All posts by Michael Goodeaux

Social Media Manager for the Lions' Pride Newspaper. I am a Sophomore at Saint Leo Univeristy studying English with a specialization in Professional Writing and Theatre.

Tampa Bay Coffee and Art Festival

On Saturday, April 8, 2017, The Noise Box hosted the Tampa Bay Coffee and Art Festival. A morning session was held at 11 am and another in the evening at 6 pm. The event featured 8 different coffee vendors, more than 20 artists, and about 7 different food trucks.

The Noise Box is a church in Brandon, FL and is no stranger to hosting community events. They have historically worked with local musicians, both Christian and Secular, to help support them.

The Coffee and Art festival was first hosted in April 2016. The goal was to educate the community about artisan coffee, to help support local artists by giving them a way to advertise and sell their work, and to raise money to support the Bay Area Foundation for the Arts, which, according to their website, “helps supports students and teachers who are serious about their art.”

Because The Noise Box didn’t expect that a ton of people would register for the event, they had to turn many people away and instead hosted a second Coffee and Art Festival in the fall of 2016 in order to accommodate everyone who was turned away from the first event.

The Noise Box promised that this year’s event would be bigger and better. They followed through with this by inviting more local artisan coffee vendors, more artists, and worked on advertising the event well ahead of time. The fruits of their efforts resulted in attendance of several hundred people between both sessions.

Tickets were sold before the event and at the door for a slightly increased price. Three tiers of tickets were sold. The first tier, dubbed “The Light Roast”, was a basic general admission ticket. The second tier, dubbed “The Medium Roast, included a T-Shirt, a coffee mug, a pen, and a cloth sack to hold everything in. The third tier, dubbed “The Dark Roast”, included everything the Medium Roast package had, plus a “Coffee Connection Pass,” which let the holder attend one of three events that showcased how to prepare coffee in the same way that professional baristas do.

The event took up both buildings and most of the main grounds of the church. The food trucks were parked outside and in the main parking lot, available before the doors opened to the main event, and charged regular prices for their food or coffee.

Once the doors opened, patrons had the ability to sample certain products from these food trucks, as well as have a chance to walk through and view artwork and crafts from different artists, craftspeople, and jewelers. Some different items for sale included coffee scented candles, walking sticks, and painted tiles.

The venue had designed the event to give off a very rustic atmosphere. Exposed wooden frames separated vendors and lights were strung across the frames, lighting up the area. Standing tables were set out for people to take a break at, and were set with centerpieces that matched the atmosphere, such as an antique cigar box.

“The event was great,” states Christina Moyer, a Junior at Saint Leo studying Religion and Education. “It was full of very diverse people from all walks of life.”

During the event, various local musicians took the stage to further set the mood of the event. While the music was overwhelmingly loud at times, there was always a place to go in the other building or outside to get away from it.

Many different types of coffee were available to be sampled from the different artisan vendors. Aside from the traditional Colombian coffee, samples of coffee from other countries, such as Honduras, Peru, and even Sumatra were available for tasting. There was even a vendor who handed out samples of coffee made from hemp seed extract, which they claimed increased memory, focus, and help with weight loss.

Overall, the event was a success. It brought in hundreds of patrons, raked in a lot of money for a good cause, and helped many local artists, artisans, and musicians get their name out there.

The Tampa Bay Coffee and Art Festival will return next spring, promising to be an even bigger and better experience.

Army is Looking to Allow Beards

While facial hair used to be allowed in the United States military as far back as the revolutionary war, times changed and regulations were put in place that required all soldiers to be clean cut. However, the US Army Research Labs recently reached out to press to confirm the existence of a testing initiative to see if beards can be safely brought back.

Poisonous gas was a pretty revolutionary invention that saw almost constant usage during the first World War. It was because of this that gas masks for troops became a priority. Because the mask required a tight seal around the face to work properly, regulations were put in place that prevented soldiers from having facial hair.

Although poisonous gas is now outlawed under the Geneva Convention, with the only exception being tear gas for riot control purposes, these facial hair regulations have continued to present day, with certain exceptions, officially called “Relaxed Grooming Standards”. For example, the Navy SEALs and other Special Forces allow beards in order to allow operatives to blend into local culture more easily, also referred to as Social Camouflage.

