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I’m moving my blogging platform over to Tumblr, and calling it Rechargeable Batteries. I’ll leave this one here for a little while to get people to follow me over, then I’ll shut it down in about a month. If you want to follow me, go to lansdallius.tumblr.com.

It still hasn’t really sunk in that I’m done with college. These four years in Norman feel like they’ve taken a long time, and yet they also seem to have gone by in a relative blink of an eye. In that time, I’ve had a number of crises, both educational and existential, and I’ve had my share of good moments, and I’ll always have my own set of memories, memories that I don’t feel compelled to buy a yearbook for.

Overall, I’ve had more social success here than I ever did in Lawton, partly because I came to a realization of sorts that I’m not really that much more intelligent than those around me. Throughout high school, I was easily considered among the intellectual elites, or at least I considered myself as such, and I acted like it. I partly accredit this to the struggles I had socially while in high school, and I blamed those struggles on a perception that these people were imbeciles. By comparison, anyone that has the capability to finish college has to have at least some degree of intelligence. I never fit with the mainstream college culture while I was here, much like I never fit within the culture back in high school, but it was different here. Things were better while in college, and I’m still different from most of the pack, but I can’t tell if that’s because I’ve changed or if the people around me have changed, or if Norman is just that much better than Lawton was.

I would say I’ve become more mature over this span; I’ve had to work harder than I ever did in high school, and I try to be less judgmental and spiteful if people turn down opportunities to spend time with me, or if women refuse or respond negatively to whatever sort of advances I may attempt. It’s not easy to simply shrug off being turned down by someone you value, but it’s the only route to take that isn’t self-destructive. I’ve made more friends here, and while some of them are not the most reliable, they still mean well and have been willing to give me more of a chance than I felt like people were in high school. Then again, people I knew from high school also seem to be changing. Perhaps we’re all just growing up?

So, with all that said, the big question is: what’s next? Commencement is tonight, and convocation is tomorrow. After that point, I need to find a real job as soon as possible, and get a place to call my own. I would certainly prefer to be in some journalism-related job, writing game reviews or something similarly enjoyable, but I’m skeptical about the job market as a whole. Perhaps I can take a job that really isn’t my field, but is still appropriate for a college graduate, and freelance write on the side, while continuing this blog. In the short term, that will probably be the most likely path I take, if out of necessity.

I’ve made a general statement to the general student population and other people in the Daily here, but I’ll close here by giving thanks to the people who absolutely care about me, and have helped me throughout one of the strangest (and at times arduous) rites of passage in American society. I don’t know if my life is going to be immensely better because I have the magic piece of paper, as I jokingly refer to the degree as, but I have it. What happens from here on out is anyone’s guess. I’d like to thank my family and my really close friends for giving me all the support they could throughout this time frame. I appreciate every benefit I’ve gotten to this point, and I hope I can reciprocate to you all eventually.

I’ve put in a link here that I think fits. Pearl Jam’s “Leash” may be an odd choice for a graduation anthem, but some of the lyrics are appropriate.

“I am fuel, you are friends, we got the means to make amends
I am lost, I’m no guide, but I’m by your side
I am right by your side, yeah…”

This may be the end of this particular road, but now I’m at the crossroads, and I don’t think it matters which road I take from here, because I’ve got some great people in the passenger seats to enjoy the ride with.
-AJ

I’m not normally one to comment on real news on this platform, but this seems important enough to merit a real response. So, here it goes:

One: Just because we finally found him on Obama’s watch, not Bush’s, doesn’t constitute any sort of victory for Obama’s administration. This was on the effort of the American military and US/Pakistani intelligence, and hopefully can provide some peace of mind to those who lost loved ones on 9/11. This shouldn’t be exploited for political gain by either the Dems or the GOP, because neither side actually did anything to get him. Of course, both sides are going to make themselves out to be the heroes, but that doesn’t mean they should.

Two: Keep in mind, it took a decade to finally get rid of the rat, to find out he was hiding in a mansion in Pakistan. Why were we digging through caves in Afghanistan for this long and then, suddenly, military intelligence hears that he’s in the heart of Pakistan? I’m willing to take this at face value for now, but I want to see the body.

Three: As good as a moment as this may be for American morale as a whole, it doesn’t change a damn thing in the big picture. We’re still fighting Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups in Afghanistan and Iraq. We’re still intervening in Libya. Gas prices are still ~$4 a gallon across the country, the economy’s still in the tank. I really hope this moment does give Americans something to cheer about, and gives some solace to those who lost loved ones on 9/11, but the wars haven’t ended, and the legacies of the War on Terror, both here in the US and around the world, won’t be going away.

