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This meme originates from the 2004 Valve Corporation made video game sequel Half-Life 2. During the first minutes of the game there is a memorable run it with one of the enemy characters, a “Combine” police officer. At this point the player is unable to perform any attacks or use weapons, and so the “metrocop” forces you to pick up a soft drinks can after he has knocked it onto the floor in front of you by saying “Pick up that can” – refusing to do so means you cannot pass and insubordination results in the cop beating you with a cattle prod. The sequence serves as a tutorial on how to interact with objects in the game world that can be held and moved around, as well as a great intro to the game’s world.
The design and voice of the enemy character has led to him being a favourite among fans of the series, spawning various images and leading to the quote of “pick up that can” appearing on many appearances of the metrocop in fanart and cosplay. In 2007 images of riot police in Georgia clashing with protestors appeared, and their gas masked appearance is very similar to the game enemies, furthering interest in the title with the striking comparison to true events.
“Pick up that Can” original scene