Nevertheless, 2014 saw the addition of some flexibility in terms of grooming standards in the military, as dreadlocks and cornrows were officially allowed. Also, on Jan. 03, 2017, Obama enacted a change in regulation that would allow for beards, turbans, and hijabs to be worn for one’s religion.

Because of the change in these regulations, specifically about being able to have a beard for religions that require them, the Army is looking into the possibility of changing regulation so that everyone may have a beard, provided it is trimmed to meet certain length requirements, according to Army Times. Although this caveat might displease those looking to grow a full-length facial hair, this is the first time beards would be allowed in uniform in just over a century.

Although just now going public with the concept, the Army has been doing research on the topic for a few years, according to a United States Army press release. Because part of Basic Military Training, often called Boot Camp, requires troops to go into a chamber filled with chlorobenzylidene malonitrile gas to train them for situations that might require a gas mask, the Army must take into account and research if beards can be worn safely with the masks.

Aside from the gas mask test, according to the press release, researchers at Natick Soldier Research Development & Engineering Center are testing whether or not standard issue helmets can be worn comfortably with a beard, according to Army Times. After they determine that they can be worn safely and comfortably, they will perform blunt and ballistics tests, which might run until June of this year or later.

Those in charge of changing the regulations will also consider whether or not the change violates any core values. They will look to see if changing the regulations will affect the professionalism, standards, discipline, readiness and safety of the soldiers.

“I fail to see in any way that a standard for facial hair could violate any of the core values of the Army,” states Cadet Kyle Curabba, a sophomore ROTC cadet at Saint Leo studying Business Management. “That being said, there still shouldn’t be free reign on it.”

It’s still unsure whether or not the Navy, Marines, Air Force, or Coast Guard will change their regulations after seeing the results from the Army’s research and tests. While many may cheer if this passes, there will always be the side that will oppose it and try to push for the regulations to be kept.

 

 

“WATCH_DOGS 2:” A Second Chance for a Doomed Series

While Ubisoft occasionally produces a really good game that sells millions of copies, they have an overall bad reputation with gamers, becoming the butt of internet memes and jokes. 2014’s “WATCH_DOGS” was no different, as it was a very ambitious game that felt incomplete and lacking in several areas, including story variety, character depth, and flawed gameplay mechanics.

Because of its predecessor’s failure, many gamers were hesitant about pre-ordering “WATCH_DOGS 2,” which was first announced at Ubisoft’s E3 event earlier this year. As a result, overall sales were down as gamers held out for game critics to offer their opinions.

While many expected “WATCH_DOGS 2” to be a terrible game, it was actually better than anticipated. Developers at Ubisoft had obviously taken notes on what was wrong with the first game and made every attempt to fix them.

The game takes place in San Francisco, California in the present day. From the very first tutorial mission, players can see an almost 180-degree turn in the atmosphere of this game from the first. Where the first game had a very dreary environment with a character who was bent solely on revenge, “WATCH_DOGS 2” presents an almost comedic, satirical atmosphere. Massive corporations like Google and Facebook are replaced with Nudle and !NVITE, respectively.

The game has a surprising amount of character depth, and not just from the protagonist this time. Marcus, an up-and-coming hacker going by the code name Retr0, has it out for Blume, which fans of the series will recognize as the creator of ctOS. The program is built to keep track of everyone’s activities and whereabouts, as well as maintain a record of criminal records and predict crimes before they happen. Marcus was jailed for a crime that he had not committed yet, and thus has it out for the company behind the system.

Dedsec, the hacker group that Marcus joins at the very start of the game, consists of several supporting characters, all of which are very dynamic and are given intricate backstories as the main story progresses. Dialogue from the characters seem unique to their personalities and accurate with the time period. While most developers are behind on modern day “slang” and internet culture, “WATCH_DOGS 2” hits both right on the mark.

Most gamers have compared the game to “Grand Theft Auto V,” and while they do share some strikingly similar themes and gameplay mechanics, both have very distinct differences. For example, the campaign for “Grand Theft Auto” and its staple online multiplayer mode are completely separate. In “WATCH_DOGS 2,” they’re integrated. While exploring the world or completing story missions, gamers are likely to encounter other players who can either help them in their exploits in passing or hack them to earn in-game money and points.

