As Schools Ban Kids From Playing Tag, Psychologists Ask Why
January 29, 2019 3:39 PM   Subscribe

Experts agree that kids love tag because the game lets them pretend to be predators. Is that problematic? Maybe not.
As a result, when kids chase each other they excite their limbic system, the reward center of the brain, receives a rush of dopamine, the so-called happiness hormone. Given that fact and the ease of tag as social play, it makes sense that the game exists as a sort of playground default. What’s interesting about the biological incentive underpinning the natural inclination to chase is that tag does offer kids a natural high in exchange for them treating their friends like prey.

This is where educators grow concerned and where psychologist like Tomlinson feel compelled to step in and provide a context for the conversation about tag that has less to do with #MeToo and more to do with childhood. Tomlinson argues that despite the fact that it was never intended to teach emotional intelligence, tag is actually a good way for kids to learn about boundaries — depending, of course, on how the game is being played.
[...]

It’s important to note that tag doesn’t just get banned for activist reasons or because of optics. Children have a tendency to get rough while playing the game. It becomes a forum for testing boundaries. And that can go south in a hurry if there isn’t an adult nearby to intervene and correct bad behaviors. There is also the potential for exclusion. Kids who are too aggressive eventually experience a social exclusion similar to being “it.” The game ceases to be fun.
posted by not_the_water (116 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
 
I was on a plane recently and saw the movie Tag. It was surprisingly good, in a silly over-the-top way (well, in the context of a transatlantic flight, so...)
posted by sjswitzer at 3:54 PM on January 29, 2019 [5 favorites]


Children have a tendency to get rough while playing the game. It becomes a forum for testing boundaries. And that can go south in a hurry if there isn’t an adult nearby to intervene and correct bad behaviors. There is also the potential for exclusion. Kids who are too aggressive eventually experience a social exclusion similar to being “it.” The game ceases to be fun.

So Tag is great for kids except when they're behaving like kids. That makes sense.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 3:57 PM on January 29, 2019 [6 favorites]


On the other hand, kids are frequently complete fucking monsters to each other.

On the gripping hand though, banning tag seems unlikely to have any meaningful effect on that one way or the other.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 4:08 PM on January 29, 2019 [23 favorites]


Tag is the only kids game I remember fondly. It was good clean fun. Volleyball was the worst.
posted by sjswitzer at 4:12 PM on January 29, 2019 [23 favorites]


Their psychological explanation doesn't make sense to me, as I don't remember enjoying being It. It was more fun and thrilling being in the non-it role. Being It was because you got caught. The thrill was in the chaos, not that everyone wanted to be It because it conferred predatory powers.
posted by polymodus at 4:12 PM on January 29, 2019 [97 favorites]


if these brain doctors want to see apex predator behavior, they should watch my kid play spit against her grandmother
posted by gwint at 4:13 PM on January 29, 2019 [18 favorites]


banning tag seems unlikely to have any meaningful effect on that one way or the other.

Indeed. I can't recall if there were any protests when the stick went into the Toy Hall of Fame (previously), but it would seem much of a muchness. Little surprises me these days.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 4:13 PM on January 29, 2019 [1 favorite]


Experts agree

Unlikely.
posted by The Tensor at 4:20 PM on January 29, 2019 [29 favorites]


I hear that violent video-games might be a meaningful indicator of anti-social tendencies. Or not. #tagpanic

honestly, kids...these aren't the days of slow news. why does this exist?
posted by es_de_bah at 4:24 PM on January 29, 2019 [8 favorites]


I was on a plane recently and saw the movie Tag. It was surprisingly good, in a silly over-the-top way (well, in the context of a transatlantic flight, so...)

It was enjoyable as a streaming option at home, too. But posting just to add previously, and that the movie uses a lot of the real life scenarios, as well as a character playing the WSJ reporter that wrote that article. And that I couldn't help but cry at the end.
posted by linux at 4:32 PM on January 29, 2019 [2 favorites]


Which is to say, banning tag at school, instead of laying down ground rules, is idiotic.
posted by linux at 4:33 PM on January 29, 2019 [15 favorites]


Schools have just gone to hell since they took smoking out of the teacher's lounge
posted by thelonius at 4:38 PM on January 29, 2019 [49 favorites]


This is gonna hole the lucrative tag industry below the waterline for sure
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 4:39 PM on January 29, 2019 [2 favorites]


> Children have a tendency to get rough while playing the game. It becomes a forum for testing boundaries.

Banning tag sounds like a great way to keep kids from learning how to enforce boundaries or how to respect the boundaries of others.

> And that can go south in a hurry if there isn’t an adult nearby to intervene and correct bad behaviors.

So the real issue here is that adults don't want to be responsible for raising children?

> There is also the potential for exclusion. Kids who are too aggressive eventually experience a social exclusion similar to being “it.” The game ceases to be fun.

Right, we can't have kids learning that being aggressive will cause people to dislike them. Think of what that might do to police recruitment rates!
posted by I-Write-Essays at 4:41 PM on January 29, 2019 [32 favorites]


Not hard to spot who is in the pockets of Big Tag.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 4:43 PM on January 29, 2019 [18 favorites]


Are they next going to ban that whole game where an adult (usually a parent, aunt, uncle, or grandparent) chases after a child saying, "I'M GOING TO GET YOU," and the delighted kid chortles for joy and runs and is eventually caught by the playfully growling adult and hugged?
posted by orange swan at 4:45 PM on January 29, 2019 [37 favorites]


Kids get knocked down. Kids break bones.

Kids parents don't have insurance...

Kids parents sue.

Costs rise.
posted by Windopaene at 4:48 PM on January 29, 2019 [2 favorites]


I have to wonder if these psychologists have actually observed children playing tag recently, because as polymodus says, being 'It' is in fact the least desirable position. Furthermore, being 'It' is self-limiting in the sense that the better you are at being 'It' (i.e., the faster you can run) the less time you spend being 'It', inevitable resulting in the slowest kid being stuck 'It'.
posted by Pyry at 4:50 PM on January 29, 2019 [42 favorites]


volleyball was the worst? dodge ball
posted by robbyrobs at 4:54 PM on January 29, 2019 [21 favorites]


If you want children to play tag forever, introduce New Tag with slightly different rules and watch parents clamor for Traditional Tag to be enshrined in the curriculum.
posted by peeedro at 4:54 PM on January 29, 2019 [67 favorites]


Polymodus... Yes. Being IT was low person on the totem pole. Same thing in hide&seek. These two were major neighborhood games when I was growing up. I never noticed a lot of aggression in tag. It was more create chaos around the IT kid by running around like a crazed mob. It appears that the researchers imagined a scowling IT stalking the poor cringing kids who were not IT.
posted by njohnson23 at 4:54 PM on January 29, 2019 [10 favorites]


Volleyball was the worst.

