Talk about anything and everything Squad-related here -- what you've been playing, what you're looking forward to, and how big your Pile of Shame has grown after that last Steam sale...
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Angry Jedi

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Real Talk (long!)

by Angry Jedi » Tue Jul 28, 2015 2:26 pm

Hi everyone.

I wanted to say I'm sorry I got so angry over the Neptunia talk recently, and I'm sorry that I deserted the boards for a good while after it.

Let me talk a bit about my position, which some of you already understand, but which I want to make explicit anyway. I'm going to do this in a wall of text rather than in a real-time chat message to you, Rampant, because I feel I can better articulate myself that way. Plus other people can read and hopefully get something out of it, too.

Let me open by saying that the Squad is extremely important to me. You people have been friends, comrades and fellow game enthusiasts for longer than pretty much any other group of friends I have in the world -- with the sole exception of my school friend Woody, whom I was pleased to reunite with for the first time in years at my wedding recently. Your opinions are important to me -- more to the point, they affect me. And this, I feel, is the crux of the matter and why I got so upset.

The reason I like Japanese games so much today is entirely because of the Squad. We played Katawa Shoujo as a group, podcasted about it, got something from it, and it touched me deeply, more than any other work of art has ever touched me. I wanted more of that experience, so I started exploring other visual novels -- Kana, School Days, Kira Kira, Aselia the Eternal. Then I branched out into modern JRPGs; I'd previously eschewed them due to poor reviews, even though I was known among my friends at school as The Guy Who Would Buy Any PS1 RPG That Got Released.

The first "moe" RPG I played was Hyperdimension Neptunia. (You could probably make an argument for it being Recettear, but that's a bit of a different situation; let's say the first modern console moe-themed RPG I played was Hyperdimension Neptunia.) Objectively speaking, Hyperdimension Neptunia is not a brilliant game. It runs at a sub-30fps frame rate, its dungeons are repetitive, it's grindy, the combat is needlessly complicated and it has one of the dumbest item systems of any game I've ever played.

But I loved it. Why? Because it spoke to me. It understood that I was someone who enjoyed anime and games, and it cracked jokes along with me rather than at me. It introduced me to characters that I enjoyed spending time with and could relate to. It had a wafer-thin plot, but that didn't matter; it was the video game equivalent of a slice-of-life anime: it was a situation where it was just plain fun to hang out with these characters, regardless of what they were doing. I was in love, in short, so I immediately jumped on mk2 and Victory when they came out, even going so far as to pay through the nose for a copy of mk2, which had an inexplicably limited release run in Europe meaning I had to import my copy from Italy.

Somewhere during this period, Shingro introduced me to Ar Tonelico. This was his series that he'd fight to the death for, his series that he would rabbit on about for months to anyone who would listen. I listened. I finished Neptunia mk2. I booted up the first Ar Tonelico game. And suddenly I was right there with him. I understood why he loved these games so much.

They were different to Neptunia. They still had the "I like hanging out with these characters" angle, but the Dive system represented one of the most intimate ways of exploring interpersonal relationships I think I've ever encountered -- and that includes visual novels that depict explicit but realistic sexual relationships. Once again, I found a lot I could relate to; I found characters with similar issues, hangups, neuroses and worries to my own. I understood them. I felt affection for them. As works of art, the Ar Tonelico series affected me deeply -- to such a degree that when Andie and I got married, we signed the register to EXEC_with.METHOD_METAFALICA/. and walked out of the church to EXEC_COSMOFLIPS/. I had literally dreamed about doing that, and it actually happening made me amazingly happy, even though on the day itself I barely noticed anything that was going on.

To cut a long story short so I don't go through every single game I've played and loved over the course of the last few years, these games are important to me. They carry personal meaning to me. I appreciate them and love them -- and, moreover, I appreciate and love that they've introduced me to a community of people (aside from the Squad) who enjoy the same things I do. And, as I suspected they might, many of those people (who, I'll add -- and I wish I didn't have to, but I am anyway -- are male and female, black and white, cis and trans, straight and gay, English-speaking and ESL...) understand the things that worry me, make me anxious, stress me out and make me happy. We all like these games for a reason; they're important to all of us.

