emotions, social benefits, etc.

Heya John, just so we're clear, I didn't say "Creative Agenda" anywhere in the statement you're responding to. So, yeah, exactly. Whether we're talking about CA or not, that "why" needs to be addressed. No one "Explores" just because they like it (whatever that means) -- there's reasons why they like it, and those are going to inform and color the whole act.
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Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
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Silmenume
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« Reply #41 on: April 28, 2005, 02:47:08 AM »

There are a couple of topics here that I would like to comment on.

The nature of Exploration –

Exploration is more than just the sharing imaginings; it necessarily includes some sort of formalized system for the acceptance of said imaginings.  Also which imaginings are shared is overtly limited in scope.  So if Exploration is still considered to be just the Sharing of Imaginings, it is nothing less than a formalized process.  Finally, Exploration without a driving aesthetic (CA) is interested only in the Fact Space, not the Affect Space.  Thus, Exploration is “meaningless,” which is not the same as to say “pointless.”  That is plain old naked Exploration is not concerned with the “meaning” of the content but only that we limit the conversation to certain topics, manner and that it is a structured process – all for the creation of shared Facts.

Creative Agenda, on the other hand, IS concerned with “meaning” and resides in the individual Affect Space.  As such CA is an aesthetic that both guides the input and informs the derivation of “meaning” from the shared Fact Space.

Now, regarding the difference between Nar and Sim –

In another thread I claimed that both Nar and Gam are both concept driven processes and Sim is more a signification process.  I’ll clarify here.  To illustrate the difference of how Exploration fits in, I will try to illustrate some examples by way of analogy.

If Nar were equated to “talking” then the grammar and form of the sentence are subordinate to the purpose of conveying the payload i.e. the concept.  That is, the role of this sentence is to convey the “idea” via the careful choice of vocabulary and grammar.  String enough of these sentences together and you create a new concept – Theme.  What is aesthetically important is how “elegantly the contained argument forwards it point.”

If Sim were equated to “talking” then the content is subordinate to how the sentence is constructed.  IOW what is aesthetically important is how “beautiful the form (i.e. vocabulary, meter, rhyme scheme, alliteration, punctuation, etc.) of the sentence while still having content.  In this example we are not trying to create new concepts but rather are enjoying the beauty of the grammar and form as a priority over content.  However, the sentence must have a coherent content or its not Sim.  This is an important concept in that like music, which is all about the structure, we Westerners are not typically steeped in this kind of thinking.  How do you describe creating sentences for the aesthetic value of their structure as opposed to their concepts?

If Exploration were equated to “talking” then there would be neither a concept/content nor an aesthetic.  Perhaps a less controversial way of saying this would be that there would be neither a concept/content nor an aesthetic worth noting.  It could be fun, but empty.

In a strange way Nar might be thought of as a celebration of the creation of a Thesis on the various aspects of a topic while in Sim the topic and it various aspects are the reasons for the celebration.

Moving closer to actual Role-play –

If G/N are said to be a “discussion” about concepts (addressing Challenge/Premise) then I propose that these concepts are “discussed” not by talking about the concepts themselves but rather via the taking of “concrete actions” with the SIS.  I also propose that these “concrete actions” are the heartbeat of Role-play.  Once we get into the SIS we are no longer speaking directly or overtly about the concepts, but rather are manipulating symbols/implementing concrete actions as the “means of discussion.”  In Sorcerer FREX, the Character represents or is a symbol for the Premise issue.  How the player manipulates that symbol (The Character) is indicative of his position regarding the Premise question.

How does Gamism work?  By way of analogy think of Player playing chess without the board.  He calls out moves – makes statements of action (instructions if you will) that he hopes will result in the achievement of agreed upon goals for the purpose of “demonstrating a concept” - Player effectiveness (or guts, strategizing skills, Step On Up, etc.)  In role-play these instructions are implemented via the Character taking Concrete actions within the SIS.  The Character is the symbol representing the Player.

The Character acting or being acted upon is another way of saying that the objects/symbols are being manipulated.  This action of the Concrete using objects/symbols is the essence of Bricolage.  However, for this to work, we need a very specific symbol set so that we can be sure that the sought after concepts are represented therein.  Gam and Nar use all sorts of “concept tools” in order to seed and arrange the objects/symbols of Bricolage for the richest possible potential before bricolage begins.

Gam and Nar weave the dialogue of ideas between concept discussion and Bricolage signification.  The “points” or “proofs” are made by the “concrete actions” of the players within the Fact Space.  What no one sees is that what we are doing is really bending over backwards to create this sand box so that we can play with (manipulate) our “meaning” blocks that we so painstakingly and with great mindfulness created for the explicit purpose of placing in that sand box in the first place.

For all the complexities of above, explaining it can all be boiled down to describing the actions as a concept process – addressing the Premise concept or addressing the Challenge concept.

Given that Sim isn’t about “discussing” a concept, then what is Sim about?

Sim is the about the employment of symbols to demonstrate, in an aesthetically pleasing form, our celebration of certain concepts.  In Sim, that breaks down to the players using their Characters and using them to take “concrete actions” that symbolize their celebration of pre-established concepts.  However, the initial symbol set is not created by the players, but rather mined from some source material.  I should note here that the symbols do not just represent things, but also relationships.  Not only are the players celebrating the concepts therein, they need to do so in a fashion that respects or keeps intact the pre-existing relationships within the source material.  Here in lies the limiting challenge to the players.  Thus what is appreciated by the players is the form/shape/structure or manner of the manipulations (concrete actions) that is the core of player input.  IOW it how the players celebrate the concept is what is being judged.

This “aesthetic of the how” is a darned hard thing to describe to anyone.  It is for this reason I believe that Sim has been so long conflated or confused as Exploration.  Sim is clearly not Exploration nor even Exploration squared.  Exploration is geared only towards the Fact Space.  Sim’s “celebration of concepts and the aesthetic of the how” are clearly beyond the scope of Exploration.  They are appreciated in the individual Affect Space which is then shared by the high-fiving, back slapping, congratulations, etc. at the table.  I will then close by saying that the Affect Space (CA) shapes how Exploration is pursued.
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Jay
lev_lafayette
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« Reply #42 on: May 22, 2005, 12:28:42 AM »

To respond in brief - you are correct. It's part of the reason that nearly every roleplaying game has the caveat "if the rules don't work, ignore them - it's the exploration that's important". (The other reason I suspect was covering their backsides for sloppy design).

I cannot imagine that many would disagree with your claim. Surely we've all been involved in a game where the system sucked, but the game was magnificant and vice-versa.

Heck, even AD&D 1st ed. noted this,  those magnificant final words in the DMG "It is the spirit of the game, not the letter of the rules, which is important." etc.

You are so correct I've tagged you on el-jay. But that's getting off-topic.
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