Note: This column was posted in the OU Daily today, but due to space constraints and other editing, I’ve posted my unedited version here for your reading pleasure. Enjoy my rant.

Ah, April. The weather is finally staying warm, the trees and flowers on the South Oval are in full bloom, daylight lasts through dinnertime… and there’s no time to enjoy it because we’ve got too much to do.

With the memories of Spring Break and the fun and peace it brought still fresh in our minds, and finals/graduation/summer about six weeks away, it’s tempting to simply just relax and try to coast. Or rather, that’s what we’d want to do. Alas, there is a downside to being in college, and it’s made perfectly clear in April. I speak, of course, of the absurd amounts of work across all classes due in April.

Attending classes is not an issue: we pay our hard-earned (or loaned) money for our professors’ time, and we should make the most out of our investment. Ideally, we’ve been doing that all semester anyway.

Midterms, however, are a drain on our free time. Most of them have hopefully been dealt with before spring break, but classes with multiple tests still plague us, forcing us to spend both days and nights cramming for those travesties.

Term papers and the like are even worse. These abominations take even more of what spare time we actually have, and they require us to stretch out an exhaustive amount of research over ten pages or more, when we could easily get our arguments across in six pages or less.

If these outrages were not sufficient, all matter of extracurricular activities further eat into our lives. Granted, we’ve most likely chosen to take up these activities, and they can serve as a great stress reliever for the other difficulties we must shoulder through this month, but the fact remains that we have less time for general leisure and laziness.

Take your hardworking reporters, columnists, photographers and designers here at the Daily, for example: we work here to hone our crafts, under pressure from constant deadlines and tyrannical editors, often for no compensation but the sense of a job well done, or at least feeding the trolls on the comments section of the website. No rest for the wicked, I suppose.

On top of everything I’ve mentioned so far, there’s still plenty of other things that could keep us from enjoying a relaxing spring month: Having a paying job, for example, takes that much more time away, and can have adverse effects on a student’s sanity and emotional well-being if they’re in the wrong job. Graduating seniors have more significant problems: We have to secure careers for ourselves after May, or prepare for the necessary trials of grad school if taking that path. Meanwhile, apathy and senioritis creep up, forming a dual threat with the beautiful weather to lead us astray from our responsibilities.

I suppose we knew what was in store when we enrolled in college, we signed up for this and we need to get our work done. It will all pay off in the end when we have degrees and (hopefully) real jobs, we know that, and we’ve done all this before in previous semesters; we’ll certainly be able to do it again. If you get the chance, though, go outside and relax. Enjoy this weather while you can, it’ll be another miserable Oklahoma summer before too long. If I get caught up enough to close Microsoft Word down for a while, I’ll meet you out there.

Note: I originally posted on the OU Daily’s Life Is Art Is Entertainment blog earlier this afternoon.

If you’re living anywhere near OU, or more or less anywhere from here to New England, you’ve got another “snowpocalypse” to deal with. In Norman, at least, campus is likely to be closed at least for a couple of days. There’s nine inches of snow already and it’s still falling, it’s about 10°F, 40 mph winds and a wind chill below -10, so it’s too cold for any attempts at snow play to be enjoyable for long.

If you’re bored though, here are some tips on how to stave off the cabin fever.

Crack open the movie/TV collection.

Have some movies you bought recently that you haven’t watched yet? Any TV series you want to catch up on? Is your DVR getting full? You’ve got some time to take care of that, if you want. Check Hulu if you’re looking for something new to watch.

Catch up on reading/studying/homework.

You may not have to waste time being in class, but professors may not be willing to slow down the material they want to cover: they could either try to go faster when we get back to class or just move on as scheduled with the syllabus and assume you know it. Don’t spend all day reading or studying if you don’t want to–it is a day off, after all–but at least familiarize yourself with the material.

Watch the local news’s 24-hour “Snowpocalypse/End Of The World” updates.

This can get quite grating pretty fast, but if you’re curious how much longer this crap’s going to go on, or just to laugh at the news reporters struggling to stay upright in this weather, some of the local stations (at least in OK) have been doing almost nothing but weather forecasts since this mess started. That said, it’s basically going on loop every fifteen minutes: “stay off the roads, don’t go out if you don’t have to, everything is closed, etc.”

