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CBC News – Technology & Science – Schools use video games as teaching tools


Mass Effect, a game with a complex story developed in Edmonton, will be required 'reading' for a course in contemporary Canadian fiction at Concordia University. Mass Effect, a game with a complex story developed in Edmonton, will be required ‘reading’ for a course in contemporary Canadian fiction at Concordia University. (Bioware)

LittleBigPlanet is more than a video game in which little creatures made of sackcloth run and jump. It was designed to make it easy for players to make their own levels, turning gamers into game designers, which is why it was one of the games in the curriculum at a New York public school last year.

Students at Quest to Learn, for Grades 6 through 12, usedLittleBigPlanet to adapt, create, and perform one of Aesop’s fables. Katie Salen, a game designer and an architect of the school’s program, explained in an interview that the eight-week project had connections to language arts, literature, math, physics, and computer science.

Katie Salen is a game designer and an architect of the Quest to Learn school program in New York. Katie Salen is a game designer and an architect of the Quest to Learn school program in New York. (Courtesy Katie Salen)Students at Quest, she said, are expected to meet the state requirements for achievement in standard subjects like math and science, but they learn in a “problem-based context. The learning is game-like.”

Learning to adapt

It sometimes involves playing games, but the real objective, said Salen, is to give students the ability to learn. “We’re looking at the notion of how to equip kids in the 21st century to be flexible, adaptive learners.”

Games and game environments are good learning tools, Salen explained, partly because players understand, from the outset, what the objective is. And while players think they are in control, the truth is that games have been carefully designed to give players that belief. Well-designed games are structured to give players the knowledge they need to solve problems just when they need it.

‘[Gaming is] not a marginal pursuit anymore. We’ve got to start thinking about games with all the tools of analysis that are available to us.’Darren Wershler

Then there’s the social piece of the puzzle, an essential component to well-rounded children. Gaming, said Salen, is “hardly at all about the artifact of the game itself, and much more about the social fabric and interaction that gets built around that games as kids play and as they learn how to play and have conversations about that play.”

At Quest, the students aren’t just playing games, they’re inventing them, too.

“We’re interested in putting kids in the role of designers,” said Salen. “We believe that in making games, kids have a chance to go deep into a range of content.”

Sparking student interest

At Argyle Secondary School in North Vancouver, students in the Digital Media Academy (DMA) are also learning to become game designers. In the DMA lab on the school’s second floor, Murray Bulger, who established and runs the program, said the game design class is drawing motivated and passionate kids, many of whom spend hours of their free time learning from online tutorials.

Murray Bulger of the Digital Media Academy says a game design class is drawing motivated and passionate kids. Murray Bulger of the Digital Media Academy says a game design class is drawing motivated and passionate kids.(Courtesy Murrary Bulger)

Students who could not be convinced to read a book before taking the classes would devour training manuals in an evening, Bulger said with a smile, in preparation for hands-on time with software packages used for design, animation, and 3D modelling. Kids are already playing games, he said, so it makes sense to leverage that interest in the education system.

The DMA begins its second year this fall, adding 24 Grade 11 students to the cohort of 13 that are entering Grade 12. They take core classes in art, design, and information technology. In their first year, all students take a project management course built around game design, which is, Bulger asserted, “one of the greatest models for project management there is. You have to have a number of specialists and you need a large team.”

Other skills developed in project management include creativity, organization and planning, teamwork, and the iterative production process. The subject of game design is so rich, said Bulger, that even if students never do it again, they’ll have learned much that’s useful and applicable no matter what career they choose.

And while the average student already has a basic understanding of video games from playing them — “they’re coming in with this huge knowledge base,” says Bulger — they lack the ability to analyze them. So a key component to the game design class is playing and deconstructing games, everything from Space Invaders to BioShock, to figure out what makes a good experience.

Staying relevant to students

Darren Wershler of Concordia University says Mass Effect is a good choice for teaching about non-linear fiction and branching narratives.Darren Wershler of Concordia University says Mass Effect is a good choice for teaching about non-linear fiction and branching narratives. (Courtesy Darren Wershler)

Darren Wershler thinks the field of video games in education is filled with possibilities. “To keep pretending that we can leave it out of the classroom, I think, is a grave mistake.… It’s not a marginal pursuit anymore. We’ve got to start thinking about games with all the tools of analysis that are available to us.”