Sorry, I meant to say dodgeball. (Which was also a movie.)
posted by sjswitzer at 4:54 PM on January 29, 2019 [3 favorites]


I hated being It, but that's because I can't run worth a tinker's damn and never have been able to. I totally like catching things and very much enjoyed learning to play dead and terrify any child who approached me.

More to the point, removing low stakes boundary testing play is a great way to achieve adults who have no skills responding to or setting boundaries. This is why we leave puppies with their mothers and litter mates instead of isolating them: they learn as they grow that biting too hard means the game stops, so they learn to meter their grabbiness. So too with children. Children stop being shits to one another first because they learn that bad behavior means the game and the fun will end, and no one likes being the kid all alone. As adults, it's our job to facilitate that learning process, not insulate from it, and make sure that boundaries breaking does indeed end the game: enforcing children's boundaries between themselves with breaks until they can learn to enforce boundaries on their own.
posted by sciatrix at 4:58 PM on January 29, 2019 [21 favorites]


I don’t know why the hatred for dodgeball. If you can dodge a wrench, you can dodge a ball. Easy peasy.

¯\_(ツ)_/¯
posted by Big Al 8000 at 4:59 PM on January 29, 2019 [31 favorites]


Around my way aggressive kids did not play tag, they played british bulldogs. That WAS banned at my school, but we played it anyway when nobody was looking.

We also played endless variations of tag. Freeze tag. Toilet tag. Chain tag. Tag is great, all small animals like to chase each other, it's weird to pathologise that.
posted by stillnocturnal at 4:59 PM on January 29, 2019 [5 favorites]


Toilet tag??

CHAIN TAG???
posted by greermahoney at 5:13 PM on January 29, 2019 [3 favorites]


Well f#45, everything's getting really crazy and soft. We didn't bother with tag much, but used to have these amazing stone fights, but only small stones up to about 3/4 inch, no one got badly hurt.

And really wild tumbling/wrestling things with eight kids all trying to pin the others down all at once. The only rules was empty pockets first, so there was always a pile of legal and illegal knives, throwing stars and other things.
Yes this was the UK, a military city.

I never had kids, don't know what I'd think about the above if I did.
posted by unearthed at 5:13 PM on January 29, 2019




Oh man. I was an elementary classroom aide a couple of years ago. First grade eventually lost the privilege of playing tag if they touched anyone at all, because otherwise it turned into Lord of the Flies.

Third grade was into "chase somebody and then throw shit at them" tag, usually someone's glove, hat or scarf. Occasionally pieces of the rubber "mulch" underneath the playground equipment. Only banned the mulch.

Fifth grade, though... I had to have a chat with a very confused young man who didn't understand why his female friend freaked out when he grabbed her around the chest.

I told him, from here on out, you can't grab a girl from here (collarbone) to here (hip level.) Those parts of her body are now off limits. Eventually, we developed the shoulder-or-arm-only rule.

After they had sex ed in second semester, the boys finally understood. The girls, obviously, already knew.
posted by headspace at 5:19 PM on January 29, 2019 [14 favorites]


Oh man, did no one else have games where hordes of joyful and only slightly murderous cousins would take down a theoretically laughing uncle and wrestle him to the ground? I mean, at the time we assumed all was well but in retrospect there were probably about eight children between the ages of eight and four tackling my various paternal uncles at certain points.

This, by the way: also a lesson in boundaries, because any uncle yelping "ow! No, I'm done!" as my younger, childfree maternal uncle was wont to do, was to be let free immediately on pain of parental fury and everyone gathering around the hurt adult and maybe not playing that game again for a week or two.
posted by sciatrix at 5:20 PM on January 29, 2019 [11 favorites]


Remember the old joke with the punchline 'I don't have to outrun the bear, I just have to outrun you!'?

I'd say it's much more likely to be a game about not being prey than a game about pretending to be a predator.
posted by jamjam at 5:21 PM on January 29, 2019 [7 favorites]


Toilet tag??

CHAIN TAG???


Toilet Tag: when you get tagged, you have to squat like you're sitting on a toilet and hold your hand out. You get released when another player "flushes" you. I can't remember how the person who is "it" changes, I think they had to get everyone or a certain number stuck at a time.

Chain tag: Everybody who gets tagged holds hands to form an expanding chain. Last person caught is "it" next round.

Tunnel Tag: If you get tagged you have to stand with your legs apart until somebody crawls underneath you to release you.


For the real predator/ prey experience I recommend hide-and-seek in the dark, with the house in pitch black.
posted by stillnocturnal at 5:23 PM on January 29, 2019 [17 favorites]


Ooooh, also that game where you have to get "home" without getting caught by the person who is "it" is brilliant in a large garden at night. Known in my family as "pom pom home" but "123-in" by everybody else I knew. I wish I could play that as an adult, actually. Maybe with laser guns.
posted by stillnocturnal at 5:24 PM on January 29, 2019 [3 favorites]


But posting just to add previously

Somehow I added a bold tag and not a link tag. But, really, previously.

Sorry, I meant to say dodgeball. (Which was also a movie.)

Now Dodgeball is a truly terrible game, I'm sorry. I'm certainly glad I was still a foreigner at the age when they played that in school, so I was playing something else.

Oddly enough, I didn't play tag much. The games of choice were patintero and agawan base, which were much more team-based so no one had to be a sole "it", though it still involved running and tagging.
posted by linux at 5:29 PM on January 29, 2019 [1 favorite]


Occasionally I played a truly excellent version we called backwards tag:

If you are it, you have to avoid all other players.
If you are not it, and you tag the person who is, you are now it! Congratulations! Everyone else who is trying to become it is likely still nearby; RUN

I remember it being significantly more aerobic than regular tag
posted by vibratory manner of working at 5:33 PM on January 29, 2019 [9 favorites]


Not hard to spot who is in the pockets of Big Tag.