Get caught up on current national/world events.

When you get tired of hearing about the weather, it’s worth heading over to CNN or to your preferred national news outlet and hearing about what’s going on over in Egypt. If you’re in a sports mood, there’s no shortage of Super Bowl-related news, analysis, and predictions.

Get lost in the Internet.

Chances are if you’re reading this, you’re probably already bouncing across the web, looking for something to amuse you. There’s plenty of YouTube videos or other silliness online to stave off the boredom for a little while. For example, you could watch this video and laugh about how you would drive better than these knuckleheads.

Read for the hell of it.

One criticism of people these days is that we don’t read enough. Most of the time, there isn’t as much time to do that as we would want. Here’s your chance to fix it: Find something you want to read, not for class, curl up under some blankets and enrich yourself a little bit.

Eat, drink, and be merry.

If you’ve got any roommates, family or friends who can get to you safely (or vice versa), have a blizzard party of sorts. Make some good, hot food, play some video games or watch movies, and just have a good time. If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, some good recipes for hot chocolate mixed with liquor might hit the spot.

Above all else, stay warm, stay safe, and enjoy the chance to relax for a couple of days.

-AJ

This was originally going to run in the Finals Week edition of the OU Daily. As it did not, I’ll post it here for anyone interested. I’ll start this off with a couple of honorable mentions, for “Call of Duty: Black Ops” and “Gran Turismo 5”. While these two games were among the top sellers of 2010, I have not had the opportunity to play them (not enough money and/or time), and I am not familiar enough with these series to give an accurate comparison to the rest of this list.

That being said, here’s my top 10:

10.) God of War III (PS3), released 3/16- A short and sweet conclusion to Kratos’ revenge on the Olympians. The game’s graphics really shine in comparison with its predecessors on the PS2. The same blend of action, puzzles and platforming as before works as it always has.

ZEUUUUUS!

9.) Napoleon: Total War (PC), released 2/23- It has some similarities to last year’s Empire: Total War, and the campaigns are limited to Europe, but the campaigns are detailed and the battles are refined, and it’s nice to have a more narrative feel to the Total War series.

Vive le France!

8.) StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty (PC), released 7/27- It took twelve years for Blizzard to do something besides WoW, but adding a lot of customization, a new way of campaign progression, and a renovated Battle.net interface made it worth the wait.

kekeke?

7.) Civilization V (PC), released 9/21- Ready for another war between Gandhi and Montezuma? Firaxis may have simplified the game for a larger audience, but a new user interface works astoundingly well, and one-unit-per-square forces you to look at things more tactically, which is never a bad thing.

Isn't the point of this series to get nukes?

6.) Rock Band 3 (360, PS3, Wii, DS), released 10/26- Admittedly, without the Pro Guitar or the “keytar”, there’s not much new to be said about this game, although the soundtrack is probably the most eclectic one in the series so far, and a great majority of tracks from the other games will still be playable.

Ok, they've added a keytar... still needs a cowbell.

5.) Assassins’ Creed: Brotherhood (360, PS3), released 11/16- Rome is such a nice place, especially once you rebuild the city and drive out the Borgia. Actually creating a brotherhood of assassins and training them while you fix the city is fun, as is going online and raining down a silent death in multiplayer.

Requiescat in pace.

4.) NBA 2K11 (360, PS3, PS2, PSP, PC, Wii), released 10/5- The game is both an homage to Michael Jordan’s career and one of the best basketball games ever made. Between the various Jordan challenges and the presentation improvements, it’s a nice change from roster updates that are called “new games”.

Boom goes the dynamite!

3.) Super Mario Galaxy 2 (Wii), released 5/23- Say what you will about Nintendo, their first-party games are appreciated by casual and hardcore gamers alike. Traveling from planet to planet and using all manner of platforming elements while still maintaining itself, nothing less than expected from Nintendo.

Wheee!

2.) Mass Effect 2 (360, PC), released 1/26- What sets BioWare apart from other developers is the innovation and work they do, creating a game with epic replay value and a nearly flawless story, with plenty of diversions across the galaxy with your crewmates. This is probably less of a #2 ranking and more of a #1a.

Using Google images, it was difficult to find a screenshot that didn't involve Shepard romancing someone.

1.) Red Dead Redemption (360, PS3), released 5/18- In this game, Rockstar crafted something different and beautiful, in an old west setting often forgotten by gamers. In terms of depth, character development, and uniqueness, this game sets itself apart from the rest of the pack, and is worthy of being called the best game of 2010.