Wershler has been teaching video-game studies at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ont., for two years. This fall he joins the English department at Concordia University in Montreal and will be adding Mass Effect to the “reading” list for his course, Contemporary Canadian Fiction, when he teaches it in 2011.

On the phone, Wershler said the game satisfies the criteria of being contemporary (it was released in 2007), Canadian (it was developed by Edmonton studio BioWare), and fiction (it’s an action role-playing game with a deep, complex story).

It’s a good choice for teaching about non-linear fiction and branching narratives, he added. And because the game allows players to choose whether their protagonist is male or female, and to have sexual relationships with other characters, “It’s a good way of introducing topics of gender.”

Today’s writers, Wershler insists, are creating fiction in many different media. The typical English department curriculum, he said, pretends that things like comics, the internet, and video games don’t exist.

“And yet,” he says, “that’s the environment that people who want to be writers or scholars are growing up in.”

Taken from http://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/story/2010/09/09/f-videogames-education-learning.html

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Alexandra Sim-Wise, full of winz


I always had a thing for red heads and I must say, this red-head is just made of winz. Who am I talking about? Read the damn title for god’s sake!

Admittedly, Alex Sim-Wise had only came to my attention recently, thanks to the wonderful thing we call youtube. Did I mention she is kinda a gamer and a geek as well? No? Well she is! Double points! High Score! I mean with a name like Sim-Wise (Sam Wise anyone?), she has gotta be something else. Hilarious, bold, sexy and my personal favorite, British, Alex Sim-Wise, she has got it all!

You can enjoy more Alex goodness here.


Identity Crisis: A Gamer’s Epic Journey


In the span of 3 days, I have encountered 3 posts on the topic of gamer identity right here in the ocean of information. The first is by a local gaming magazine Playworks, you can read the post “Defining the Gamer“. The next was Kotaku, I’m sure most gamers are familiar with it, similarly, you can view the original post “Is Gamer A Dirty Word” and lastly, a post by Transmythology, you can view the post “Wake Up Geek Culture: Time to Live“.

Each of the posts are tackling the same problem from different angels and approach, one questions the word “Gamer” itself, the other questions the connotation  of said word and lastly a post about fandom and the elitism inherent in it.

Alright, lets tackle this one by one, starting off with Gamer as a term. The thing we must understand, is the fact that  words are social constructs, words by themselves are gibberish, they are without meaning or form. It is the people that give meaning to words. I covered a similar topic in one of my earlier posts “Mind Your Language“.

The fact that words are social constructs being with it, implications, and in the case of gamers, the implications can be rather unpleasant to the uninitiated. Gamers is a term given to people who play alot of video games, I’m gonna recycle a post I put up on Playworks.

Do we truly need ‘Gamer’ as a label? As a title? Games encompass a wide spectrum of medium, board games, miniature games, table-top games, video games even sports.

Chess is a game, but do the people who play chess regularly or even professionally consider themselves a gamer? I highly doubt it. How bout the myriad of people who play Farmville on Facebook? If by strict definition, they can be considered gamers in the strictest sense of the word, but do the people who play those games label themselves as gamers?

A gamer, in a cultural sense, is someone who plays video games very often and keeps in touch with the latest gaming news. Video games are usually the gauge of a person’s gamer-ism but are not necessarily a strict benchmark.

As games and reality continue to converge, we will be forced to reevaluate what game is, and what being a gamer means. “Gamer” should not be a label, title nor a category, it is a concept. A concept is malleable, a category is not, so a gamer is simply a person who enjoys playing games, regards him or herself as a gamer and is proud of gaming as an act itself.

One should just be comfortable with what they are and what they enjoy doing, it doesn’t matter what people call you or what social niche you feel inclined to fill, the simple fact is, just be yourself. Who cares what other people think, haters will always be haters, why waste time on them when you can spend it getting more exp.