And this is why we collectively get upset and angry when someone takes a big steaming shit on them. I'm speaking for myself here, but I know the other people who feel the same have a similar attitude. I don't want or need people to approve of these games. I don't want or need people to like these games. What I do, however, need, is for people to respect the fact that I like these games, that my friends like these games, and that we really don't appreciate being branded as "creepy" or "perverted" or "deviant" any time the subject comes up. What we'd also love is if the people who branded these games "creepy", "perverted" or "deviant" would actually investigate these games for themselves rather than making blanket statements based on absolutely no knowledge of them whatsoever.

Let me give you a few examples.

When I worked at USgamer, Bob Mackey refused to review Atelier Rorona on the grounds that he didn't know anything about it, did a Google Image Search and found it "creepy". Atelier Rorona is like the fucking nicest game on the planet, and if you find it "creepy", then I feel you are probably the one with a problem somewhere.

Likewise when I was at USgamer, a freelancer named Dustin Quillen reviewed Hatsune Miku Project Diva F on PlayStation 3, branded it as being "for degenerates" and "creepy" and pissed off a significant proportion of the community the site had built at that point. That review directly led to my starting my JPgamer column on the site, a regular feature from which I made a number of friends and contacts with whom I'm still in touch today -- Chris Caskie, whom I'd consider to be one of my best friends now, is one of them.

Then there's people like Phil Kollar, whom people have the inexplicable belief to be a "JRPG expert", but who refuse to even try to engage with modern JRPGs. I recall when I was playing Neptunia mk2 and commented how fun the combat was, he basically told me that I was wrong. Great criticism there, chief. (Shortly after, he became one of those insufferable I Must Disapprove Of Everything And Publicly Shame Deviants people, so I've had him blocked pretty much ever since.)

Like I say, I don't need the approval of these people. I don't need the approval of people here. But what I do need is for those who don't like something to not shit on things that other people do like. And calling something "creepy" or equivalent is shitting on it, because by implication you're saying that people who like it are "creepy". And that really fucking sucks. It brings back horrible, painful memories of being a nerdy kid and being into computer games, and getting beaten up for it -- only now it's people who should be on "my side" giving me shit for the things I like. I'm sure at least a few of you here can probably understand how much that fucking sucks -- and yes, firstworldproblems and all that, but still problems.

Which brings me to modern outrage culture and how it's the worst thing to happen to online discourse ever. I'm not going to go on a rant about freedom of speech, because I'm well aware that things you say carry consequences and whatever. But I really fucking hate how attempting to talk about certain things now feels like walking on eggshells. To be perfectly honest, I am selfish about social issues. I don't give a shit about things that don't affect me and have precisely no interest whatsoever in promoting feminism, trans issues, gay marriage or whatever. (I don't disagree with any of those things, for the record; I just don't care enough to want to campaign about them, largely because since I don't fall into any of those categories, there's not a whole lot of point me getting involved.) BUT! I live my life treating others as I would like to be treated: with respect when I'm dealing with people face to face, and with the unspoken understanding that what you do in private is entirely your business, and so long as you're not hurting anyone or nurturing any genuinely harmful opinions -- and no, liking the glorious curves on Tsunako's character designs is not a harmful opinion -- everything is good.

Which is why I object to ideologies being rammed down my throat. I have no problem with people believing what they want to believe about whatever cause they're passionate about -- again, so long as it's not actively hurting anyone -- but when these beliefs start interfering with discussions and friendship groups, that's when I get upset and frustrated. And this isn't even a recent thing; I can recall as far back as I think 2010 or so when Jeff Grubb was dogpiled on Twitter for reporting on David Jaffe making some off-colour comments without branding him as literally Hitler. I was really worried for his safety, and had quite an enlightening chat with him while he went off the grid for a few hours. He was upset and scared, particularly as high-profile people like Justin McElroy and Leigh Alexander were attacking him and making damn sure everyone knew that they were doing so. Speaking as someone who has been doxxed, slandered and harassed for no other reason than I had the word "Brony" in my Twitter profile (because no, it's not just women who deal with this sort of shit) I understand entirely why he was so scared, and I understand entirely why a lot of people are so hesitant to talk about things that they really care about if they can be considered in any way problematic.