Good luck, buddy. Hope you're a crack shot.

Despite being a momentous (and rather amusing) event, the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear was not quite sane — although it had the right idea.

Originally two separately planned events (Jon Stewart’s Rally to Restore Sanity and Stephen Colbert’s March to Keep Fear Alive), the rally drew anywhere from realistic estimates of 215,000 to Stewart’s satirical estimate of 6 to 10 million, all the way up to Colbert’s early estimate (via Twitter): “Early estimate of crowd size at Rally: 6 billion.”

For quite a while in Washington, their estimates seemed right on the money. Even an hour-and-a-half prior to the rally’s start time, the subway stations from Virginia were completely swamped, with congestion so bad that my friend and I had to ride the subway the other way into Virginia until it turned back around and headed back toward D.C. and the National Mall.

By about 1 p.m., we finally arrived at the Smithsonian metro station at the west end of the Mall, just shy of where the crowds had spread to.

We got there just in time to witness a duel of “trains” between Stewart and Colbert. Stewart brought Yusuf (formerly Cat Stevens) to the stage to sing “Peace Train”, but Colbert would have none of it, stating that, “I’m not getting on that train! We don’t know where it leads, and I have a better one!”

At that, Ozzy Osbourne came to the stage and began singing his hit, “Crazy Train.” Eventually, the squabbling ceased, and the two pundits agreed on “Love Train”.

There were other events and guests of note, including a piece about tolerance by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and R2-D2 and a duet by Kid Rock and Sheryl Crow.

Another high point from the rally included Stewart awarding Detroit Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga a “Medal of Reasonableness” for his exemplary behavior following umpire Jim Joyce’s blown call that cost him a perfect game.

One thing I noticed from the rally was the sheer breadth of the political spectrum that it attracted. From the far left to the far right and everything in between, over 200,000 people converged on Washington to voice their distaste or amusement at the bickering media mouthpieces, with signs ranging from legitimate political statements (“I disagree with you, but I’m pretty sure you’re not Hitler”), to amusing and nonpartisan “Arrested Development” and “Futurama” references, and even a political stance by our undead Americans (“What do we want?” “BRAINS!” “When do we want it?” “BRAINS!”).

Hooray!

In the lead-up to the event, it was considered by many to be a mockery of Glenn Beck’s Restoring Honor rally, and Stewart and Colbert have a reasonably well-deserved reputation of a left-wing bias, but Stewart summed up what its intent was.

“This was not a rally to ridicule people of faith, or people of activism, or to look down our noses at the heartland, or passionate argument, or to suggest that times are not difficult and we have nothing to fear,” Stewart said. “They are, and we do. But we live now in hard times, not end times. And we can have animus and not be enemies, but unfortunately one of our main tools (the news media) in delineating the two broke.”

It remains to be seen if this so-called attempt to reclaim the political forum from the loudest speakers will make any difference in Tuesday’s midterm elections, or make any long-term difference at all, but with 215,000 people in attendance and thousands more watching the broadcast, their message would at least appear to be out there.

Note: This story was published today. Actual story is here, and it’s got a cool photo illustration of Will Rogers standing in front of the White House.

A notable American historical event occurred on Aug. 15, 1935. Legendary entertainer, Oklahoma native and future president of the United States Will Rogers survived a plane crash in Barrow, Alaska. The crash killed Wiley Post, his friend and pilot, but Rogers was found and resuscitated by locals.

Of course, Rogers actually died in that crash, but the possibilities from any alternate course of events beg to be explored, and Jeff Provine is one such explorer.

An OU instructor and alumnus with a master’s degree in professional writing, Provine teaches seminars for University College while he forges a writing career. His latest project is his alternate history blog. This Day In Alternate History (thisdayinalternatehistory.blogspot.com) is a daily updated blog with an important alternate historical event from that day of the year, the various ways it changes the historical timeline and a brief summary of how the situation happened in real life.

A writer by trade, Provine reads a lot and has had an interest in alternate history for a while. The origins of his blog were a bit unorthodox, though.

“Last January, I got food poisoning and was bedridden for a while,” Provine said. “I didn’t have much else to do, so I spent a lot of time watching the History Channel, and they would list what happened that day in history. I’ve always been a writer, and I thought to myself, ‘What would have happened if that day went differently?’”