In a modern-day industry where the standard is to remove huge chunks of a game and sell them off as downloadable content packs, or DLCs, the base game for “WATCH_DOGS 2” provides enough activities for players to enjoy for hundreds of hours. Hundreds of story missions and side missions are available for players to enjoy, as well as mini-games such as go-kart racing, random enemy spawn areas, and collectibles scattered across the game world that award skins for cars, guns, and drones.

While “WATCH_DOGS 2” has a season pass available, with future DLCs lined up, it seems very optional to buy it. Some games, like Bungie’s hit sci-fi shooter “Destiny,” have so much content cut out and make it mandatory to buy the DLC or season pass in order to even play the game at all. The DLC for “WATCH_DOGS 2” includes additional clothing options for Marcus, vehicle skins, and more side missions.

The game promised that players would have the choice of how to complete a mission, instead of shoving the stealth approach down gamer’s throats, and it definitely came through on the promise. The amount of ways you can complete a mission is almost overwhelming. Aside from the traditional stealth or “guns blazing” approaches, you can also call in the police or local gang members to shoot up or arrest your enemies, then go in with no opposition, or perhaps send in a flying or rolling drone to recon or quickly get past locked doors.

While sales for the game aren’t doing so well, it is a game that many players should add to their Christmas list, as it is a hidden gem that keeps up and surpasses a lot of the promises it made.

“WATCH_DOGS 2” is available now for PC, PlayStation 4, and XBOX One.

While Ubisoft occasionally produces a really good game that sells millions of copies, they have an overall bad reputation with gamers, becoming the butt of internet memes and jokes. 2014’s “WATCH_DOGS” was no different, as it was a very ambitious game that felt incomplete and lacking in several areas, including story variety, character depth, and flawed gameplay mechanics.

Because of its predecessor’s failure, many gamers were hesitant about pre-ordering “WATCH_DOGS 2,” which was first announced at Ubisoft’s E3 event earlier this year. As a result, overall sales were down as gamers held out for game critics to offer their opinions.

While many expected “WATCH_DOGS 2” to be a terrible game, it was actually better than anticipated. Developers at Ubisoft had obviously taken notes on what was wrong with the first game and made every attempt to fix them.

The game takes place in San Francisco, California in the present day. From the very first tutorial mission, players can see an almost 180-degree turn in the atmosphere of this game from the first. Where the first game had a very dreary environment with a character who was bent solely on revenge, “WATCH_DOGS 2” presents an almost comedic, satirical atmosphere. Massive corporations like Google and Facebook are replaced with Nudle and !NVITE, respectively.

The game has a surprising amount of character depth, and not just from the protagonist this time. Marcus, an up-and-coming hacker going by the code name Retr0, has it out for Blume, which fans of the series will recognize as the creator of ctOS. The program is built to keep track of everyone’s activities and whereabouts, as well as maintain a record of criminal records and predict crimes before they happen. Marcus was jailed for a crime that he had not committed yet, and thus has it out for the company behind the system.

Dedsec, the hacker group that Marcus joins at the very start of the game, consists of several supporting characters, all of which are very dynamic and are given intricate backstories as the main story progresses. Dialogue from the characters seem unique to their personalities and accurate with the time period. While most developers are behind on modern day “slang” and internet culture, “WATCH_DOGS 2” hits both right on the mark.

Most gamers have compared the game to “Grand Theft Auto V,” and while they do share some strikingly similar themes and gameplay mechanics, both have very distinct differences. For example, the campaign for “Grand Theft Auto” and its staple online multiplayer mode are completely separate. In “WATCH_DOGS 2,” they’re integrated. While exploring the world or completing story missions, gamers are likely to encounter other players who can either help them in their exploits in passing or hack them to earn in-game money and points.

In a modern-day industry where the standard is to remove huge chunks of a game and sell them off as downloadable content packs, or DLCs, the base game for “WATCH_DOGS 2” provides enough activities for players to enjoy for hundreds of hours. Hundreds of story missions and side missions are available for players to enjoy, as well as mini-games such as go-kart racing, random enemy spawn areas, and collectibles scattered across the game world that award skins for cars, guns, and drones.