Beige brought up the matter of not having to approve of things that people are passionate about, like skinheads being passionate about racism or whatever. Of course that's true, but that's not really the same thing at all. A skinhead's attitude towards non-white people is harmful and leads to people getting hurt. A fan of Japanese games liking tits isn't hurting anyone. These games are so obviously fantasy that anyone who does let their real world opinions be affected by them clearly already has some mental issues in the first place. Consequently, while I'd happily bury my head in Vert's tits were she a real person, I don't go up to real women in the street and start motorboating them, nor do I judge real women based solely on their appearance. (I don't judge Vert on her appearance either, for that matter; while she's hot, the thing that I find more attractive about her is her "older sister" nature.) There's the difference then; it's fine to slag off skinheads for being racist cunts because we can pretty much all agree that What They Are Doing Is Bad. But when you start calling people who like anime girls and JRPGs "creepy", that just comes across as petty, a case of "I don't like this so I must put down the opinions of anyone who does".

This doesn't happen only with Japanese games, of course; people are just as guilty of branding Call of Duty players as dudebros, or MMO players as foul-smelling social pariahs, or MOBA players as universally racist, homophobic bigots, or fans of arty games as liking "things that aren't games". It's all shit, and none of it should happen. I just happen to be speaking from my own personal interests here. It just seems like Japanese games are a common whipping boy for this sort of thing. I wouldn't dream of berating Alex C for his love of strategy games, even though I don't get on with them myself. I wouldn't dream of berating Red for his enjoyment of ArmA, even though I know I wouldn't enjoy that game. I wouldn't dream of thinking any less of people who like walking simulators, or arty 2D platformers, or abstract puzzle games, or even Candy Crush Fucking Saga if that's what you're into.

Key point, though: all those things can be criticised without making the people who do like them feel like shit, and to do that you need to examine them from all angles. You can criticise Candy Crush's exploitative free-to-play mechanics while appreciating that its lightweight, easy-to-understand gameplay appeals to people who have never picked up a controller. You can criticise an arty 2D platformer for clumsy storytelling while appreciating its interesting puzzle design. You can criticise a first-person shooter for being yet another brown military affair while respecting its satisfying gunplay and primal thrills.

And you can criticise a Japanese game for any flaws you'd care to mention. But do so from a position of being informed. Don't just dismiss something because it has sexy bits in it; contemplate why those sexy bits are there. (Neptunia, as we've previously discussed, uses them to satirise fanservicey anime, and explicitly lampshades this on a regular basis; something like Time and Eternity, meanwhile, uses its ecchi scenes as a means of reflecting the protagonist's sexual frustration and making the player empathise with him; Demon Gaze uses them in the context of its demons to show their power and aggression through sexuality, as well as to show the developing intimacy between the player protagonist and Fran; Senran Kagura uses them, among other things, to show that Being Curvy Is Okay, that Being Gay is Cool and that learning to understand people -- even those who are seemingly from diametrically opposed ideologies or attitudes -- can lead to the strangest, most wonderful friendships and romances.) Delve into it more deeply. Consider it from other people's perspectives. And don't call people who do like it "creepy"!

If this wasn't enough for you, here's some further reading from my friend Matt Sainsbury over at Digitally Downloaded, with whom I'm soon launching a new games criticism magazine: http://www.digitallydownloaded.net/2015 ... anese.html (Matt, incidentally, self-identifies as an "SJW" and loathes GamerGate with a passion; these things shouldn't matter, but I feel it's important to mention these things so you can read and appreciate his excellent piece in context.)

I'll close by saying once again that I'm sorry that I got angry and upset and went away for a while. But I am sensitive and defensive about these things, and while it sucks to have the mainstream press shitting all over my hobby on a regular basis, it sucks even more to feel like your friends are doing the same thing, even if they perhaps aren't quite as much as you originally think they might have been.

As the dearly departed Iwata-san would say, Please Understand.