Using the “This Day in History” lists from the History Channel, The New York Times and other sources as a basis, Jeff’s blog will eventually have a full year of alternate history, updated on a daily basis, usually at about 2 a.m.

“I try to come up with ideas as best I can ahead of time, but there are occasions when I’ve had to make the post that day,” Provine said.

The blog’s first entry is July 1, 1898, in which Theodore Roosevelt was killed at the Battle of San Juan Hill during the Spanish-American War. While this did little to change the outcome of the war, the bad press caused William Jennings Bryan and Adlai Stevenson to take the presidency from William McKinley and added isolationism kept the U.S. out of World War I.

His blog isn’t entirely traditional history, however. Entries range from the Rogers plane crash to Woodstock turning into a violent riot (Aug. 18) to Bush vetoing the 2008 bank bailouts (Oct. 3).

One of Provine’s strangest theories is also one of his favorites.

“For my entry on Sept. 2, I chronicled a solar storm in 1851 that disrupted telegraph lines at first, but the solar radiation became so powerful that it wiped out most of humanity, save for those who could get deep enough underground quickly enough,” he said. (The real storm only disrupted telegraphy for a few days.)

It hasn’t always been easy to get the blog done day after day, though.

“It’s been a lot of work, especially while teaching six classes, but it’s been a great project,” Provine said. “In researching for this, I’ve learned things about history that I never knew existed, and it’s been a great experience.”

And he’s got about 200 days worth of imagining what could have been left.

Note: Anthrax played a show at Oklahoma City’s Diamond Ballroom on Thursday, Sept. 23. Before that show, I interviewed frontman Joey Belladonna about his experiences at the Sonisphere Festivals in Europe, the new Anthrax album slated for 2011, and what it’s been like to be in the business for over twenty-five years.

AJ: So you’ve been in and out of Anthrax a couple of times. You left in 1992, then came back for the Among the Living tour in 2005. What was it like being in the band back in the ’80s and ’90s, and has anything changed with the reunions?

Joey Belladonna: “The band is a bit stronger, better musicians, more mature. We’re doing great musically, understanding each other’s needs. We know more what we have to do, and we’re working toward the same goal, putting out a great album.”

AJ: It seems like metal is more popular overall in Europe than in the US. What was it like playing the Sonisphere shows in Europe with Slayer, Metallica and Megadeth?

Belladonna: “It’s more overwhelming over there, they’re more enthusiastic overall. Maybe they grew up with a better environment, they’re just so rampant about it, they feed off it. It’s still cool in the States, but it’s not quite the same culture.”

AJ:  Who are your favorite musicians or groups,  as influences or just that you enjoy listening to?

Belladonna: “Rush is one of my favorites, they’ve always been awesome. Neil Schon (guitarist of Journey) always blew me away. Sevendust is one of the newer bands that I like, but I find a lot of stuff that’s really enjoyable, it’s really hard to pin down any one favorite.”

AJ: Sort of going back to the Big Four shows, after the OKC show on the 23rd, Anthrax is heading to Dallas with Slayer and Megadeth to be part of the Jagermeister Music Tour. What’s it like to have three of the biggest bands in thrash metal on one tour?

Belladonna: “It’s awesome, man. You learn to respect peoples’ achievements and friendship. It’s an honor, and I’m looking forward to playing with those guys again. It takes a lot to achieve their goals and do what they’ve done.”

AJ: Ok, so the band’s been working on a new album, tentatively titled Worship Music. John Bush left the band, so you’re recording new vocal tracks for the album. Kind of a strange title, but Scott (Ian) said in an interview with Metal Hammer in Germany that you guys might change it?

Belladonna: “I’m doing some new stuff on top of what they already have. I don’t really know about the title of the album, I’m a little out of the loop. As far as I know, the name should stay intact. There’s going to be some interesting stuff, it’s hard to give a detailed version, but they’ve had it one way, it’ll change a bit with me, but there’s going to be some real good riffs, really heavy.”

AJ: Out of all the work that you guys have done, from Spreading the Disease up to Persistence of Time, what’s your favorite piece of work?

Belladonna: “My first record was something to reckon with, never thought it’d be that cool to make something to be reckoned with, without even knowing the guys. Among the Living is a crushing album, but Spreading the Disease was the first album I’ve done, and I was surprised and pleased at how it turned out.”

AJ: You’ve been in the business a long time, toured a lot, had a lot of fun, I’m sure. What’s your best, most memorable, or craziest moment on tour? Favorite city that you guys played in?

