Today’s Roundup of Media Commentary on RE5 Race Issue

Posted by GP on Twitter this morning: Game press commentary on RE5 issue perplexes me. Can a white guy even have an opinion on whether something is offensive to black people?


The controversy over whether there is racism in Resident Evil 5 continues to bounce around the media.

Variety’s Ben Fritz pens a review of the game (he didn’t like it so well) and, near the end, touches on the race issue:

The racial imagery is disturbing at times. No, that doesn’t mean the game is "racist." Racism is the belief that race is a determining factor in human capacity and that some are superior to others. That’s a tall order for a game and certainly not one "RE 5" fulfills.

But the game does contain some disturbing imagery reminiscent of the violent colonial past… you’re the white solder, walking through their villages, murdering every single one of them…

Does that mean you can’t make an action game set in Africa, even with a White protagonist and Black enemies? Of course not. It just means you have to address the issue in some way because it’s real and unavoidable…

Is it unfair that you have to address the race issue differently for a game set in Africa than for what was essentially the same game set in Spain? Sure. But, you know, colonialism was unfair too. Such is the reality of the world in which we live.

Meanwhile, in a lengthy post, Stephen Totilo of MTV Multiplayer writes that his concerns about the RE5 race issue have faded:

Watching the [E3 2007] trailer again, it still made me feel uneasy. I still didn’t like the fantasy it portrayed…

In the game, however, I saw something different. The white vs. black racial dichotomy was gone. The infected people looked infected. The characters who once looked like poor Africans whom I didn’t want to shoot now looked like undead menaces I needed to stop to stay alive.

I don’t know if I have changed. I don’t think I have. But what I’ve seen of the game has changed. The game gives a different feeling than the trailer. It uses race and color differently. That’s worth more discussion, and I hope people will engage with it.

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  1. fetidchimp says:

    So let me get this straight, White man in Africa killing infected africans – RACIST!!!  Black man in Middle East killing muslims who took his crystal skull – SILENCE!!!  


    Except for fenavian above me, thank you sir

  2. Thomas McKenna says:

    As I said earlier.  Friends kill friends who are zombies.  Glad to know others share this viewpoint.

  3. Fenavian says:

    I have a bit of perspective on this. I am a black man that was raised by a black man and a white woman who were both in the military. For the first 7 years of my life I was exposed to various cultures and races. All positive experiences mind you, but when my family finally settled down in Michigan we happened to, (and unknowingly), settled down in an all white area. My scheme of reality was dramatically changed almost overnight. I experienced some harsh realities that the world was not equal, and that some people judged you based on the colour of your skin, not by the character of a person. So after the rather horrid racism I had to deal with growing up, you would think that I would be embittered by the years of abuse from white people. Perhaps I am in some ways, but I am more angry at those particular abusers, not the race as a whole. So you would think that me, of all people, would look for racism in strange places.

    My first thought of RE5 when I saw it is "Cool! I get to kill Zombies in Africa!" Never once did the thought of racism occur. Never once did I even think that it was bad that my white avatar smashing his boot down on some unfortunate black man’s face was a bad thing. Maybe it’s movies and TV that have done this to me or maybe it’s because of my age, (I’m 33 in may), or maybe it’s because I am a gamer, but I could not find any sort of racial issues what so ever in the game. I mean really people, it’s ok for other races to be killed in video games, (especially in the RE series), but as soon as a black man gets killed by a white man in a video game, its friggan Armageddon? So who is truly the racist here? The makes of the game, or the people who are seeing racism where none exists?

    And just so I am perfectly clear, if ANYONE tried to come at me with angry hentai worthy tentacles spewing from their mouth, yeah they get my boot up their ass. I have made it clear to my family and friend that if I am ever Zombified for any reason that their first action is to take my head clean off, and if able, to burn my body to ash. I would do it for them. 😉 

  4. chadachada321 says:

    Posted by GP on Twitter this morning: Game press commentary on RE5 issue perplexes me. Can a white guy even have an opinion on whether something is offensive to black people?

    You know, I’m slightly offended by that. Black people (or any individual person of any collective) can be offended by whatever they want to be offended by, but the discussions here are whether or not they have good reason to be offended by something. Even bringing race into this is a bit racist in itself. I’m disappointed, Dennis.