Moving on, let’s take a look at the history of video games, because that is after all the most common association of what a gamer does. You may be wondering why I’m looking into the history of video games, simple, it is the source of all the stereotypes. So the first video games came out around 1940s to the 1950s, not to mention the first video games were on an extremely rudimentary computer, a technological wonder of its age. New technology has always been treated with some suspicion and the amount of knowledge required to even make and use such technology can be staggering. This acts as a barrier into video gaming, technological jargon.

Who were the people who made the first video games? Technology experts with their thick glasses and their lab coats, this mental image of what geeks are kinda stuck, especially the glasses. What does this do with the negative association of being a gamer? I’ll get to that in a short while, bear with me.

Let’s move on to another aspect of video gaming, time. Video Games, especially the bigger titles, demand a great amount of time from its players. This leads me to the point of human evolutionary psychology, an animal with a highly evolved brain is still an animal, we are driven by primal needs and the most powerfully of them is the need to procreate. Most human activities either involve survival or socializing. Socializing can be viewed as a way to find potential mates in a deep-seated psychological sense, the fact that we spend so much time on games, reduces the chance of one going out and socializing. Admittedly this is not necessarily true but acts as a good marker for how most people might subconsciously think.

If we just look around, most people who do not play games are more often than not involved in a social activity of some sort.  Analyzing further, we see issues like gender classification as well, which we still see today, women are suppose to like ‘girly’ things and game systems just ain’t girly with its big bulky wired manliness. Women were never expected to get into the nitty gritty insides of a high tech computer, even now, there is still an overwhelming difference in the number of male technical workers to that of females. This of course, is caused mostly by social pressure and the status quo.

So women hardly play video games and gamers do not have time to go out and meet people. I think on some level, everyone can see this, the hard part is to look past this rather shallow but unfortunately true idea and see the people that gamers are, and the thing is, more and more gamers are finding a balance between life and games.

So let us take a look at the elitism that surrounds the gaming community, admittedly, most of the hostility was borne more of a reactionary hostility, I mean if you have people making fun of you and what you do, you will eventually snap and strike back, this makes the gaming community passive aggressive or just outright hostile to the new comers (newbs) of a gaming community, a hostility borne out of suspicion. As we look down the road, this has evolved into a niche, something these outcasts can rally to and take comfort that they are alone, this exclusivity builds upon the very human need to belong and yet be an individual at the same time. We are rare enough to make us exotic, but prevalent enough to find friends.

In a very masochistic way, I think most gamers enjoy this exclusivity. With the advent of facebook games and the whole casual game industry, gamers find their once clear definition challenged, when you are challenged, the most common reaction is to lash out, which brings about the need to redefine what a gamer is. The people advocating this are, not surprisingly, the gamers themselves. I mean even I have lashed out at the in my post “The real fake fans“. Gamers see this as an intrusion into a space they once have a clear definition and a place they belonged.

The world is changing, old stereotypes are eroding and labels are becoming less important, people are who they are, it doesn’t matter if you are a music connoisseur, a movie buff, comic book nerd, Otaku or a gamer, in the end, we are all just people who enjoy what we love and that is what matters. It is natural to want to protect the things we are passionate about, but how we feel do not apply to how people perceive it and people need to accept that and just live with it.

So be proud of who you are, no matter what stereotype you fall under.


2010 in review


The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Wow.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

The average container ship can carry about 4,500 containers. This blog was viewed about 15,000 times in 2010. If each view were a shipping container, your blog would have filled about 3 fully loaded ships.

In 2010, there were 81 new posts, not bad for the first year! There were 112 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 30mb. That’s about 2 pictures per week.

The busiest day of the year was August 6th with 374 views. The most popular post that day was Warhammer Witch Hunter Costume.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were facebook.com, forum.manor.ru, mankindunplugged.com, shoutmix.com, and mikeramblesaboutstuff.blogspot.com.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for sarah kerrigan, witch hunter costume, red vs blue, witch hunter, and kerrigan.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

1

Warhammer Witch Hunter Costume July 2010
5 comments

2

Witch Hunter Costume Revisted August 2010
2 comments

3

Red vs Blue July 2010

4

 

Mass Effect…The Movie!!? May 2010

5

 

Empowered June 2010

 

Wow, I’m pretty amazed to find out my blog did this ‘well‘. I am elated of course and I like to thank all you constant viewers out there. Thank you again and have a good one.