While “WATCH_DOGS 2” has a season pass available, with future DLCs lined up, it seems very optional to buy it. Some games, like Bungie’s hit sci-fi shooter “Destiny,” have so much content cut out and make it mandatory to buy the DLC or season pass in order to even play the game at all. The DLC for “WATCH_DOGS 2” includes additional clothing options for Marcus, vehicle skins, and more side missions.

The game promised that players would have the choice of how to complete a mission, instead of shoving the stealth approach down gamer’s throats, and it definitely came through on the promise. The amount of ways you can complete a mission is almost overwhelming. Aside from the traditional stealth or “guns blazing” approaches, you can also call in the police or local gang members to shoot up or arrest your enemies, then go in with no opposition, or perhaps send in a flying or rolling drone to recon or quickly get past locked doors.

While sales for the game aren’t doing so well, it is a game that many players should add to their Christmas list, as it is a hidden gem that keeps up and surpasses a lot of the promises it made.

“WATCH_DOGS 2” is available now for PC, PlayStation 4, and XBOX One.

Nintendo Flips the Switch

Nintendo has always been at the forefront of gaming technology, as has been personally responsible for leading the charge in a few shifts in gaming technology.

Back in the 80’s and 90’s, the Game Boy beat out competitors from Sega and Atari in the handheld market, and paved the way for the DS, which released in 2004. On the console market, the Nintendo Wii, which released in 2006, kickstarted a market for exercise-based games. This soon expanded to Sony’s PlayStation 3 and Microsoft’s Xbox 360.

The PlayStation Move, which closely mimicked what the Wii had already been doing with the “Wiimotes”, didn’t turn out as popular. The Move controllers are being repurposed in the current generation of PlayStation as Virtual Reality controllers. Microsoft’s XBOX Kinect was more popular than the Move, and featured controller-less play.

When the Wii U was released in 2012, it was easily toppled by Microsoft and Sony not even a year later. Both consoles were superior in graphics, and Nintendo’s refusal to allow most third party developers to produce games for its system brought the popularity down.

It seems as if Nintendo is back in the forefront of the gaming industry, as the rumored “NX” has been announced as the Nintendo Switch, and it is a huge contender to the PlayStation 4 and XBOX One.

The controller features a design similar to the Wii U. It has a screen surrounded by buttons and 2 analog sticks. The selling point of the Switch, however, lies in its design.

There is a device that comes with the Switch that is reminiscent of an oversized debit card reader. It is blocky in shape and has a slit that goes through the device and is meant for the controller to be inserted into.

Once inserted, the image that was on the screen of the Switch is now projected onto your TV. The panels with the analog sticks and buttons can be removed and act as their own standalone controllers, similar in design to the Wii remote and “nunchuck” attachment. Additionally, the panels can be attached to a what looks like a blank XBOX or Playstation controller to get the feel of one.

The console easily converts into a handheld the size of a tablet by removing the screen from the dock. Once removed, the image on the TV goes out and transfers to the screen on the Switch. Simply reattach the analog stick and button panels and the Switch is ready to take with you anywhere.

Although it becomes a handheld, it still has the full power of the console inside of it. Inside of it is a NVIDIA GeForce graphics card, which is unordinary in the gaming industry, as both Sony and Microsoft use AMD technology. It has been announced that because of the graphics card, the Switch will support games built with Unreal Engine 4.

Speaking of games, Nintendo is expanding support for third party games on the system. We will finally see Nintendo supporting games from Bethesda, Ubisoft, Activision, TellTale, and Konami, among others. In fact, the premiere trailer for the Switch featured the remastered version of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. The actor was able to play the game on their TV, convert it to a handheld, and play Skyrim on the go.

The internet has already exploited the modular features of the controller. Several designs have come out of possible third party modifications that can attach to the controller in lieu of the standard analog and button panels to enhance certain games. Among these include a makeshift gun trigger for shooters, a reel for fishing games, and retro controller mods. Certain concepts show game-specific mods being bundled with the game.

Although these are concepts, these might not be too far off from reality, as we have seen third party modifications for the Wii and the DS families.

Price wise, the Switch is rumored to cost around $299. Considering the PlayStation 4 Pro and Microsoft’s Project Scorpio will cost about $399, the Switch might outsell its competitors.

Although many gamers are looking forward to specifics, such as exact price, specs, supported games, and launch titles, Nintendo has announced that it will be keeping its mouth shut tight about more details until sometime deep into 2017.