    Anyways, I’m glad to see that the race issue has basically mellowed out, and that people (other than oversensitive loons) are realizing that having black ZOMBIES represented =/= racism.

    -If an apple a day keeps the doctor away….what happens when a doctor eats an apple?-

  5. Thomas McKenna says:

    My friends and I have a saying:  "Friends kill friends who are zombies."

    The point of the statement is clear.  If your friend turns into a zombie, it is your moral imperative to the guy to shoot him one in the head.  It is a friend’s job to ensure that a person is not stuck in eternal undead torment filled with murder and mindless droning about.  With this reasoning, this game is the complete opposite of racism.  It shouts "I love you, people of Africa!" 

    Of course, that’s a lot of bullshit mixed with some humor.  It wasn’t on the developers’ minds and it certainly won’t be portrayed that way by the grand majority of people.  But I still can’t shake the feeling that if you kill a person who’s turned into a zombie, aren’t you doing them a favor?  And if you are doing them a favor, how can that be defined as a hateful* act? 


    *(racism is defined by the hatred of another person based on race, therefore without a show of hatred, no racism exists).

  6. Monte says:

     "Does that mean you can’t make an action game set in Africa, even with a White protagonist and Black enemies? Of course not. It just means you have to address the issue in some way because it’s real and unavoidable… "

    but how do you address the issue… I mean, RE5 points out that the people that you are killing are un-curable Zombies whose only purpose is to kill, devour and infect others. Within the context of the game it is obvious why you are killing them… also, within the context of the franchise do we know it’s a white guy doing the killing; it’s generally a good idea to have old characters return in a frachise, but there was no prominent ethnic member of the original stars team, and Chris Redfield is long over due for a return… We have the very context of the game that addresses the issue and gives us all the rational… Why is that not enough? If context does not matter then there really doesn’t seem to be a way to address the issue and you do become stuck with "you can’t make an action game set in Africa, even with a White protagonist and Black enemies"… frankly i think skin color becomes irrelevant when you are dealing with zombies


  7. JC says:

    Posted by GP on Twitter this morning: Game press commentary on RE5 issue perplexes me. Can a white guy even have an opinion on whether something is offensive to black people?

    Wow Dennis, I know you’re at least 15+ years older than I. You can’t be that naive unless you don’t deal with many issues daily. However, most adults do deal with many issues so I’ll leave some doubt for you to clear this up.

    Anyone can have an opinion on something that may be offensive to a certain race. However, the problem I find is that many want to simply ban or avoid the topic altogether to appeal to everyone and try to vindicate theirselves to attempt to not sound racist. I think it is a bit unsurprising with how many people can take offense and how some do this and try to join the bandwagon because many will claim that they are racist. And to avoid that accusation, they’ll jump into the discussion and join what they perceive to be the "non-offensive" side.

    I feel the more people behave like this, the more we avoid the real problems of actual racism instead of the perception of racism because someone puts a simple video game story setting within Africa, something the creators have wanted to do for years.

    To get back to my point, it is personally up to you Dennis. You have your own blog, you can have your opinion, but you can be criticized for it, just like any other commenter. I’d wish you’d have some experience in the topic at hand before one discusses their opinion though. That is up to your discretion on if/when you want to make a comment. I don’t always agree with you Dennis, but an opinion is an opinion.

  8. T5 says:

    This race isssue is getting out of hand.  After all are Sheva’s actions (ie black on black violoence) too close to home for the current violence in that part of the world?  What if the game were set in Monrovia that could open a whole new can of worms.  One final thought, what if the game were to have taken place in Haiti.  After the Haitian revolution thousands of whites were slaughtered because of their skin color alone, would it then be too distrubing to see a black protaginist go from town to town killing whites?

    tl;dr you can look through history and find any example to suit your agenda.  Agenda being the operative word here.  

  9. Timbo says:

    The problem of the word ‘nigger’ is largely due to to a problem of context with the word.  The word itself, isn’t the problem, as much as it is the meaning behind the word.  Context is an important factor in establishing meaning and American culture is largely sperataed in a black/white dichotomy, as such the eaning of words changes between who says it.

    Think of it is this way, if I told you "You’re fucked!"  There are different meanings to this.  I could be saying, "you are in big trouble" but it could also be saying "you have lost your virginity", two very different meanings with the same words.  The meaning changes on the context.

