To arms! Free Anchorage from invaders

Kyle Hopkins

Hey, let's all go time traveling to liberate Anchorage from the Chinese communists.

What, you haven't heard? China invades Anchorage in 2066. Something about tension over oil prices and getting their hands on the Alaska pipeline.

And there you have the far-fetched back story to one of this season's most popular video games: "Fallout 3." In the game -- a top seller named best of the year by The Associated Press -- Anchorage is a mere footnote.

Not for long.

In January, creators Bethesda Softworks plans to sell a downloadable expansion called "Operation: Anchorage" that puts players squarely in a virtual Alaska, fighting to free the city.

"The Chinese red army is everywhere, and the player will first have to secure the surrounding mountainside and then fight their way into the Chinese base," producer Jeff Gardiner recently told the Web site

This is all good news to Jazon Burnell, a 23-year-old University of Alaska Anchorage student who develops video games for the iPhone. (His "SuperPong" hit No. 5 on iTunes' free software charts.)

He's also a fan of Fallout 3's eerie, post-apocalyptic adventure. He finished the game, which you buy on store shelves for about $60, a few days ago and plans to download the Anchorage expansion when it's released in the coming weeks.

"It would be really interesting to know how accurate the topography and the landmarks are and if everything is to scale," Burnell said. "I would be willing to bet fairly accurate, given the immense amount of detail that goes into the entire game."

Fallout 3 is the latest in a long-running franchise of role-playing games that drop players into a radioactive wasteland packed with violent mutants, moral dilemmas and dark humor. The latest installment is set in the ruins of Washington, D.C., and encourages players to wander the crumbling skeletons of landmarks like the Washington Monument and the Capitol.

Does that mean players will battle past war-torn clones of the 4th Avenue Theatre or Chilkoot Charlie's? Catch a glimpse of faded "Palin 2012" posters tacked to walls?

Burnell expects mostly video-game versions of the airport or local malls. It's too bad Anchorage is short on iconic buildings, he said.

"That would be really cool, if they had you running through a broken down (Performing Arts Center) building that's all crumbling and dilapidated."

Bethesda Softworks released a few photos of the game earlier this month, including an icy blue depiction of what looks like the trans-Alaska Oil Pipeline.

Nevermind that the pipeline goes nowhere near Anchorage.

Maybe the Chinese move it after the invasion.

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