Video Games get *Porn* Star Power! (NSFW)


In recent months there has been a spate of porn stars popping up all over video game events. Popping, poor choice of words het het het. Yes ignoring that glaringly obvious attempt at sexual innuendos it is a trend I’m starting to see. So yes, in E3 who do we was one of Codemaster’s Dirt 2 Booth Babe? Why it was none other than Bobbi Starr.

Yes. Some of you my viewers with blood most hot might be familiar with her works *ahem*.  But interestingly, she was quite the gamer herself or so she says. She even played WoW back in the old days. You can read more at Kotaku over at this hyperlink.

I’m sure some of you peeps might have heard or even played of Just Dance. Honestly I haven’t, but apparently Sasha Grey has! Yes, I am speaking of none other than the very outspoken and very real Sasha Grey. She recently appeared at the Hollywood launch party for Just Dance 2 and boy does she remind me of Coraline. If I had to say why, it would be most likely due to the slight tilt to the lips and a very similar hair style.

Personally, I really like Sasha Grey‘s works *ahem* and she also seems like a very intelligent and witty young lady. She is extremely outspoken about issues like sex and feminism which is quite refreshing cause it really takes a lot of proverbial balls to do what she does. People are judgmental and self-righteous by nature, that is how we are, and it is really ballsy to just go “I don’t give a fuck” to the whole world and do what you want. She has earned my respect in some sense and gratuitous amounts of fantasizing as well. Het Het Het.

Well since we are on the topic of porno, I’ve recently found several batman porn spoofs and they are surprisingly high in production quality. Here are some links for all ye man with blood most hot.  Batman XXX and Batxxx: The Dark Knight.


Leaving on a Jet Plane


In, a few hours time from this very moment, I will be leaving for Australia. Even as you read this I might already be midway across the vast span of water, separating nations. Nations that at one time, all belonged to the super continent Pangea. Ever the eager teacher I am, always spewing random facts about the world.

I’m afraid. People laugh at me and call me paranoid. My trip will be fine they say, just get me a souvenir they say. But I dread this day like nothing you can imagine. I do not fear this little trip, heck, I’m not even afraid of my mortality. What really chills me is the things I have left undone. Words that have been left unsaid and people I might not be able to see again.

Does this count as a fear of death? Maybe, when you have things to loose they tend to haunt you evermore don’t they. Stop being silly they say. Silly? Hardly, I’m just prepared for an eventuality be it that the reaper comes for me early or late. But there are so many things I have yet to do…

Everyone lives to die. To borrow a page from Heidegger, it is not death that bothers us but rather the process, the dying. It is in this that we live a life that is worth dying, to live the best to one’s ability despite the bleak eventuality, morbid perhaps, grim even? I find it beautiful. Call me a fool, but a fool is the one that sees the most does he not?

As I contemplate life and death, introspection always jumps you. I recently had a row with one of my really close friend. It remains unresolved I’m afraid… I hate to have to leave the country like this… Not even a goodbye or farewell… Well I guess it is my fault…

Regardless, I’m leaving on a jet plane, don’t know when I’ll be back again. Well actually I do, lets disperse this sombre and rather forbidding atmosphere. I’ll be back on the 18th of October and if you have not already guessed, my computer is up and running again, after a 3 week hiatus. Guess I’ll be taking another long hiatus again unfortunately. Rest assured when I come back, if I come back there will loads more of posts about everything and nothing at all, for such is life.

Have a good day people. Live long and prosper!


What’s New on The Elysian Plains?


There comes a time when you know that your life can be so much more, so much better and so much more meaningful. But often, people let this feeling pass them by and do nothing to grasp this ethereal promise of something greater. But I am not just anybody and today shall mark the day of change.

Some new concepts to be posted on this blog.

1) Artist of the Week – A weekly look at artists I personally think deserve wider recognition.

2) Iron-Y Man – A weekly photoshop Image of Iron-Y Man and an ironic quote.

3) The Vault – A picture compilation. Neatly sorted and categorized… relatively

4) Portfolio – Self explanatory

5) WTF?: What the FRAPS? – Still Pending, the file size is a problem.