Battlefield 1: The Great War through the Eyes of DICE

Battlefield 1 but not.jpg

“Battlefield 1” hits on themes that are rare in the modern-day shooter genre; although the time period is set during WWI, the game plays more like a hybrid between WWI, WWII, and the modern era.

DICE and EA’s take on “The War to End All Wars” will leave you breathless. In the very first mission, the player is thrust immediately onto the western front where a battle rages between the German Empire and Great Britain, a battle that will decide the outcome of the entire war; The Battle of the Somme. In real life, more than 300,000 people died and more than a million were wounded on that half-mile strip of land in northern France. The developers of Battlefield 1 were not afraid of showing the player the raw carnage that the age of mechanized warfare had wrought.

The campaign is organized into short stories that are dubbed “War Stories” in the menu. The stories consist of first person dialogue by a soldier and it includes a small cutscene in-between gameplay. The stories themselves are quite moving, as they highlight the horrors of the war through the soldiers’ eyes, as well as hitting on the themes of selflessness and sacrifice. The campaign is rather short, coming in around at only a small 6 hours of content, with the game’s real highlight being online multiplayer.

One minute, you’re lying in bed on a Sunday morning, fresh, ready to awaken and begin the day. The next, you find yourself on the cold, dark earth. Ear shattering explosions erupt around you as artillery shells land mere feet away. You’re picked up from the mud and dirt by an unfamiliar face; a soldier. He’s yelling something, but your ears are ringing, nothing can be heard. Men are savagely fighting one another inches from your face, stabbing one another with bayonets, beating each other with bricks, blood flowing over the earth like a river.

However, the main focus of Battlefield has always been its multiplayer experience, and DICE manages to pull off a satisfying and exciting flurry of game modes that will keep you coming back for more. The addictive nature of Battlefield’s multiplayer is notorious and it certainly does not let up in Battlefield 1. Classic game modes such as Conquest, Rush, and Team Deathmatch are back and better than ever as players have the option take control of authentic WWI tanks, aircraft, and new “behemoth” vehicles that aim to change up the course of a battle ranging from Zeppelins to dreadnoughts. A new game mode dubbed “Operations” combines the elements of Conquest and Rush into one, creating a large-scale and action-packed game mode that currently offers the highest level of chaos of any of the game modes by far. Additionally, Operations offers historical context before and after each battle with hypothetical scenarios, adding in a bit of storytelling flair to this outstanding addition of a game mode.

Operations mode puts players on a team on one of two warring sides during several pivotal battles during the war. One side attacks and attempts to capture flags and push the enemy back through different zones. Once a zone is captured, the spawn point is shifted to that zone and new flags spawn ahead of the previous zone. The other side, the defending side, has to prevent the attackers from taking their zones.

The attacking side has a certain number of “tickets,” representing 1 death. Every time an attacker dies, the ticket count is reduced by 1 and the goal is to get that count to 0 before the attackers take over all of the flags within a zone. The attackers only have 3 chances to capture all the zones.

If they hit 0 tickets in a round, they have one less chance and are reinforced with a Behemoth, which is a large vehicle manned by several players that can do substantial damage.

The game plays differently than DICE’s previous “Battlefield” game, “Battlefield 4” (it is important to note that DICE did not develop “Battlefield Hardline,” which is technically the previous game in the series). The class system has been reworked, which mixes up things for players who have become accustomed to the standard four classes.

The biggest change was the splitting of the Assault and Medic classes (which had previously been combined and called the Assault class) and the removal of the Engineer class. DICE gave the anti-tank weapons from the Engineer class to the Assault class. The Support class got the repair tool. The game also saw the addition of four new specialty classes, which can only be used under certain circumstances.

As compared to “Battlefield 4,” in which the player spawned into a vehicle with a chosen class. In this installment, a specialty class is given depending on if the player spawns into a vehicle. Tanker class is given if the player spawns into a tank, the Pilot class if spawned into an aircraft, and the Calvary class if spawned onto or climb onto a horse. Additionally, at certain times during matches, the player gets the chance to pick up an Elite class loadout in a crate located on the map. These include a heavy machine gun, a flamethrower, or an anti-tank rifle.