P xx
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Re: Real Talk (long!)

by Alex Connolly » Tue Jul 28, 2015 2:46 pm

I think we all went a little bit off the chain of late, regarding the above. So, I apologise if my post came off as dismissive or disapproving, sir.

Earl Grey?
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Re: Real Talk (long!)

by Bowley » Wed Jul 29, 2015 1:55 am

There's some cognitive dissonance between this:
Angry Jedi wrote:But what I do need is for those who don't like something to not shit on things that other people do like. And calling something "creepy" or equivalent is shitting on it, because by implication you're saying that people who like it are "creepy". And that really fucking sucks.

And this:
Angry Jedi wrote:Which brings me to modern outrage culture and how it's the worst thing to happen to online discourse ever. ...But I really fucking hate how attempting to talk about certain things now feels like walking on eggshells.

I agree 100% with the outrage thing, but you can't have it both ways. Should Mark have pulled back and not let you know how he really felt about the game's art style to spare your feelings or should he call it like he sees it? I guarantee after this they will be egg shell walking when this comes up again, or for further Neptunia playthrough updates, if they even touch it at all. I'm sad about that, because I don't think it should be avoided.

In most cases, it's insensitive to label something as creepy (or skeevy or whatever word he used), but I think you're being too sensitive in your reaction to it, which, understanding your anxiety, doesn't surprise me. He touched on an insecurity and you reacted. However, ultimately you're responsible for your feelings and how you react to something, not Mark.

I don't see his post as "shitting" on the game, either. A lot of those points are neutral, a few are praise, and he pokes fun in a couple, which is totally the Beige you've known for almost a decade now... except this time it's about YOUR thing, which makes you a bit vulnerable when it's up there on the chopping block. That's hard for anyone.
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Re: Real Talk (long!)

by Alex Connolly » Wed Jul 29, 2015 1:42 pm

Don't any of you bastards speak ill of the Wargame series.

Except the naval aspect of Red Dragon. That was pants. Should have been Harpoon. Turned out to be a PS3 rubber ducky demo. Gutted.

I would posit that JRPG fandom always seems somewhat up against the wall when it comes to the mainstream press these days, given it does cater at first glance in a relatively specific manner. I don't blame folks for feeling a little sore, given the kind of personal accusations or inferences leveled, and thus could conceive of Pete feeling the way he did when Neptunia came under the halogen.

It did turn into a procession of 'What I think...', which is totally fine, given the cordiality of the Squad, but that honesty does loom large. As Bowls said, though, we're all friends here.

Those DOTA-playing creeps, though. Holy hell.
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Re: Real Talk (long!)

by Angry Jedi » Wed Jul 29, 2015 2:25 pm

Bowley wrote:I agree 100% with the outrage thing, but you can't have it both ways. Should Mark have pulled back and not let you know how he really felt about the game's art style to spare your feelings or should he call it like he sees it? I guarantee after this they will be egg shell walking when this comes up again, or for further Neptunia playthrough updates, if they even touch it at all. I'm sad about that, because I don't think it should be avoided.

In most cases, it's insensitive to label something as creepy (or skeevy or whatever word he used), but I think you're being too sensitive in your reaction to it, which, understanding your anxiety, doesn't surprise me. He touched on an insecurity and you reacted. However, ultimately you're responsible for your feelings and how you react to something, not Mark.

I don't see his post as "shitting" on the game, either. A lot of those points are neutral, a few are praise, and he pokes fun in a couple, which is totally the Beige you've known for almost a decade now... except this time it's about YOUR thing, which makes you a bit vulnerable when it's up there on the chopping block. That's hard for anyone.


You're absolutely right, and I will admit that as such. What I'm saying, though -- which I'm not sure I got across correctly, it seems -- is that discussing this sort of stuff is fine, and I'm all for it. All things considered, even with my outburst, I'm glad that Beige and Rampant are playing Neptunia; I'm even more glad that they're still playing it (and still talking to me about it).