Belladonna: “I went to Steve Harris’s house (bassist for Iron Maiden), never would have expected that, it’s like “Wow”. Hung out at his pool, ate Indian food, looked at his basses, did all kinds of shit. I don’t really have a place I have to go, I’ve always liked touring in general, liked getting to see new countries. It’s been a fun ride.”

AJ: Back near the end of your first run with Anthrax, in 1991, you guys collaborated with Public Enemy on the metal version of “Bring The Noise”. That song, along with stuff from bands like the Beastie Boys and Faith No More, is often considered the launching point for rap metal as a whole. What’d you think of that whole process?

Belladonna: “I remember Scott doing the riff in my friend Al’s basement. Never heard Public Enemy in that kind of light before, rap wasn’t really my thing, but it was nice to venture into a different style. It was a cool tour with them, I was glad to be part of it, but it wasn’t my idea.”

AJ: It seems to me that metal is undergoing a renaissance of sorts. You guys are coming back to the forefront in a big way, Ozzy’s still kicking, Slayer, Metallica, Megadeth, Iron Maiden, Motörhead and a lot of bands from your era have come out with new stuff. On top of that, you’ve got a new generation of metal bands coming to the surface. Do you think that metal’s coming back to pop culture, or do you think it never left? Have things changed much for you guys, in terms of fans or media exposure?

Belladonna: “I’d have to say it never really left, it swings up and down like every other musical style. It’s actually more accepted now than I think it’s ever been. There’s a lot more younger kids coming out to shows, I see parents bringing their kids to shows. It stretches across the generation gap.”

Note: This was in the Aug. 24 issue of the Daily, but space constraints caused some content to get cut. Here’s the full version.

This fall is going to be a busy season for video games. Sequels, reboots, and reviving franchises have the potential to keep any gamers busy throughout the fall semester. It may become a daunting task to pull one’s self away from these titles to study for a CHEM 1315 midterm or write that term paper. Here’s a brief list of fifteen games worth playing this semester.

Metroid: Other M- Wii, August 31: Samus is back and ready to kick ass. One of Nintendo’s many mascots to steal the show at E3, the game is a collaboration between Nintendo and Team Ninja, the developer behind the Ninja Gaiden series. The gameplay alternates between first-person (i.e. Metroid Prime) and third-person, involving exploration and combat, elements the Metroid series is famous for.  Other M is also expected to delve deeper into Samus’s backstory, and have a more narrative feel than previous iterations.

Halo: Reach- 360, Sept. 14: Master Chief may be dead, but the Halo series is still going on. Anyone who bought ODST has been trying the Reach beta. The full release of the game isn’t far out, and the story, a prequel to the original Halo, will help to set the backstory for the war between humanity and the Covenant.

Pokémon Black and White- DS, Sept. 18: In my opinion, they should have stopped creating new Pokémon after Gold and Silver. Two hundred and fifty-one was pushing it a little, nearly five hundred exist now, an excessive number. That aside, another installment of the classic gameplay that appealed to our generation back in the days of one hundred and fifty, is coming to Nintendo’s current handheld, with an increased use of 3D graphics.

Civilization V- PC, Sept. 21: Megalomania rules. One of the most beloved turn-based strategy games is back again, with a more streamlined interface and increasingly simple ways for players new to the genre to join in, although the more complex options will still be there for seasoned veterans to utilize. Only one military unit can fit in a hex at a time, which sounds more difficult than previous games, but it’d be satisfying to see a map full of tanks knocking at the Persian Emperor’s door. (Insert “300” reference.)

Dead Rising 2- PC, PS3, 360; Sept. 28: American culture is becoming increasingly enamored with zombies. George A. Romero would have even been amused with the original Dead Rising, about a photographer trapped in a shopping mall plagued with zombies and using any weapons he could find. The sequel, set in a fictional Las Vegas-style area called Fortune City, sounds more interesting. There are other new elements, improved graphics and the capability to create your own weapons. The idea of a kayak paddle with chainsaws attached to the end just screams “awesome”.

Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock- PS3, 360, Wii; Sept. 28: Activision’s credibility has fallen sharply in recent months, as has the popularity of the music game genre. In an attempt to salvage falling sales, the new iteration of the GH series is making some significant changes. The game appears to go after the same vein as “Brutal Legend”, with a story about liberating the “demigod of rock”, and the metal themes are very pleasing, even if the soundtrack isn’t entirely, although for every band like Fall Out Boy or AFI, you’ve got a decent serving of Black Sabbath, ZZ Top, Megadeth, KISS and Muse. Oh, and the story is narrated by Gene Simmons. Yes, that Gene Simmons.