The Real Fake Fans


I’m a self-professed geek. A super-duper geekazoid. And you know what! I’m proud of it, I was proud of it waaaayyy before the advent of the whole Comic/Games-to-Movies business venture. In all honesty, I was a late bloomer in the geek culture. I spent a good 14 years trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life, but I found it, games, games in all its glory, not just playing them mind you. Making them, crafting them, forging them and weaving them.

Even as a kid, I was hooked on the act of creation. The need to tell a story, and I made small little inept comic books about Talking Dinosaurs and even a Digimon doujinshi. Not the naughty ones, I was only 8 for gods’ sake. I even made a paper and pen rpg as well, in fact I still have it.  So yes, maybe I was not a late bloomer but just stunted in my growth to geek culturedom.

I did not have a PlayStation 1, I did not have a SNES, a Sega Saturn let alone a computer. You know what I had? A Childcraft encyclopedia compendium, a Mighty Morphing Power Ranger Megazord if you remember that, a 1/8 scaled action figure of RoboCop and LEGOs.*I actually still have them* So yes, I told stories with my toys as I’m sure many of you did. And it sharpened my mind. The movies I watched when I was a kid, oh wow, I’m not sure if that was even legal! I mean I watched Invasion of the Bodsnatchers, Evil Dead series, Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13thExorcist. And not to forget Tim Burton‘s Batman. I actually liked those and not to mention Adam West’s Live Action Batman. But it was the Batman: Animated Series that really just go WOW Batman is frakking awesome and you start consuming more and more of Batman’s lore.

Now at the age of 21, I’m still trying to catch up on all the geek culture I lost out on. I love the classic games that are my forerunners and I praise them for the ingenuity for their time. I love the classic movies, Citizen Kane, Jacob’s Ladder, Predator 1-2, Aliens. Now, I am even playing table-top roleplaying games like D&D and Dark Heresy. So yes, I do believe I have the right to judge the new influx of ‘geeks’ and yes I am a geek, albeit a more socially amiable one.

I really liked this post from the Bat Fan Diaries and it is so true. I mean come on… As geeks we are socially shunted, people look at me funny when I’m carrying my 6 Dark Heresy books and reading them in plain sight. I bet they have no idea what that is but it sure as hell seems geeky and they either give you the weird eye or they snicker at you. I’m a very observant person.

The Image on the van was from the first star wars movie poster FYI.

I don’t know… we were like Godzillas, people use to see us and they go, point, laugh and run. Now everybody is trying to jump on the Star Wars decal bandwagon of geekiness +5. It is so annoying. You are trying to shunt us from our already shunted position on the social scale. I mean is there anywhere you can throw us to? You took our place in society, you reduced our chances of having a mate and what are you trying to do to us now? What do you want? Our dignity? Our pride? Our passion? Our lives?

You can read my review here.

Sure, Iron Man 2 was awful for you, cause it had less LAZERS and PEW PEWs, but that doesn’t mean it is a bad show! It was a good movie you assholes. You do not know Ironman. You do not know KickAss, you do not know Batman, you do not know Green Lantern, you probably know Spiderman but I’m sure you do not know Scott Pilgrim. You know what I think you know? Twilight! Yea Twi… I’m sorry I can’t even bear to type it out. You see, that is the thing. You jackanapes pretend to be geeks because you are jealous of us. You are jealous of the passion we have for life, for work and everything we hold dear. The very same passion you lack. So now, you are trying to take from us the thing you cannot get. It was not cool to be a geek, but you guys are trying to make it cool so you can have a small measure of comfort for your vapid meaningless lives.

I mean, just because you play Counter-Strike or Defense of the Ancients like every day does not make you a gamer. Not in my books it doesn’t. Gaming is not just about 1 singe game you know. It is about the myriad of games out there waiting for you to pick them up before their shelf-life expires! I’ll take comics as an example; people often consume not just 1 particular series but several. Playing Counter-Strike is like playing the same game and same map over and over again…. Oh wait, people actually do that /De_Dust/. So mind you,  just because you watched the latest Batman movie does not automatically earn you the achievement unlock of being a fan, though I’m sure you are as stupid as a desk fan but that is not the point.