Battlepacks were also overhauled. Instead of dropping much-needed attachments, they only drop weapon skins now. DICE developers felt that it was unfair for players to need to buy or earn Battlepacks at an extremely slow rate in order to get the chance at getting a weapon attachment they wanted to use. Although there is a section in the “Store” tab to buy Battlepacks via micro-transactions, it is currently disabled and there is no word of when it will come. Meanwhile, players have a random chance at earning one at the end of a match and DICE has confirmed that there is an algorithm in place to ensure that all players have a change to obtain Battlepacks. Additionally, if a player doesn’t like the skin they got, or if it is a duplicate, they can “scrap” it and use the scrapped skins that they’ve saved up to buy a new Battlepack.

Currently there are nine maps to play on, with future purchasable content coming from the developers who promise to add additional maps, game modes, weapons, and vehicles. So far, each map share some features in common. For instance, houses, fences, and even entire hill-sides can be destroyed, showcasing DICE’S commitment to make a realistic war-simulation game. Special weapons can also be picked up by looking for them on certain maps such as a flamethrower, a heavy machine gun with a suit of steel armor, and an extremely powerful anti-tank rifle. Additionally, each map has special anti-air and anti-tank gun emplacements that are designed to support the rest of the team by destroying troublesome hostile aircraft and vehicles.

As was mentioned earlier, “Battlefield 1” feels more like a hybrid game than a WWI shooter. For the time period, there seems to be a lot of automatic weapons, which were still mostly in the experimental phase during the war and were not widely used. In fact, some of the guns feel more fitting of a WWII game.

From a graphical standpoint, the game is impressive in its aesthetics and textures, from the earth beneath the player’s feet to the clouds and sky above them. Explosions often send dirt and debris flying around in a highly realistic fashion, along with the fog, storms, and sandstorms. These weather effects look impressive and do not lower the frame rate, shaking up game play in tightly contested matches.  Although a few bugs currently exist in the game, they do not at all detract from the overall experience and can be quickly dealt with or avoided when confronted with them.

While DICE nailed the environment of the battlefields to make it feel like WWI, the guns and gameplay just made it feel like a badly mixed cocktail of three different subgenres of First Person Shooter (FPS) games. When approached about this, DICE commented that they weren’t in the market to make a historically accurate representation of WWI, but rather were in the market to make a very fun game that would appeal to a wide audience. If one were to overlook this somewhat minor detail, Battlefield 1 still widely exceeds all expectations.

The Pros and Cons of Common Core

Common Core began in the 1990’s and is aimed at providing students with a standardized education in order to prepare them for college course loads. Recently, there seems to be a great debate as to whether or not Common Core is doing its job, and like everything, there are pros and cons to it.

It is important to acknowledge the goal that Common Core set out to accomplish: helping teachers single out students who need help in certain areas. It was great in theory, but the execution could have been better.

Perhaps one of the biggest flaws of Common Core is that it requires routine “benchmark” tests in order to prove to school officials that students are on track. These tests are also used to determine if teachers who are already underpaid will receive bonuses or not. The teachers, who need this bonus in order to put food on their tables and to pay their rents or mortgages start to teach students only the information that will appear on their tests.

Another major flaw is the information the benchmark tests cover. Instead of including real-world skills, such as money management, the benchmark requires students to learn and reinforce their knowledge of areas that are useless. Additionally, the benchmark perhaps will never even be used again unless a student chooses to go into a very limited selection of careers.

On the opposing side of the argument, Common Core does do its job in certain areas. In the literature and English fields, it exposes students to a wide variety of classic and modern literature that they might not have been exposed to otherwise. Additionally, it equips them with the skills to read and analyze literature.

However, there is a downside to this aspect. All students read at different levels; so, making them read a novel that may be several hundred points above their specific level may cause them to become lost. Teachers expect all students to read at the same pace and to have read certain chapters by specific dates, but if a student is struggling with the content, he or she may fall behind possibly causing their grade to suffer.

Another big argument for Common Core is that it provides educational continuity across the nation. It allows students in California to get the exact same education and learn the exact same things as students in Florida or Georgia. However, this doesn’t take into account the individual needs of the students.