My point was, though, that what's not fine is fueling the flames of outrage unnecessarily. I don't mind people saying that they're not fond of Neptunia's art style or whatever. There are plenty of games whose art styles I don't dig, either. What is emphatically not okay is using pejorative, judgemental language -- specifically, pejorative, judgemental language that casts unpleasant aspersions on a work or genre's audience -- to effectively say "I don't like this" or "I don't respond to this" or "I can't relate to this". Those three things are all absolutely valid things to say about any creative work. As soon as you start dropping in adjectives like "skeevy" or "creepy", though, you're adding an implicit "...and anyone who does like it is an awful human being" to the mix. It may not be intentional -- and I'm sure it wasn't in Beige's case -- but that's how it can (and will!) be read.

Mr Connolly has the right of it: JRPG fans, as an overall breed, are indeed collectively ignored at best by the mainstream press, and shat on by high-profile people like Phil Kollar at worst. Fortunately, most of us have adapted and formed friendship groups to discuss and enthuse about the things we love without having to worry about the "approval" of a big-name gaming site, or whether a game we love has an "acceptable" Metascore, or whatever. That, really, is the way of the modern social web, and it's good; I'd much rather hear about things from word of mouth than a reviewer I don't know from Adam -- I've always felt that way since the inception of the Squad. All this doesn't make it any less unpleasant, though, when -- as you correctly say -- something you care about is being picked apart.

I overreacted. I was oversensitive. There are deep-seated mental reasons for those things happening, but regardless, I apologise for them. But this is, unfortunately, who I am. It will probably happen again. You all know me pretty well by now. All I ask for is a little consideration; the same consideration I'd give anyone else who is talking about something that isn't in my particular wheelhouse. (In fact, I really love hearing stories about games I know I'll never play; I find hearing fascinating stories about something like Crusader Kings 2 much more enjoyable than staring blankly at the game screen and not having a fucking clue what to do when I try it myself!)

As far as I'm concerned, this is all in the past. Let's just move on and do what we've always done: enjoy our own thing, share our experiences and treat each other's experiences with respect, even if they're not our bag.
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Re: Real Talk (long!)

by Rampant Bicycle » Wed Jul 29, 2015 5:10 pm

Not long ago, I had a conversation about Batman.

(Stick with me, I'm going somewhere with this, I promise.)

I am not a particularly passionate follower of any specific superheroes, but I like Batman, generally; there's something that to me seems rather delightfully over the top about a world where almost all of the players of any significance are dangerously insane in some fashion (and yes, I include our hero in that mix. Dude has issues.) I do not personally feel that Batman needs to be as dark and gritty as recent incarnations of him have tended to be, but then I have room in my heart for sillier variations of many things that culture currently tends to treat as Srs Bzns.

But I (as usual) digress. More on this when we eventually get round to talking about the latest Batman over on the other thread, which we've just started fooling about with this week. (It is HILARIOUS how seriously it is taking itself, though.)

My conversational partner in this case said: "I just don't find any of the conflicts in Batman to be interesting, resonant, or particularly relevant. The notion of a rich guy who beats up the underclass and puts criminal masterminds in jail is just completely not compelling for me."

This turned into a discussion about Batman and class. Is there material in the text there about wealth and its disproportionate advantages? Sure. Could Gotham remove the need for Batman entirely with better social programs? Probably (though one might well make the case that the crazy people are going to be crazy whether or not life is generally okay for most people in town.) Do I feel that this is the major point of the character or the works in which he appears? Nope.

More pertinently to the current discussion: Was this person saying that I was an elitist who believes that the proletariat should be crushed under the iron-heeled jackboots of a fascist state or pummelled into submission by those with greater power and wealth? Hell no. (They know better, and so would anyone who's ever talked to me about politics for more than about three seconds. ;P)

What someone who says "This is creepy" generally actually means is "I feel weirded out" or "I feel alarmed by this." (Literally, "this gives me the creeps" - but "this is creepy" is shorter.) That's a statement about the person making it, in the same way that someone who says "I'm vegan" is saying "I would rather not consume those animal products, thanks."

However, it is very easy to hear any of those statements and immediately make the leap to "I'm judging you for eating meat" or "I think you're a creep" even though it is HIGHLY probable that that isn't at all what the other person is saying.