I found an annoyingly big tag in my pocket recently, but I was able to cut it out at the seam.
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:37 PM on January 29, 2019 [9 favorites]


For the real predator/ prey experience I recommend hide-and-seek in the dark, with the house in pitch black.

The game I played that was in a pitch black room was Murder in the Dark. Hide and Seek in the dark sounds terrifying for the seeker.
posted by linux at 5:39 PM on January 29, 2019 [7 favorites]


We also played endless variations of tag. Freeze tag. Toilet tag. Chain tag.

Granted, Knife Tag was probably more traumatic than developmentally sound.

(But at least there were no bullshit arguments about whether you got tagged or not.)
posted by Naberius at 5:39 PM on January 29, 2019 [4 favorites]


Fifth grade, though... I had to have a chat with a very confused young man who didn't understand why his female friend freaked out when he grabbed her around the chest.

...

After they had sex


Wait, what?

ed in second semester, the boys finally understood.

Ah, okay.

It is a pain processing text faster than I can read.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 5:40 PM on January 29, 2019 [9 favorites]


Banning tag sounds like a great way to keep kids from learning how to enforce boundaries or how to respect the boundaries of others.

It also deprives them of the chance to learn that violating other people’s boundaries is all good fun and in fact even if other people are saying "No no no" and running away from you — well, it’s all a game isn’t it?
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 5:44 PM on January 29, 2019 [4 favorites]


Let's do a little fact checking first, shall we?

First of all, the article that they self-link to is about a specific school district that banned the game because it kept getting out of hand with the kids. I think if you had a soccer game (their counter-example) that continually lead to slide tackling, you might ban that, too. It looks like maybe half a dozen districts have banned the game over the years as well (here's another shitty click-bait site that at least took a half-assed effort to source the preposterous 'war on tag' idea). Here's a Huffpost piece about some districts as well. Common across all stories is the same idea of schools responding to problems with local instances of the game, as opposed to the barely contained insinuation of PC-run-amok that the FPP lays out.

So, first of all, if this is a war on tag, then it's a pretty spotty effort, and one that actually seems more like a war on kids getting into fights or touching each other inappropriately.

Secondly, they don't link to any research about the supposed evolutionary benefits for tag, which seems like it's drawing from evo-psych if not directly based in it. In fact the only results for either of the names they cite are a grad student at Michigan State, and a psychotherapist at FSU who doesn't even seem to specifically work with child psychology.

The article seems like thin outrage mongering trying to gin up bile about how parents are getting soft now-a-days, or something. This kind of dross doesn't belong on Metafilter.
posted by codacorolla at 5:45 PM on January 29, 2019 [39 favorites]


We were pretty good at playing tag. Being It was kind of desirable place, and picking the slowest, least capable kid was really counterproductive, making play slow down correspondingly. If you really want to play, you kinda wanted to be It at least once.

We did some much more violent games that were very clearly opt-in. "Smear the Queer", which was was sort of like a cross between very simplified tackle football and tag. And a handball-like game we called "Suicide" which involved punching. If you didn't want to play, that was cool, because there was such limited time for recess, it was counterproductive trying to convince someone who didn't like the physicality. Even so, I recall it wasn't unusual to get "trolled" by players who would toss the football in an effort to avoid being tackled, or run away instead of getting punched playing Suicide. This was sort of seen as wasting everyone's time and these kids were usually banned after doing it a couple times. As you could imagine, these were mostly aggressive boy games but there were a few aggressive girls who would participate. Despite the fighty nature of the games, it's interesting in that there were unspoken ground rules about what was and wasn't allowed, and breaking them was a good way to get banned. It seems the nature of the play was that it could hurt, but it couldn't damage.
posted by 2N2222 at 5:54 PM on January 29, 2019 [4 favorites]


One of the things I remembered most as a kid was how optional these games weren't, sometimes. Playing at school was usually fine. Playing in church groups was, improbably, much worse. (Hahaha "improbably" sob.) If you have sufficient adult supervision, you could probably make sure that the kids were including only kids who really wanted to be included, and it wouldn't be too bad. Given school funding these days, I'm not surprised at all that schools that want to handle this well are discovering that once the kids get out of hand, they don't have the resources to reel it back in.
posted by Sequence at 5:54 PM on January 29, 2019 [3 favorites]


Yeah, it's interesting, despite the violent schoolyard games we enjoyed, the only time I can recall games getting mean was during P.E. Compulsory play seemed like a bad idea, forcing timid kids into confrontational situations, and allowing mean kids to be mean as part of class.
posted by 2N2222 at 5:59 PM on January 29, 2019 [19 favorites]


I've said this sooo many times now:
ALL games are about hunting and killing. Because we're predators. (How do we know this? Because our eyes face the front, not the sides.) Doesn't matter if it's Checkers or Call of Duty. All the pieces removed from the board are dead. Where do you think the name "game" comes from in the first place?
posted by sexyrobot at 6:04 PM on January 29, 2019 [9 favorites]


ALL games are about hunting and killing. Because we're predators. (How do we know this? Because our eyes face the front, not the sides.) Doesn't matter if it's Checkers or Call of Duty. All the pieces removed from the board are dead. Where do you think the name "game" comes from in the first place?

Using my front-facing eyes, I can clearly tell you've put a lot of thought into this.
posted by codacorolla at 6:06 PM on January 29, 2019 [20 favorites]


We played a form of freezetag. It was invented by our friend John - or at least i think it was, who knows. maybe he heard it from a sibling or something.

It wasn't really anything about the mechanics, so much as the concept. The "tagger" was named: Rusty Meathook.

Ironically my grandfather died of botulism contracted from stepping on a rusty nail.
posted by symbioid at 6:11 PM on January 29, 2019


> How do we know this? Because our eyes face the front, not the sides.

What is prey do gorillas hunt?

Also, what about sharks? Are you saying they're not predators?
posted by I-Write-Essays at 6:13 PM on January 29, 2019 [4 favorites]


Rumor had it that dodgeball was banned at my school after one kid was struck in the spleen which ruptured and died. Honestly, a game which consists of lining a bunch of people against a wall and throwing shit at them is a bit too executionary for me.