Students who don’t understand certain material are likely to fall behind. Most students who are great in one area typically fail in another, so although the standards do allow for a very limited amount of wiggle room, teachers generally stick to their previously planned outlines for their classes.

Teachers often pass students on to the next grade level without failing the ones who need to be held back in order to show that their students are succeeding in the curriculum. This causes students that are behind to be placed in classes that are above their level of comprehension rather than taking the remedial courses that they need.

The Common Core system isn’t perfect, but it’s also not completely broken. We don’t have to completely remove it, but there are some changes that would greatly improve it. Changes to the standards and removal of benchmark testing requirements are examples of changes that would improve Common Core overall.

Carol Burris, award-winning principal of South Side High School in Rockville Centre, New York, has offered her opinion on the steps that the Department of Education could take in order to help repair the Common Core system.

Her first suggestion is that each and every standard put forth by the Common Core system should be translated into a language that the common household could understand. She points out that the mathematics standards from Finland are “jargon-free” and don’t point out exactly how the teachers should go about instructing the topics.

Burris’ second suggestion is that the standards have to be run through child development experts before they’re implemented. Due to the way that Common Core is set up, it throws a lot of heavy topics at children in the earlier grades and lightens up as they move towards graduation. Several of the experts have openly opposed this, as it doesn’t respect students’ cognitive growth.

Her third and final suggestion is to completely remove informational texts from being used as a way to instruct students on how to read and analyze text. She states that this sort of information should only be used to supplement traditional texts per student interest or as deemed necessary by teachers. According to several studies, presenting informational texts early on in education has resulted in a decline of student interest in hands-on learning and casual reading.

The overemphasis of placing students into intellectual levels that they are not yet prepared to be in is not only degrading, but it is wildly inaccurate because it favors quantity over quality. Additionally, the overemphasis of getting students to hit certain benchmarks and then testing them on it is causing teachers to care less about the information being presented and more about ensuring that students are equipped only to pass the test. It may not need to go away forever, but Common Core definitely needs to be trimmed down.

October Predictions in Gaming

With The Game Awards quickly approaching, AAA video game developers are going to be pushing out titles in the hopes of winning the coveted Game of the Year award. While November is typically the big month for video game sales, October releases might actually have a shot of beating out “Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare” sales. With the “Call of Duty” series going downhill, as proven by the public disapproval by fans, gamers are going to be expanding their horizons and will be wanting to try out new games. Here’s a list of some of the major October releases and what to expect from them.

In a nutshell, the “Mafia” series has always been the younger, but more mature, brother of “Grand Theft Auto.” The biggest difference between “Grand Theft Auto” and “Mafia” has been the way the game works. “GTA” offers a bit more in the open world mechanic, especially in the fifth game in the series. The story is great, but the online function of the game is what shined the most. In the first “Mafia” game, there was a free roam mode. In the second game, that feature was missed, and fans noticed that right off of the bat. Developers have promised more of an open world aspect to “Mafia III.”

The game is set in a city that is supposed to be the equivalent of New Orleans in the year 1968. Set in such a controversial time period, most game companies would shy away from things that would be labeled offensive. However, the Mafia series has always been about realism, and that includes a very prevalent themes of racism, which was common in the time period that this game is set in. “Mafia III” is definitely not for everyone.

Judging from the trailers and the gameplay demo, this game has a LOT of promise. “Mafia III” seems to be a truly massive open world experience. You can hop in a car and drive to one of several mission locations, which seems to stray away from the linear story mission concept that the second game had been using. As for the actual missions, they now give the freedom of choice, which is a popular route many developers have taken for open world games this year. You are given weapons and given an objective, and it is your choice as to how you go about it. This could be a huge plus for gamers who love freedom, but could take a while for newer gamers (or gamers who are used to the game holding your hand through missions) to get used to.

All in all, “Mafia III” looks like it will be a promising game, and there’s a lot of people hoping it might even bring more recognition to the franchise and live up to the hype that the developers have created.

It is widely accepted that split screen games are on the decline. Story driven single player games and competitive multiplayer games are dominating the industry right now, and most split screen co-op games were choked out years ago. However, “Gears of War 4,” releasing less than a week after “Mafia,” is setting out to prove that split screen isn’t dead. Not only is the campaign split-screen co-op, but Horde Mode 3.0 has been announced for the game.