    Now, living in a society where there is historically and currently racial seperatations, is it so hard to believe that the social context would change the meaning of a historically completely derogatory word between the targetted vs the targetter?

  10. Father Time says:

    The issue over the word nigger to me is just freaking stupid.

    If it’s an offensive word (and may I point that it’s the individual who makes words offensive or not, there aren’t any words that are naturally offensive to everyone) it should be offensive no matter who you hear it from. Same thing as if it’s not offensive.

    Also the idea that whites should not be held to the same standards as blacks (black says it it’s ok white guy says it it’s not) is racist by definition.

    Tis freaking stupid that whites have to take extra care to be culturally sensitive when we’re not responsible for our ancestors.

    I digress though as has pointed out many times before, feminist groups will complain when you protray women in games now matter how you protray them (though to be fair they’re probably not always the same people) the same thing applys to oversensitive blacks.


    Debates are like merry go rounds. Two people take their positions then they go through the same points over and over and over again. Then when it’s over they have the same positions they started in.

  11. d20sapphire says:

    Vake, I think you and I are on the same page.  I don’t think whites should be excluded from the continuing conversations that Americans have on race.  The problem with being offended is that it’s how someone feels.  It’s very visceral and usually based more on emotion than logic.  If someone feels offended you can’t usually argue with them on how offended they feel.  It is their feelings, and it’s not usually something you can usually argue out of them.  I think the phrasing is more what I am talking about.

    With the examples you point out, I think a lot of minorities are used to being trodden on one way or another and are defensive, and a lot of people in the majority aren’t used to this habit and don’t understand why minorities are so sensitive.  Being a minority in America is tough, and it’s not obvious to anyone outside of that experience.  Especially since the racism experienced in a lot of America today has become subtle, and harder to bring up without looking like a sensitive minority.  It some ways it’s just the growing pains of becoming aware of how everyone is different from each other, and how we’re trying to reconcile that with the idea of everyone being treated equally.  It’s hard when only in recent history society has been aiming for that goal.  But at least we’re aiming for it.

  12. Nocturne says:

    In discussing a bill, I believe his exact words were, "This baby is black… this is a dark, ugly thing."   

    Now, I have no idea on what bill he was bashing, but what does this have to do with racism? Just because he said the word "black" he’s automatically referring to people? That’s just paranoid.

    Just because he said the word black, no, but the sentance he used was this baby is black’, not this bill/kitten/puppy/thing. He (most likely unintentionally) referenced people himself so to follow that by additionally describing it as a ‘dark, ugly thing’, it’s not so much of a leap to see why anyone was offended by that.

  13. Quarantine says:

    Being considerate is common sense. If you ask me, racism is a load of bullshit nowadays. Something that people use as an excuse for something where it doesn’t belong, like the topic itself. Shit like that really doesn’t hurt anybody.

    There are unspoken rules about racism though, which is a different story and totally unrelated to the topic. For instance, a white guy never calls a stranger who is black a "Nigger". Unless of course, he’s a tough guy.


    "Because this town is under the stranglehold of a few tight eyed Tree Huggers who would rather play Hacky Sack than lock up the homeless" — Birch Barlow

  14. d20sapphire says:

    For the European review that mentioned that scene, I see a few scenarios:

    1. The reviewer ramped it up so more people would read his article.

    2. Capcom made the scene less offensive to certain people afraid of backlash before the final release.

    3. The reviewer had an emotional response and amplified the experience as what happens from time to time.

    Also, commenting on colonialism, there are a lot of papers that argue certain kinds of colonies benefitted countries (like ones in North America, Australia and Hong Kong) while the ones done in other countries (referring more to countries in South America and Africa) became more of a detriment because of the different structures.  Some colonies were more a place for immigrants to start "mini-europes", which had more governance and regulations and guidance.  Others were used merely for extracting resources that would benefit the conquering country, so little governance was necessary at the time.  As the original colonizing countries left, the "mini-europes" were left pretty stable historically compared to the former resource-extracting countries.  Colonialism definitely screwed a good number of people over.

  15. Magic says:

    I actually watched a friend play the game on Friday and the whole scene near the start where Chris sees a blonde woman being dragged away has been taken completely out of context, I can’t believe it! You see the scene, then charge into a room and find her, only for the lady to display the parasite coming out of her mouth and have to defend yourself against her.