Tag was really fun, as was its slightly more strategic cousin Capture the Flag. I recall one particularly riveting Capture the Flag game where we all sat down for a spontaneous POW negotiation. The PE teacher was so confused and kept blowing her whistle at us to get up and run, but I mean the Camp David Accords took twelve days, we only took like twelve minutes, so I think we were doing pretty good there.
posted by basalganglia at 6:14 PM on January 29, 2019 [17 favorites]


What is prey do gorillas hunt?

Other gorillas. They’re herbivores, but they’ll beat the crap out of anyone they perceive as a threat.
posted by Autumnheart at 6:18 PM on January 29, 2019


Chain tag: Everybody who gets tagged holds hands to form an expanding chain. Last person caught is "it" next round.

Oh thank Hera. I thought it actually involved chains.
posted by greermahoney at 6:19 PM on January 29, 2019 [1 favorite]


So, first of all, if this is a war on tag, then it's a pretty spotty effort,

So it’s like the War on Christmas, is what you’re saying?
posted by greermahoney at 6:25 PM on January 29, 2019


Around my way aggressive kids did not play tag, they played british bulldogs. That WAS banned at my school, but we played it anyway when nobody was looking.

British Bulldog was banned at my school over and over again, because each time it was banned there was a new game the next day, with a new name, to which somehow everyone already knew the rules.

I have head similar stories from people who attended other schools.
posted by pompomtom at 6:30 PM on January 29, 2019 [6 favorites]


2N2222: We did some much more violent games that were very clearly opt-in. "Smear the Queer", which was was sort of like a cross between very simplified tackle football and tag.


*nervous laugh more like gagging*

Ahaha wtf?
posted by Cozybee at 6:35 PM on January 29, 2019 [6 favorites]


I was a pretty fast runner so I liked being It as a kid. It was a nice consolation for having been tagged. Maybe it was low-status or something but I didn't know or care.

My son hates tag, and it's soured him on other group activities (e.g. Scouts, baseball) where facilitators just assume "let's have the kids play tag now to tire them out" will be fun for everyone.

The group dynamics of any activity are going to be hard to study. The equilibrium that a group settles into depends on both the group and the activity and mapping that out in enough detail to make predictions sounds really hard.
posted by Jpfed at 6:43 PM on January 29, 2019 [3 favorites]


First they came for tag, then it was duck-duck-goose. Where does it all end? Pretty soon the kids will just sit around singing Kumbayah on endless repeat.
posted by diode at 6:43 PM on January 29, 2019 [1 favorite]


“Kill The Man With The Ball” was an alternate name for STQ, at my school. Banned after a compound fracture of the femur.
posted by thelonius at 6:48 PM on January 29, 2019 [3 favorites]


Aside from "Experts largely agree" meaning "the several people I talked to" I think I agree with the argument the piece is making, particularly the final line: "Adults are responsible for making sure no one gets hurt in the process, but allowing kids to negotiate these matters amongst themselves in more beneficial for them in the long-term." As long as "making sure no one gets hurt" entails a concerted, long-term dialogue with boys about boundaries, privilege, empathy and respect.
posted by not_the_water at 6:56 PM on January 29, 2019


Doesn't matter if it's Checkers or Call of Duty. All the pieces removed from the board are dead.

This brings back a memory of teaching my sister to play chess when I was 8 and she was 4. I was still explaining how to set up the board when she asked, "Is there eating in this game?"

I blinked at her. Was she hungry?

Then it dawned on me. Of course! She wanted to know if the pieces could capture each other. Because capturing = eating.

So I think I agree with the above comment.
posted by aws17576 at 6:57 PM on January 29, 2019 [3 favorites]


We played STQ too, but called it "Kill the Guy with the Ball." Little wonder that toxic masculinity is an issue among my (Gen X) cohort.
posted by Lyme Drop at 6:57 PM on January 29, 2019 [2 favorites]


Heh. I remember a formative game of She-Ra Tag in 2nd grade where the boys who did not want to play soccer or kickball chased girls around until they were tamed by Princess Magic or whatever and then got to be monsters and/or unicorns in the zoo which was a patch of clover that was full of bees so when this unicorn went to settle in ended up with dual sting stigmata and only received aid after his fellow domesticated wolfbeast realized that howl was not at the moon but at the stingers still embedded in my palms...
posted by robocop is bleeding at 7:21 PM on January 29, 2019 [5 favorites]


Tunnel Tag: If you get tagged you have to stand with your legs apart until somebody crawls underneath you to release you.

This was how we played it when I was a kid; me and my brother, the two kids from the house across the street, and the two-years-older-than-us girl next door. Summer nights, playing on a massive playing field that involved all three of our respective yards. Two safe zones at each house - the front porch of each house, and the back deck of each house.

"Undertunnel tag" we called it. Get tagged, stand there with your legs spread, someone else crawls through and releases you. You get tagged three times in a row, you're it now.

Even though we did the counting-out to see who was going to be it, it was always best when the girl next door was it because she would do things like climb trees and wait, and then jump down and ambush you. So imagine - you're nine, you can see your neighbor's brother is standing in the open in the side yard between your house and the neighbor girls', there's about 10 yards between you and him and then another 10 yards to the goal - but about midway you pass under a tree and you can't really tell whether A is in the tree or not, can you make it? Maybe you can, you take a breath and start running, everyone says you're fast, but then OH NO there's a rustling in the bushes to your right you didn't think to check there is it A maybe it isn't there's no time just go go go dive under J's legs and RUNNNNNN -

A really got into the "predator" aspect, but I really got into the "prey that manages to escape and fight again" aspect and it was the bomb.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:22 PM on January 29, 2019 [13 favorites]


honestly, this is war-on-christmas adjacent journalism. no one is actually worried about this on either side. #hashtag taghash#
posted by es_de_bah at 7:36 PM on January 29, 2019 [6 favorites]


Banning tag just means more time for Murderball!
posted by srboisvert at 7:46 PM on January 29, 2019 [4 favorites]


I made the mistake of playing tag in grade 3 and when the recess bell rang I was it and now I am still it to this day for the love of god someone let me touch you
posted by um at 8:24 PM on January 29, 2019 [30 favorites]


My kids school has never had a problem with tag.