That applies to the chicas as well; I’ve heard some chicas saying “oh I think geeks are sooo cute”. You are only saying that because geek culture is now ‘cool’ and you want a piece of that cool. I’m sure plenty of guys would totally eat it up but seriously, screw you not literally of course. I find the idea of a pretentious prick of either sex repulsive.

You see my dear socially acceptable dull minded fools. Passion is a commitment; it is a mental condition even. Passion is the fire that beats between your sternum and your spine, there is no such thing as spontaneous combustion of passion, and you kindle it from a slow interest to a raging inferno of utter devotion. When people actually feel enraged about a crappy remake of their favorite superhero, they are really enraged. They will beat the shit out of you if you even mentioned such an atrocity. That is how strongly we as a culture as a community feel about things. We get into heated debates over these kinda things, but what about you? Drinking, sleeping around, going to parties and getting STDs. So if you have any decency at all, please do not sully the geek culture.

Your’s Truly

A Concerned Citizen


Witch Hunter Costume Revisted


Due to the overwhelming response of my earlier Witch Hunter costume post, I have decided to revisit this topic and go in-depth into making the costume as authentic as possible. Prepare yourselves warriors of Sigmar. The Empire depends on you and it is really gonna be taxing.

First up! The basic look of the Empire’s much vaunted Witch Hunters. As you can see from the picture above, courtesy of Warhammer Online, a Witch hunter costume. At it’s most base, is made up of several pieces of clothing. The look primarily revolves around medieval and renaissance time period, so for best effect. Look for clothings from this time period. You might also notice how the Witch Hunter kinda looks like a swashbuckler, so pirate costumes would work too. You have to be careful not to be overtly piratey though.

Basic Witch Hunter Look

1) Breeches / Hosens / Pants

2) Doublets / Vest /Shirt

4) Medieval BootsRenaissance Boots /  Pirate Boots / Misc / Alt

5) Leather Belt

6) Flintlock Pistol

7) Rapier

Ok, sure it would look like a Witch Hunter but I doubt it would impress. So let us throw in some armor and other accessories. I advise wearing the Duster first then put everything over it.

Medium Witch Hunter

1) Leather Baldrics

2) Leather Pauldron / Full Arm Armor

3) Duster Coat

4) Daggers /  Boot Dagger

4) Pilgrim Hat

If you really want to go all the way or you just have too much money to spent you can do a Witch Hunter decked out in his/her finest wargear.

Heavy Witch Hunter

1) Breastplate (Wear the Breastplate first and everything else over it)

2) Steel Pauldron (replace the leather pauldrons)

3) For final touches, get some purity seals and scrolls to hang over the armor.

The intricate carvings and designs are not replicated in this most financially ruining guide to a witch hunter costume, you have to find a local embroider/artist to get it done. This is a quick guide for those too lazy to maker their own costume from scratch so don’t expect it to be expected it cheap. Cheers!


Starcraft II Launch Event Singapore


I received my copy after an arduous 5 hours in line yesterday. My quest to collect this epic loot was fraught with rage and suffering. But like every questing knight, I held my prize at the end. Triumphant despite the sheer quantity of people.

Why the rage and suffering you ask. Glad you asked. Having arrived early for the Starcraft II launch event, I stood patiently in line which had yet to transmogrify to a swirling maelstrom of human bodies. But this serenity was not meant to be when some asswipes decided it was ok to do an on-site pick-up ground.  Some fuckers who did not have the mind to come early decided to hitch the queue and soon it was a bloated mass of Mandarin spewing small-minded fools. Oh imagine my rage. We asked them politely at first if they were queueing for the game, and if they were please proceed to the back like every courteous and right-minded person. But NO! NO, the fucker cried! Never mind he said! What audacity, what blatant disregard!

So I swore and cursed at them but they were immovable and yet their numbers continue to swell as the day dragged on. But my outburst has rallied men to me and together we managed to drive back some of these walking bodily excrements. But the damage has been done and some refused to budge. A terrible day indeed… A day of loss… I promise you, if similar situations ever happen again. I am gonna come down on you like the hammer of gods and you will fear my wrath.

Unfortunately, I was unable to procure a camera or I would post it up here to let you see the faces of those devils. The pictures you see are taken off GameAxis Online. Anyway, loyal readers. Review of Starcraft II will be coming up soon so wait for it, folks!