Horde Mode pits players against waves of enemies and tasks them only to survive for 50 rounds. Horde 3.0 introduces a class-based system where your class determines the role you’ll take. For instance, engineers specialize in building turrets and the scout can see enemies through walls.

The campaign, which is also one of the franchise’s strong suits, looks to be full of character development. Judging from the announcement trailer, the game may even explore some backstories.

All in all, the game looks to be very well rounded. Many expect the story to be compelling, Horde 3.0 to be the strong suit once again, and the competitive multiplayer to extend the longevity of the game. It already has quite a bit of hype behind it, seeing as how “Gears of War” is arguably the biggest Xbox exclusive.

A week and a half later, we get perhaps the most hyped game of the entire year. The “Battlefield” series has always been a direct competitor to the “Call of Duty” series. Both have very polar strengths and weaknesses. For instance, “Call of Duty” has historically had a better single player story, with memorable characters and a dense plot, but lacks slightly in competitive multiplayer, as compared to “Battlefield.” “Battlefield” has aced more on the multiplayer aspect, but lacks in the single player story department.

“Battlefield” has always been about massive map sizes and a large variety of weapon and vehicle combat options to choose from. “Battlefield 1,” the game’s upcoming installment, looks to be no different. One would think that being set in World War I versus the previous games being set in World War II or modern day would restrict variety, but it really doesn’t. If the Beta was anything to judge, “Battlefield 1” looks to have much more variety than the other games.

Those who are familiar with the “Battlefield” games might be a little confused at first, as the class system has changed around a little bit. In the most recent “Battlefield” games, there have been 4 distinct classes. Assault was the medic class of the game. The class allowed players to heal and revive teammates. The Engineer class is able to repair vehicles just as much as it’s built to destroy them. Support class is built around light machine guns and the ability to provide teammates with much needed ammo and equipment refills. The recon class is the sniper class. Sniping in “Battlefield” has always been as realistic as possible, as compared to “Call of Duty’s” snipers. You actually have to account for distance and wind in “Battlefield.”

In the new “Battlefield,” the Assault class and the Medic class have split into two distinct classes, titled appropriately. The Engineer class has been taken out for the most part. The vehicle repair tool is no longer equipment that can be selected; it can only be obtained by spawning in a tank or aircraft, of which is a distinct class of its own different from the standard four classes. The anti-tank tools have been given to the Assault class. The Support and Recon classes have both relatively stayed the same in terms of equipment available and playstyle.

“Battlefield 1” looks like it will be a very popular game this year, if the amount of players during the Open Beta was anything to judge. As aforementioned, “Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare” doesn’t look like it will be very popular, even among dedicated fans. Perhaps those fans will move over to “Battlefield,” and it will reign as Game of the Year 2016. High hopes are riding on this installment.

Exactly a week after “Battlefield 1,” “Titanfall 2” will be released. Previously an Xbox exclusive, PlayStation players will now be getting to play this spectacular futuristic shooter with the sequel. However, if the Beta was anything to judge, the second installment of the series might not be so spectacular.

During the early phase of the Beta, the major complaint was that the game borrowed from “Call of Duty” way too much. Borrowing mechanics from other games is a trend that can be either a good thing or a bad thing in the industry. Its success or failure rests on its execution. For instance, the first

“Titanfall” inspired the makers of “Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare” to try the fast paced, futuristic combat that has become the normal for the series at this point. The second “Titanfall” seems to borrow several things from both “Black Ops 3” and “Advanced Warfare.” For instance, in the first “Titanfall” game, being able to call in a Titan was based on a timer. That way, everyone had a fair chance at being able to use one. In the sequel, you charge up your Titan meter by capturing objectives and killing players. This makes titans rarer and is a detriment when one team is in the lead and the entire team calls in a Titan almost at the same time. This makes it significantly harder for the other team to catch up.

Not much more has been seen about “Titanfall” as of yet, so it’s hard to say if this game is set to be great or a flop. The best bet is to hold onto your money and wait for reviews to pop up of the game before you decide to drop $60 on it.

There are definitely great games coming out this month that were left out of this article. Two honorable mentions would have to be the remasters of “Skyrim” and “Modern Warfare”, both of which have an October release slated. Keep an eye out, because on December 1, one game will come out on top and win the title of Game of the Year.