Four square, on the other hand, gets banned on a regular basis, mainly because there are a couple of rules-lawyers who love to do their best imitation of John McEnroe.
posted by madajb at 9:32 PM on January 29, 2019 [2 favorites]


receives a rush of dopamine, the so-called happiness hormone

Ok, moving on...
posted by ethansr at 9:36 PM on January 29, 2019 [4 favorites]


Man, I miss Tag along with the other games we played. I should probably check out the movie. I agree with others, most people preferred not being it, or in the case of hide and seek, not being the seeker. I think those that enjoyed being it enjoyed both roles and were fast enough that being it for them didn’t last long.

I mean, I really have to wonder who would interpret it as being a predatory game, or at least that being the ideal role for children. Anyone know of any actual research on the role and reason for this type of play?

And which, to the point actually that others have made heat, iirc from the trailer, the premise of the movie is that not being it is the desired state. Essentially out running and outsmarting the predator in the game.

We used to have neighborhood wide games of tag and hide and seek. All the kids in about a 4 block radius would go out to play until dinner time. Organically find each other while riding bikes around or just following the sounds of kids screaming and laughing until a group formed. Sometimes quite large. Often we would go out for a second round from dinner to as far after sunset as we could get away with. We also played a sorta team hide and seek as there were enough kids that it was the only way you could play. It depended on the night, but there could be over two dozen of us ranging in age from 7 to 15, with most in the middle. Someone’s block was chosen to gave the seekers some chance of finding everyone, and most yards were fair game.

After a while, many of us would dress for it, wearing dark and black clothes, our parents wondering why we were changing to go out and play after dinner. I’m frankly not sure our parents knew the size and extent of these rolling mobs of kids or how extensive and seriously we took hide and seek. Hiding spots were found and recycled until they were used too often and you had to get creative. You learned sometimes all it took to hide was a dark shadow in a dark yard wearing dark clothes, situating yourself above or below the eye line. If all else failed, you took to the trees. Sometimes you’d hide alone, other times, everyone would head up a couple trees and try to keep quiet until boredom set in and whispered conversations gave you away.

Seriously, can I play hide and seek like this again? Please?

posted by [insert clever name here] at 10:09 PM on January 29, 2019 [9 favorites]


If you want children to play tag forever, introduce New Tag with slightly different rules and watch parents clamor for Traditional Tag to be enshrined in the curriculum.

I can't wait to hear the rules of New Tag.
posted by fairmettle at 10:34 PM on January 29, 2019


Four square, on the other hand, gets banned on a regular basis

Just keep your focus on the overall cost, and your own bottom line. The whole point is to distract you with the low monthly payment.
posted by Meatbomb at 10:47 PM on January 29, 2019 [7 favorites]


Don't know what other names it might go under, but Kinger (Tag played with a thrown tennis ball) was absolutely the dominant game of my middle school years. So much fun, except if you were a rubbish aim and spent half the time chasing your missed throws or if you took an accidental tennis ball to the face.

Playing Chase/Tag using the football or netball pitch markings as a Pac-Man maze was good too, so long as whoever was actually playing football or netball at the same time didn't care.
posted by I'm always feeling, Blue at 11:00 PM on January 29, 2019


If you are it, you have to avoid all other players.

The Running Man for the playground set.

Kids Boys at my bus stop in elementary school played mumblety-peg. It always kind of freaked me out to see them throwing knives at each other.
posted by bendy at 1:37 AM on January 30, 2019 [1 favorite]


Tag? Dodgeball? Murderball?

I’m a survivor of the Duck Creek Rock War of 1978 (my best friend had to go to the hospital for stitches on his head).
posted by D.C. at 2:58 AM on January 30, 2019 [1 favorite]


MetaFilter: the so-called happiness hormone
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:12 AM on January 30, 2019 [4 favorites]


Oh man, I just remembered Kiss Chase. Let's not think about Kiss Chase.
posted by mymbleth at 3:13 AM on January 30, 2019


Ah yess, KISS Chase.. It was so hard to find platform shoes in my size for that game tho...
posted by some loser at 3:30 AM on January 30, 2019 [4 favorites]


She-ra tag!?

Me and my sisters were a little feral wolf pack on the playground after school, and there was one super cool boy who would play let's pretend with us, and it was THE BEST. She-ra tag with imaginative kids sounds awesome.
posted by Made of Star Stuff at 4:14 AM on January 30, 2019 [1 favorite]


Smear the Queer

Wow – it's been a very long time since I've heard that phrase. As a schoolchild in Maryland in the 80s, I used to hear kids say "let's play Smear the Queer" – but I never realized that it was, like, an actual game with rules and stuff. (I spent most of my time on the playground playing by myself and trying to avoid getting beaten up.)

(Somewhat earlier – say, in third grade or so – it was common to insult people by calling them "gaybees". We really had no idea what it meant to be "gay" – except that it was clearly bad, and therefore a suitable insult. There's probably a paper to be written on the way that ambient homophobia trickles down into children's culture.)

Children are indeed monsters. Give 'em a bug, and they'll pluck the legs off to see what happens. Some of 'em will think "feels bad, man", and will gradually learn to avoid sociopathic behaviors. (Others will think "hey, power feels good!", and will simply learn to indulge their sociopathic impulses in ways that will escape punishment.)

Unfortunately, I have to agree with codacorolla – this is a bad article that's trying to gin up reactionary outrage over a nonexistent phenomenon.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 4:57 AM on January 30, 2019 [3 favorites]


One of my earliest memories is playing freeze tag in preschool when I was four. One day I suddenly declared, “I am freeze woman” and assigned myself all sorts of super powers that allowed me to win every game. All the other kids just went a long with it and followed whatever I said. It was actually a terrifying experience to have that much power which is why the memory is so strong. I think this shows humans’ natural tendency to join cults and vote for autocrats.
posted by Waiting for Pierce Inverarity at 5:07 AM on January 30, 2019 [5 favorites]


We had Wall Ball, which is where you throw a ball against a wall and if you get touched by the rebound but drop it, you had to run and touch the wall before someone else threw the ball to the wall. The opportunity for jerkishness was that you could rebound the ball off the wall into the runner's face, which took some skill. Sedate with a tennis ball, fun with a raquetball, dangerous that one time someone brought a jai alai ball...
posted by BeeDo at 5:18 AM on January 30, 2019


Did anybody ever play sardines? Reverse hide-and-go-seek, where "it" hides and everybody looks for them? When you find them, you clamber into the hiding place, and eventually everybody but one person is crammed into the hiding place and the last to find the hidden crew is the next "it?" I loved sardines.
posted by Don Pepino at 6:18 AM on January 30, 2019 [7 favorites]


Children are indeed monsters. Give 'em a bug, and they'll pluck the legs off to see what happens. Some of 'em will think "feels bad, man", and will gradually learn to avoid sociopathic behaviors. (Others will think "hey, power feels good!", and will simply learn to indulge their sociopathic impulses in ways that will escape punishment.)