A statement that says "I think/feel this way" is not equivalent to stating "You are a bad person."

I have said before that I do not believe for a moment that liking a thing that has elements often deemed problematic says you are a terrible human being in any way. All of us like SOMETHING that has problematic elements in it, somewhere. And it's fine to talk and think about that problematic stuff, even openly acknowledging that it IS problematic, and still have fun with those things.

Yes, Batman DOES have some weird ideas about class in there if you look for them. Yes, there ARE things about industrial animal products that may give us excellent reasons for not eating meat or wearing leather. But I still like consuming animal products, so instead I just try and pick out those that seem to come from animals that were treated well as much as I possibly can. And I still like Batman, so I'll agree that those are some weird ideas...but still have fun with the crazy gadgets and the crazier people while knowing perfectly well that enjoying that doesn't make me any less progressively-inclined in real life.

And if I had a nickel for every time someone has told me that comic books or video games are "kid stuff," or that horror movies are "disgusting," or what have you...well, there'd be an awfully big pile of nickels.

Whatever that person thinks about a medium doesn't mean I'm immature or disgusting myself, though.

I do not believe you are a bad person, Pete. If I say that I find something about a thing you like kinda questionable, that is talking about the THING, not about YOU. And I like to hope that if what I have to say upsets you you'll talk it over with me and we can unpack whatever it is, perhaps agreeing to disagree if necessary.

I think I understand the underlying anxiety fairly well (perhaps contrary to appearances here) and I fully intend to do my best to be considerate when expressing my opinions. This said, I'm not quite sure we should be going the direction of asking people to filter everything they say for acceptable words, either; it seems more in keeping with the spirit of the group to date to express honestly what is felt and then engage with those feelings as best we can. If someone is being insensitive, then by all means let them know; that's cool. But if we feel weird about something, why not talk about it, and talk about why? This too is an important facet of our cultural experiences.

All right, that's enough out of me, I think. ;) We now return you to your regularly scheduled broadcast day.
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Re: Real Talk (long!)

by RedSwirl » Wed Jul 29, 2015 11:50 pm

Rampant just explained the entire problem that arises when feminists or civil rights people lay down critiques and get hate in response. People naturally, often subconsciously, get this feeling that feminism is anti-male, anti-men, and thus anti-them. When faced with race-based critiques people also often have this immediate internal reaction that those things are anti-white and thus anti-white people and so-on. To critique a system and aspects of a society is different from saying everyone in that system or society is a horrible person. Anita Sarkeesian and Leigh Alexander probably like and enjoy a ton of the games they critique.

Let me just leave it at that before I dig any deeper into a whole other discussion.
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Re: Real Talk (long!)

by Alex Connolly » Thu Jul 30, 2015 3:35 am

Here is a picture of a Type 10 MBT firing off its 120mm Smoothbore.

Image

If you're looking for pervy and all.
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Re: Real Talk (long!)

by Rampant Bicycle » Thu Jul 30, 2015 3:55 am

Oh my! How very wicked of you. ;)
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Re: Real Talk (long!)

by A.I Impaired » Thu Jul 30, 2015 4:17 pm

Thanks for putting yourself out there Pete. I like to think we are all fine folk, disinterested in shallow judgements of people.

Lifestyles, and the games that inspire them, are all beautiful flowers blooming under the sun. Daisies, daffodils, Marigolds, all without objective basis for judging which is better. The sunflower is something I am unaccustomed to. Its form is bold and bright. I like that about it. However at the same time it gives me a sense of unease when I am more accustomed to other forms. I almost don't know by what basis to compare the sunflower to other flowers. I am however glad that it exists. It is bright and cheerful, and the garden will always be better off for it.

Child of the sunflower, keep embracing this vibrance and aliveness. If its what you are, be confident of that and never let anyone diminish you.

Yes, I was raised by hippies. Deal with it.

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For myself, I feel as though I ought to jump into Neptunia soon to perhaps gaze at this bright beutiful flower myself. Shamefully missed a steam sale, but that may not stop me now that I have more free time opening up.
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