    From what else I’ve read, I’m fairly sure the whole game is like this. Much ado about nothing…

    [quote]But, you know, colonialism was unfair too. Such is the reality of the world in which we live.[/quote]
    Not all of it was – Hong Kong and Singapore spring to mind as ports that thrived under colonialism, the latter even has a statue up of the city’s European founder.

  16. Thomas McKenna says:

    I wouldn’t go and call the crusades a one sided affair.  England and the Middle East have been killing each other since long before Islam or Christianity.  It was the only instance of these wars taking on the name of Holy Wars, but that doesn’t change that it was still the same song, but a different dance.

    If you want good examples to use in the whole "well, white people have done some shitty things in the past" try referencing what early Americans did to the Native Americans, how the Brittish treated the Indians (note, as in people in India), basically all of South Africa’s history, etc.  These were acts that mostly were one sided.

  17. Binarygeek says:

    Why wouldn’t a white person be able to have an opinion on something that might be offensive to black people? Can a black person not have an opinion on what a white person might find offensive? Honestly, the racist card is getting used more and more these days, and frankly it’s getting absurd. I saw a show the other day (don’t know the name), I caught it for about 10 minutes, and in that 10 minutes they continually bashed white people, but I didn’t take offense, as a race, not black, white, purple or green, but as the human race, we have to be able to laugh at ourselves otherwise this is gonna be one very uptight planet. Personally I don’t plan on getting RE5, mainly because I haven’t played an RE game in years and they haven’t really intrigued me. But what about all the white zombies we’ve mowed down over the years in Raccoon city? If this game were set in Tokyo chances are the zombies would be Japanese, would that be racist? or in Mexico a good number would be of Latino backgrounds. In Africa, yes there’s a good chance the zombies will be black, and can we stop talking about zombies as if they have equal rights? it’s starting to feel like an Anita Blake novel around here, the undead do not have rights, I’m sorry, but you come at me looking to mutilate my body and turn me into part of the zombie horde, well I’m sorry, but I won’t hestitate to shoot, black, white, green, whatever color, it’s not the point. The point is you’re being chased by hundreds of zombies, all of whom want you dead. 

    This isn’t like the colonial days of "kill the local tribes and take their land" or enslave the local population. Yes, I admit as a people white people have made some poor choices (the crusades come to mind), but how long will we get that thrown in our faces? personally I wasn’t involved in any of those events, my family is Scottish, and if you think that white people are cruel only to those of other religions or skin colors, check out what the British did to the Scottish sometime, and let’s not forget the Irish. As a race, human kind is cruel to everyone, skin color not withstanding. So to all those that say it’s "unfair to show black people as zombies" I have 2 points, 1. it’s a game and they’re undead trying to kill you. And most importantly, 2. Life’s tough, get a helmet.


    Psychos will always be psychos; they don’t need video games to help them.

    SCOTT RAMSOOMAIR, GameCore interview, Mar. 7, 2005

  18. Austin_Lewis says:

    The real discussion on race here is ‘do the arguments that game is racist have merit’?  And the obvious answer is that they have little to no merit, time and time again.  If you’re one of those people still offended by the game DON’T BUY IT!

  19. Vake Xeacons says:

     I understand that, but the point is: A lot of times, whites are ignored in racism issues. We are often accused of being racist strictly because of the color of our skin. We will never know what it’s like to be black, and when discussing the issue, unless we completely completely agree with the activists, we’re seen as racist. 

    Think of all the times throughout history, where whites have ACTUALLY treated other races like animals. Guess who has to suffer for it. It’s gotten to the point where a white man can’t stand up for his pride, because that’s racist. 

    Look at what’s happening with the Obama political cartoons. Same kind of issue, really. I don’t blame Obama, because he never brought it up during his campaign, nor did he use the "you’re racist if you don’t vote for me card." Thank you. But others are. He’s going to make mistakes, like everyone. But are the activists going to cry racism everytime someone points it out? Are commentators not allowed to make fun of him, like they do every president? It seems to be racist to portray blacks as anything less than the most upstanding citizens.