As a parent and former elementary school teacher, I have to point out that this is not true. Children generally lack skills to effectively express their empathy, but they certainly have it. I saw more instances than you can count of courage and kindness and affinity among children. I also saw lots of obliviousness. Actual cruelty was rare and really stood out.
posted by argybarg at 6:36 AM on January 30, 2019 [7 favorites]


As a former primary school student, I can assure you that actual cruelty in primary school is ubiquitous and really does not stand out. You just need one socially adept vicious kid and a few followers. If the cruel kid is of even moderate intelligence, the cruelty will be invisible to the growns observing. If you're not in the mosh pit you aren't seeing it.
posted by Don Pepino at 6:45 AM on January 30, 2019 [5 favorites]


On a Military base in Germany, we played plums vs crabapples. The crabapples hurt but the plums stained your clothes and got you in trouble with your mom. This was a better game than cockroach stomp we played on a Military base in Mississippi.
posted by amanda at 6:55 AM on January 30, 2019


Of course there is cruelty and we teachers see it. Children don’t make much effort to hide it. And yes, one child or a few can hold a whole group of children hostage. But it’s a long way from that to characterizing children generally as sociopathic monsters who love tearing apart animals etc. There is great kindness and decency generally among children, and rushing to the most extreme stance negates that.
posted by argybarg at 6:57 AM on January 30, 2019 [6 favorites]


Did anybody ever play sardines?

Yes! I forgot about this game. But in agreement.

Also, anyone here play many variations of tag or hide and seek in hotels when you were a kid? I’m sure it wouldn’t fly today and we did get scolded a lot, but I have extremely fond memories of running around hotel hallways and hiding under stairs.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 7:22 AM on January 30, 2019


I was too lazy to really dig into more than a simple google search, but what I did find confirmed what myself and others have said, the excitement and point of games like tag is in the fleeing and dodging, not the chasing. Not that it, too can’t be fun, but most joy is in the escaping.

The notion that it encourages kids to be predators is silly, and sounds like it’s viewed through a lens of idealizing humans. Because no one wants to view themselves as prey, god forbid viewing their children as such.

This Psychology Today article does a decent job of explaining what seems to me to be a better explanation, and ties this sort of behavior to the central theme in many sports as well, which I hadn’t considered. And Psychology today can be pretty high on ideas, low on supporting evidence. But the reasons presented at least fit more with my experience and those reported here. Not that no one likes to chase, but the glee and joy is in getting away.

And on that note, bunnies playing tag.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 7:40 AM on January 30, 2019 [2 favorites]


Tunnel Tag: If you get tagged you have to stand with your legs apart until somebody crawls underneath you to release you.

Oh! Stuck-in-the-Mud!

We also played Sticky Toffee, a chase game that started with each player holding one of It's fingers; It would talk freely until It said "Sticky Toffee", at which point everyone had to release their finger and run like mad. If you let go prematurely, say because It had faked you out with "sticky.... tomatoes!", you became It. I agree with everyone saying the point is the escaping, not the chasing: if the chasing had been the fun bit, everyone would have wanted to be It.

That was in a state primary school in rural Essex in the mid-eighties, incidentally. Also, as a very slow (and asthmatic) runner, my memories of chase games are probably less fond than most people's. I much preferred skipping, climbing on the climbing frames, and sneakier running games like What's the Time, Mr Wolf.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 7:43 AM on January 30, 2019 [2 favorites]


See also the thread on how feeding and clothing children makes them parasitic.
posted by biffa at 7:46 AM on January 30, 2019 [3 favorites]


The street that I grew up on (Toronto, Canada - late 1960s to mid 1970s) had great hide and seek games, as one side of the street backed onto a ravine. Kids could go behind house number 42 and emerge behind number 48.

In my junior high school, there were two games that in retrospect were somewhat sociopathic:

- "Fumble", in which one person carried a football, and other players tried to separate it from him. (This sounds like what in other places was called STQ.)

- "Bumball", which involved a tennis ball, a wall, and a group of players. One person would throw the ball against the wall and shout someone's name; the named player had to catch the ball on the fly. Three misses, and you had to sit up against the wall, butt in the air, and give everybody else the opportunity to throw a tennis ball at your ass. I'm pretty sure this would be banned today, but people weren't banning stuff much in, say, 1973.

I was a small, nerdy teenager, and junior high school was not my favourite time of life.
posted by tallmiddleagedgeek at 7:52 AM on January 30, 2019 [1 favorite]


Even if people were getting hurt in Tag to the degree that the game had to be banned, there’s a simple way to fix this: have the teachers act as referees. Sports have refs. In basketball if you hit a players arm or grab them in certain manners, that’s a foul, and the fouled player has an opportunity to gain 2 or 3 points at the free throw line. This is an extremely simplified explanation of the rule that doesn’t get into more intricacies of basketball theory (if you want to learn about fouls then watch a Houston Rockets game).
Personal fouls: Personal fouls include any type of illegal physical contact.

Hitting
Pushing
Slapping
Holding
Illegal pick/screen -- when an offensive player is moving. When an offensive player sticks out a limb and makes physical contact with a defender in an attempt to block the path of the defender.

Flagrant foul. Violent contact with an opponent. This includes hitting, kicking, and punching. This type of foul results in free throws plus the offense retaining possession of the ball after the free throws.

Technical foul. A player or a coach can commit this type of foul. It does not involve player contact or the ball but is instead about the 'manners' of the game. Foul language, obscenity, obscene gestures, and even arguing can be considered a technical foul, as can technical details regarding filling in the scorebook improperly or dunking during warm-ups.
It would not be hard to implement a referee system. It’s not like teachers need to be running around with whistles surveilling the kids either. If there are kids who don’t want to play the physical game, maybe because they’re “it” too often, they could still be part of the game by being referees. Of course, with the way that kids are kids, this opens up any number of other issues. For one, kids could get mad at the referees. In basketball if you get mad at the refs you risk getting a technical foul (what people refer to as being “T’d up”) and potentially being sat on the bench by your coach. If you get T’d up too many times you can be ejected from the game (see: Demarcus Cousins).