Medal of Honor- PS3, 360, PC; Oct. 12: Not to be outdone by Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, and going off the success of their Bad Company series, EA has come out with another military shooter set in the current global situation. The new Medal of Honor, set in 2001 at the start of the Afghanistan war, has decided to go incredibly realistic, EA even recruited military consultants to make sure that the game meets their standards. Most of the game will be spent as an elite ops specialist, doing a lot of undercover work and attacking terrorist enclaves.

Fallout: New Vegas- PC, PS3, 360; Oct. 19: For a country that got nuked by the Chinese in the Fallout series’ alternate reality, Las Vegas got pretty lucky. Sin City was spared nuclear annihilation, but apparently became even crazier than it is in real life, with factions fighting a war for domination of the entire region. Landmarks including the Hoover Dam are present in the game, and it will be interesting to see Vegas in the 1950s Fallout culture.

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II- PS3, 360, Wii, DS; Oct. 26: Will the Force be with this game this time? The first Force Unleashed was an entertaining game with an engaging story, but did not ultimately live up to expectations. Developers have been working to improve the game’s targeting system and making a story equivalent to Empire Strikes Back, they say. It would be impressive for them to make the story longer, the first game was just hitting its stride when it ended.

Rock Band 3- PS3, 360, Wii, DS; Oct. 26: This game is still quite a ways out, but it has the potential to re-invigorate the dying music game genre. The big question mark is the heavily publicized “Pro Mode”, which allows the gaming peripherals to be used specifically to teach players the basics of how to play a real instrument. Rock Band 3 also includes a “keytar”, a small keyboard that can be used in new songs. Gameplay additions from The Beatles: Rock Band and Green Day: Rock Band, such as vocal harmonies will be present, and the entirety of the series’ downloadable content will be playable, at least in the normal mode. Career Mode has been revamped, and MIDI adapters will make MIDI keyboards and drum sets compatible. This is a big gamble by Harmonix and EA, releasing complex new peripherals in an attempt to revive a dying genre, but it could pay off in a big way if consumers want it.

Fable III- PC, 360; Nov. 1: Tom Petty once sang “It’s good to be king, whatever it pays.” In Fable III, you actually play most of the game as the ruler of Albion. It’s a new mechanic on gameplay in the Fable series, you get to charge taxes and deal with all of the civic problems that such a position comes with. Albion can also be commanded to war, making Fable III seem to be a strategy game as well as an RPG. The series has had trouble living up to its hype in the past, but maybe Peter Molyneux finally has it.

Gran Turismo 5- PS3, Nov. 2: Racing game fans have been salivating at the idea of this game for years. Online play will be added to the series for the first time, improved graphics that accurately show damage, exporting of high-def race replays to YouTube, and licenses from Super GT, World Rally Championship and even NASCAR will be present in the game.

Call of Duty: Black Ops- 360, PS3, Wii, PC; Nov. 9: Treyarch’s stepping in for Infinity Ward in the Call of Duty series, and this iteration will be set in the Cold War. There are several significant new weapons for the game, including a scoped crossbow that fires explosives. Treyarch and Activision got counsel from both US and former Soviet special forces operatives. The game will take place at least partly during the Vietnam War, and given Treyarch’s record, requires the following question: Commie Zombies?

Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood- PS3, 360; Nov. 16: I loved Assassin’s Creed II, particularly the attitude and bravado of Ezio Auditore, protagonist, assassin, and all-around badass. This sequel, though not Assassin’s Creed III, promises to make other improvements to the game. The game takes place within Rome, and allows the player (as Ezio) to command legions of assassins and send them out on missions. Da Vinci will continue to create weapons, and there will also be multiplayer in this game, where assassins would chase each other, trying to kill one another. This promises to be an incredibly fun experience.

LittleBigPlanet 2- PS3, Nov. 23: The critically-acclaimed, right-brain leaning classic returns to PS3, with some improvements. Along with the platforming types of levels that players can create, players can also create racing, puzzle or role-playing levels. Any levels created or downloaded for the original game will work with its sequel, and full cut-scenes and sound recording are available. Creative people could probably find something fun out of this game.