    This activism has risen to a fever pitch, very quickly, regarding how long it has laid dormant. Take Sen. Buttars statement. Now the guy’s an idiot, a driving force behind the horrible bill in Utah, so believe me: I’m not vouching for him. But we started bashing him long before he said anything against video games. Now, his non-progressive comments aside, he also is accused of bashing blacks. In discussing a bill, I believe his exact words were, "This baby is black… this is a dark, ugly thing."   

    Now, I have no idea on what bill he was bashing, but what does this have to do with racism? Just because he said the word "black" he’s automatically referring to people? That’s just paranoid. What about the movie, "Pitch Black"? It was dark and ugly too. Or the game "Black and White." Yes the guy needs to pull his head out of his butt, but we need to back off sometimes, take a good long look at the situation, and THEN make a logical advance. 

    We’ve accused the politicians of turning games into a straw man; something they can bash so they look like they’re doing something for society. But are we doing the same thing? Are we bashing politicians just so we look like we’re standing up for our rights? Our generation has been seen as politically numb and apathetic for some time now. Are we just searching for our own straw man? Are we finding controversies just so we look like we care about freedom?

  20. d20sapphire says:

    "Posted by GP on Twitter this morning: Game press commentary on RE5 issue perplexes me. Can a white guy even have an opinion on whether something is offensive to black people?"

    I find that a little offensive.  Whether or not a game offends someone is not a theory or an opinion.  How about you just ask the person or people in question if they are offended?  There’s nothing to theorize in that regard.  Black people are still people, just ask them how they feel.

    Please don’t take this as "only black people can discuss and understand the issue".  That’s not true either.  Discussion is important.  But theorizing on how people feel in situations like this can only lead to trouble and misunderstanding, which hopefully we can avoid.

    From what I have been reading it looks like Capcom did initially change some things to make the historically offensive imagery less so, but not enough to everyone’s taste.

  21. Austin_Lewis says:


    Yes a white guy can have an opinion on whether or not something is offensive to black people.  Honestly though, if you’ve flipped through the channels lately, most shows on BET are offensive (or should be) to black people. I think N’gai Croal should go bitch at BET before he comes and complains about video games again, personally.

  22. Austin_Lewis says:

    I’d like to question why anyone gives a fuck what somebody on MTV says about anything at any point ever.  Seriously, those people are all mindless drones.  Have you ever heard someone say something intelligent on MTV?  No.  There’s a reason.

    There’s only racism in the game if you see it.  I’ve beaten it now, and I have to say I didn’t notice much difference in enemies (other than the strangely common white infected in an African village) until I started running into military infected with AK’s.  Some of these military z’s look suspiciously white, but it hasn’t stopped me from shooting them, stomping them, and knifing a few.  Also, most of these ‘terrible’ racist clips seem to be missing from the final game.  Strange.  Looks like another group of yellow journalists who DIDN’T PLAY THE DAMN GAME!  Of course, what do you expect from a shithole like MTV or Variety?

    The way certain people (pc jackasses, mostly) look at racism is moronic.  If they want to prance around the issue and pretend Africa is a continent of civil people, that’s fine.  In my experience, its a continent predominantly made up of people who will abuse an entire nation to exploit its one resource (diamonds, gold, other metals, oil, drugs, etc), and the things I saw in this game pale in comparison to the reality of many places in Africa.

    Although I did like the tribal warriors, that was kind of funny to me.  But then again, when I started finding idols all over, I figured that was coming.

  23. Werrick says:

    "Posted by GP on Twitter this morning: Game press commentary on RE5 issue perplexes me. Can a white guy even have an opinion on whether something is offensive to black people?"

    Are you fucking serious, Dennis? You’re smarter than this…

    Of course a white guy can have an opinion on this, NOT having an opinion means that the terms and definitions of racism rest solely in the victim’s hands.

    Let’s say I was, I don’t know… let’s say I was Chinese. Now, I say to you, a white guy, that this entire website is racist against Asians, and I provide you with a couple flimsy reasons as to why… if that.

    Well, you’re white, so you don’t get to have an opinion, which means that I can call your shit racist and you can’t say anything about it. I also get to be judge, jury and executioner because simply proclaiming that you’re racist necessarily makes it so, and since you can’t have an opinion it also means that you can’t defend yourself.