Secondly, some referees may have bias against certain kids. These are all things that can be worked out.
posted by gucci mane at 8:15 AM on January 30, 2019


I totally like catching things and very much enjoyed learning to play dead

On the internet, nobody knows you're a dog.
posted by tobascodagama at 8:18 AM on January 30, 2019 [8 favorites]


Well, our teachers taught a very complicated game called "Robin Hood", where we would split into two teams: the King's men and the outlaws. If you managed to put your closed fist (representing a dagger) on somebody else's shoulder, you escorted them to your home base to be held prisoner. If somebody on tagged a prisoner (or a prisoner touching another prisoner), they were free. I also remember that you could designate special Merry Men/Sherriff's men who could capture people by making a bow and arrow motion.

Because I am very nonathletic and not good at running, I discovered that some of the bushes next to the playground were hollow and that I could hide inside them the whole time.

My elementary school teachers were giant nerds is what I am saying.
posted by Comrade_robot at 8:33 AM on January 30, 2019


Also, what about sharks? Are you saying they're not predators?

Given that their eyes are as widely set as those of rabbits or gazelles, maybe we ought to worry about what is preying on them.

And don't get me started on the hammerhead, which is like a cartoon character whose eyes bug out eighteen inches in panic.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 8:35 AM on January 30, 2019 [1 favorite]


woof
posted by sciatrix at 8:51 AM on January 30, 2019 [1 favorite]


Oh this article is just fluff. Anyway it did remind me... If Tag is too rough, I can't the only kid whose group of friends organized legit fight clubs. Yeah, we were young and stupid (and NOT macho jocks, I will note, we were all the nerdy Nintendo, Cross Country kids)… but kids are gonna roughhouse. I saw one friend stand on another's head. My best friend put his fingers around my trachea...

Okay, yeah, maybe we're lucky no one was really hurt. I think we only did it a few times before we got bored and didn't actually enjoy beating each other up.

Kids, y'know.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 9:52 AM on January 30, 2019


The set of games we played at school during recess and the set of games we played outside of school did not have lots of overlap. In elementary school, a group of about eight to twelve boys had a "mob the guy with the ball" game at school recess until the playground monitors laid down a "No Tackling" rule. The game then changed to a really free-form chase-the-ball and whoever gets to it first gets to kick or throw it as far as they can. Some shoving generally ensued among those vying for the ball, but you could opt out of that and still play by hanging back a bit and hoping the next kick was in a direction that gave you a head start on the rest of the bunch. In tag, the bigger thrill for me was being able to evade whoever was "it".
posted by coppertop at 10:10 AM on January 30, 2019


My memory of Tag (or Tig) is that being It was the worst part of it - far more fun being chased.

Also, if I can ask the hive mind: in all forms of Tag there develops a rule that you can't immediately re-tag the person who just tagged you, to give them time to retreat to a safe distance. At my school this rule was known as You Can't Kill Your Butcher. When I've shared this with other adults (including close relatives), jaws have generally dropped, so did anyone else know it as this? Or did I go to an odd school?
posted by YoungStencil at 10:17 AM on January 30, 2019


As with most sports, the fun level for Tag and Dodgeball depended entirely on the social structure of the group playing. Dodgeball with a group of goodnatured kids who are all trying to have fun and where bullying is not allowed was a blast, even for the less athletic kids. Tag in a group with some bullies intentionally trying to be as cruel and taunting was a misery.

I loved Tag with the group of kids who hung out at the playground in my neighborhood, and yet I hated Tag during recess at school where some jerks always made it into a metaphorical reification of the social order. The same kids turned Dodgeball from a casual way to spend fifteen minutes into a vile exercise in punitive gender hierarchies, incidentally.

I also think Tag quality depends a lot on how the role of “It” is perceived— if getting caught is “oh darn, okay my turn!” instead of “ha ha you’re a loser!!! you’ll never catch anyone!!!!!!!!!”, then Tag is fine. (Oh, and some players always being willing to get intentionally “caught” when it looks like the current “It” player is getting exasperated and close to tears is an important part of functioning Tag.)
posted by a fiendish thingy at 10:23 AM on January 30, 2019 [5 favorites]


Odd school.
posted by thelonius at 10:24 AM on January 30, 2019


"Ahah! The children are running away because they want to be tagged!"

This thread is great, it's reminding me of so many games I'd completely forgotten about, like Sticky Toffee. What a great idea for a game.

We played a thing we called "violent ball game", which was basically rugby without any rules. The trick was we used an easily concealable squash ball, so each play would start out pretty vicious, but rapidly become about who could nonchalantly pull away from the scrum without being noticed.
posted by lucidium at 11:03 AM on January 30, 2019


At my school this rule was known as You Can't Kill Your Butcher. When I've shared this with other adults (including close relatives), jaws have generally dropped, so did anyone else know it as this?

My school was much more prosaic; that rule was "No Tagbacks."
posted by Daily Alice at 11:10 AM on January 30, 2019 [10 favorites]


The house I lived in from 1-8 years old had a floodlight over the front yard, so we played Shadow Tag: step on another's shadow to tag them. Which a) sounds kind of Peter Pan-whimsical and b) involves no invasion of personal space (yay). Plus you get to play at night!

School had a dodgeball mutation, Run Down, where all the targets stampeded back and forth along a narrow strip between two safe bases, while the "it" kid tried to throw the ball as hard as an ~8 year old could. It taught us to hide behind the other prey animals.
posted by cage and aquarium at 12:20 PM on January 30, 2019 [2 favorites]


I love the weird childhood games. Once I remember include:

Pencil fighting: you take a pencil and hold it sideways. Your opponent flicks his pencil a particular way (there was an “accepted” way to do it my muscle memory still remembers) to hit it. If your pencil survives, you do the same to him. Repeat until someone’s pencil breaks. We were like junior engineers figuring out fighting pencils. I stole my mom’s hot glue gun and used an ablative layer of hot glue on top of a layer of duct tape and sold those bad boys for a nice chunk of change.

Butts up: this was also called wallball. Gaggle of kids threw a tennis ball at a wall. If you catch it, you do it again. If the ball hits you or you catch it and fumble it, you have to sprint to the wall before someone grabs the ball and hits the wall with it. If you lose the race, you have to bend over so someone can drill you in the ass with the ball. (Yeah all boys school how’d you guess?)

Bloody knuckles: this was a modified tetherball where you won if you got the ball to wrap all the way around or if you opened the knuckles on your hand by punching the hell out of the ball.

Bloody knuckles variant: you and your opponent face each other and put your fists together. Whoever goes first raised their fist and swipes down at the other person’s fist so they scrape together. (It hurts like hell). Whoever quits or starts bleeding first loses.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 1:52 PM on January 30, 2019 [2 favorites]


"On the other hand, kids are frequently complete fucking monsters to each other."

As are adults, it's a trait of our species. Tag seems like a good arena to form and learn boundaries and shit, before they go into the real world where tag equivalents are deadly or worse.
posted by GoblinHoney at 2:12 PM on January 30, 2019 [1 favorite]


All the pieces removed from the board are dead. Where do you think the name "game" comes from in the first place?

I'm not disagreeing with you that many games are a way to channel aggressive behaviour in a social acceptable way, but my quick etymology search on "game" reveals it descends from Old English "gamen" with a meaning of "joy, fun, amusement" circa 1200 and it's application to "wild animals being caught for sport" is a usage that appeared in the 1300s, along with the idea of "fair game" meaning prey which was ok to catch.



This Psychology Today article does a decent job of explaining what seems to me to be a better explanation, and ties this sort of behavior to the central theme in many sports as well, which I hadn’t considered. And Psychology today can be pretty high on ideas, low on supporting evidence. But the reasons presented at least fit more with my experience and those reported here. Not that no one likes to chase, but the glee and joy is in getting away.


This is my general experience, both as a kid and as an adult with kids - they love being chased. There is joy in both outrunning and outwitting the pursuit, which I think we can see clearly more in the sports the article discusses. In sports like football or hockey, one player with the ball/puck is the one being chased, but they have a whole team of support on the field of play who can change who is chased with a pass and good timing, thus outmaneuvering those who seek to make the capture. Over-aggressive attempts to prevent that type of escape can leave the original player with too much room and the ability to escape and score.
posted by nubs at 3:08 PM on January 30, 2019 [1 favorite]


How can anyone talk about tag when Fortnite has most successfully normalized gun violence and militarism since G.I. Joe?
posted by Apocryphon at 3:29 PM on January 30, 2019


If you lose the race, you have to bend over so someone can drill you in the ass with the ball.

Living the dream.
posted by thelonius at 4:04 PM on January 30, 2019 [1 favorite]


> We were like junior engineers figuring out fighting pencils.

Oh, the conker alchemy. I had one that went through everything from vinegar to hanging behind a radiator for a year. The fact that I can't remember any particular success at it suggests it probably shattered first try.
posted by lucidium at 4:34 PM on January 30, 2019


Pencil fighting: you take a pencil and hold it sideways. Your opponent flicks his pencil a particular way (there was an “accepted” way to do it my muscle memory still remembers) to hit it. If your pencil survives, you do the same to him. Repeat until someone’s pencil breaks.
We had that too, but called it pencil popping. For whatever reason, the school was very het up about it and tried to ban it but they found enforcement to be rather difficult.
posted by Juffo-Wup at 5:55 AM on January 31, 2019


(FWIW: predatory sharks do have stereoscopic forward vision, even with side-set eyes (light refracts through water differently than air, most fish that have stereoscopic forward vision have side-set eyes), though there is a blind spot in front of their nose (in what is best described as the "you're already dead" zone). Also, side-vision is more important for predation in a water scenario, but most predatory sharks, like the great white, rely far more on smell to locate prey, and, it's believed, bio-electrical detection to pinpoint prey when nearby)
posted by sexyrobot at 10:47 AM on January 31, 2019 [2 favorites]


Oh yes--electroception is actually quite common in predatory fish, particularly those hunting in murky environments. You don't need visual depth perception when you can sense the weak electric charges thrown off by a fish's nervous system.

(In fact, the ability to generate weak electric currents has evolved at least twice in fish, always originally in the context of sensation and communication.)
posted by sciatrix at 11:10 AM on January 31, 2019


Um, saying that humans are predators because we have forward-facing eyes ignores everything we know about primate evolution. The vast majority of primates are herbivores, humans and tarsiers being rare exceptions, but all primates have forward-facing eyes. We have forward-facing eyes because we evolved from plant-eating ancestors with forward-facing eyes, an evolutionary adaption allowing for better depth perception and ability to forage fruit and nuts in an arboreal environment (other examples of present-day arboreal herbivores with forward-facing eyes that forage for nutrient-dense plant foods include nectar and fruit bats, tree-kangaroos, three-toed sloths, and colugos). 2.5 million years ago rainfall patterns changed and thick forests turned into sparsely forested grasslands, early hominins faced an evolutionary fork in the road; some australopiths evolved to eat large quantities of lower-quality plants. Early Homo went for more meat and we see changes over time to our ancestor's teeth, guts, and capacity for efficient bipedal locomotion reflecting this, but our eyes didn't have to change much from an animal that specialized in hunting fruits to hunting meat.

Anyway, "predators have forward-facing eyes and prey have side-facing eyes" is a rule of thumb that has a ton of exceptions and is pretty much useless except for non-primate land vertebrates, a tiny sliver of the animal kingdom.
posted by peeedro at 1:13 PM on January 31, 2019 [2 favorites]


Personally, I think we have forward-facing eyes because we evolved from tree-dwelling species, not veldt-dwelling species. If your habitat is an open grassy plain, you need wide vision to see your world. If you live in a forest, you need to be able to zero in on what's in front of you so you don't brain yourself on a branch while brachiating through the trees.
posted by Don Pepino at 7:58 AM on February 1, 2019


If MetaFilter lasts long enough, we can test this. I expect mod’s eyes will migrate due to all the side-eye they have to give.
posted by GenjiandProust at 10:02 AM on February 1, 2019 [2 favorites]


> I expect mod’s eyes will migrate

Now I can't stop laughing at flatfish's hilariously twisted faces. It's the perfect mix of annoyance and sort of, disgust / disbelief.
posted by lucidium at 12:00 PM on February 2, 2019


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