    We live in a world where the accusation of racism or sexism or anti-semitism is a defacto guilty verdict. For some reason those accusations are the only ones in Western society where the accused has to then prove his innocence. Not the other way around… Follow? In other words, for every crime we can think of in this culture you have to prove the accused’s guilt, the onus is on the accuser to prove that the accused committed the act… with the exception of the accusation of sexism or racism. In those cases the onus is on the accused to prove that it’s not true. It’s fucked up.

    And now you suggest that white people can’t have an opinion on racism? Taking away the only flimsy defense we have when faced with the accusation?

    C’mon, man…


    P.S. Also, just to add… you do realize that the proposition that you made, asking the question, the idea is actually racist in and of itself. You’re suggesting that certain people should or shouldn’t have an opinion or idea based on what… the colour of their skin? Jesus, man, you gotta have a little more self-awareness than this.

  24. tibuka says:

    I have been thinking about this. It’s not a question whether or not somebody is offended by it. Somebody will always be offended by something. It’s also not a question of how many are offended. You could, out of respect for those offended, fefrain from publishing your product, but even from a moral standpoint, you don’t have to. Free speech means that you are allowed to express things that are offensive to others.

    The only question is: Will the game have a negative effect on the people that play it, and therby on the society as a whole? In this case, this means: Does RE5 create racism? I don’t think so, because the majority of people that play RE5 like to shoot zombies, not africans. If there is a unconscious transfer of the characteristics associated with zombies to those associated with black people, there must have been a racist tendency in this person before playing the game.

    Sorry for any bad spelling, not a native english speaker.

  25. Lizard says:

    "Posted by GP on Twitter this morning: Game press commentary on RE5 issue perplexes me. Can a white guy even have an opinion on whether something is offensive to black people?"

    Uhm…. yes?

    Let me provide an example. As a Jew, I hereby declare RE5 (which, by the way, I have never played, nor even seen the trailer for) to be anti-semitic. How? Why? Don’t ask me, if you’re not a Jew, you don’t get a say in what Jews find offensive. (And if you are a Jew and disagree with me, you’re obviously self hating.)

    Now, of course, that’s BS. (Except that part about being Jewish, which I am.) The idea that any individual of any ethnic group gets a "Get out of criticism free" card when he declares something offensive, or that only members of that ethnic group can debate if something is offensive — as if this were an objective fact and not a personal level of tolerance — is utterly wrong-headed. (Further, ethnic, religious, social, cultural, etc groups are rarely divided by sharp and absolute lines — how do you determine who is black/jewish/whatever "enough" to be able to decide if something is offensive? I am Jew by birth and by culture/upbringing, but I am also an atheist who has not been inside a synagogue since my late teens, 25+ years ago.)

    Oh, it’s also anti-atheist. Whatever THAT means. But I guarantee you, I’m offended, and I want an interview with NYTimes.

    (As a final note, maybe it is offensive? So what? Don’t know about other nations, but in America, there’s no "Right not to be offended". If there were, the South Park guys would be in GitMo…)

  26. sheppy says:

    "Posted by GP on Twitter this morning: Game press commentary on RE5 issue perplexes me. Can a white guy even have an opinion on whether something is offensive to black people?"

    My thoughts?  Not to a 100% accuracy but then again, can a black person really understand how hateful and insensitive the whole "white people be all like" tirades comedians tend to rely on when they have nothing else funny to say?

    In essence, it reaches a point where a person has to ask themselves, "How offended by this am I" and "Why am I still partaking in this?"  Just because I disagree with something, that doesn’t give me the right to try and ban or censor other people.  It just means it’s something I now have to avoid.

    But on the other hand, as evidenced by MOST of the negative reactions and sheer lack of information about what they are talking about, can we really trust the words of protest?  To put it another way, if someone pointing out the villians are black in RE5 doesn’t allude to the fact that the villians behind it all is a greedy white corporation lead by Albert Wesker, so white he’s practically albino, how much stock can be put in that opinion?

    Didn’t we just berate a New York councilwoman for her protest about Rapelay for having limited knowledge on the product she’s attacking and yet all the half-assed ill researched opinions on RE5 suddenly hold a weight just because it’s a black person complaining?  And more importantly… taken from the comments on the Huffington Post story…

    "Why do all Black Americans seem to feel we Black Africans are incapable of standing up for ourselves?"

    Wall of Text Simulation- Insert coin to continue.

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