When Sonic fans of old and new collide, cue the drama
When up and coming young guns exist in any role or capacity, it’s customary and, perhaps, almost expected that they taunt and tease their elder counterparts, referring to them as old fashioned, and behind the times. A circle of life does exist, after all–the young must at some point replace the old, where they age, mature, and eventually step aside to make way for the next generation. Such evolution is a necessity for survival and acceptance of humanity as a whole–after all, if the acceptance of new ideas and concepts were rejected in modern society, democracy would have been suppressed, the rights of many would lack proper recognition, and new technologies would almost certainly have never flourished.
The Internet is one of those new technologies, and it’s a great way for minds to be enriched. Theory, practice, debate, and criticism of any number of ideas can all be accessd with a few keystrokes and the click of a mouse. The Internet, like most things, has seen rapid evolution in its short public lifespan. BBS and primitive web design have yielded to blogging, wikis, and a new era of instant information. Sonic has also evolved with the times, popping out of a 2D sidescrolling landscape into a more immersive, creative 3D world, with a new troupe of allies to boot, and new ways to extend Sonic’s outreach. Whether Sonic is on a hover board, holding a sword, kissing a princess, or morphing into a Werehog, the intricacies and changing variations of Sonic gameplay and back story are well above and beyond the simple times of the 1990s that many feel helped the hedgehog become so well loved in the first place.
As Sonic has now seen the better part of twenty years in action, there have been many who have supported Sonic through both good and bad times, and there are those who don’t remember how Sonic evolved. These aren’t the next generation of fans–indeed, who knows what’s next for Sonic–they are the new generation of fans, and while classic Sonic may have been exposed to them via recent compilations, a 16-bit Sega Genesis may be too young for the new generation to remember. In place of the original Sonic television series that ran Saturday mornings on ABC may be Sonic X, which ran Saturday mornings on FOX. The new generation seems to have flourished with the release of Sonic Adventure 2 or even Sonic Heroes, as well as, to a lesser extent, the original Sonic Adventure. As many longtime veterans in Sonic fandom spent their childhood plugging away at the Labyrinth Zone, or fighting that blasted barrel in the Carnival Night Zone, the new generation blasted through zones in groups of three, dug for emeralds, and jammed to Live and Learn or His World. This is the new generation’s first exposure to Sonic, the fault of families keeping up with rapid changes in console gaming. They have, to an extent, seen Sonic embroiled in story over substance.
There’s nothing that states veteran Sonic fans aren’t pleased by some fare the new generation loves. Nearly all Sonic fans hold Sonic Adventure 2 and even Sonic Heroes in high regard. The two generations also almost universally abhor the 2006 Sonic the Hedgehog. But while veteran Sonic fans refer to such fare as the Werehog and Arthurian environments as “gimmicks,” the new generations finds both concepts–as well as seemingly anything Sega throws at them–much more acceptable.
When the lines of division are drawn between old and new, watch out.
Nowhere is that more evident in recent times than the initial rows surrounding Sonic and the Black Knight, from start to finish. “Sonic with a sword” was uncharted territory for all in fandom. Many veterans found the concept absurd, under the premise Sonic should be able to cut through anything a sword can with his spin attack. Incredible anger filled many community message boards. The top Sonic fan site, The Sonic Stadium, bore the brunt of both anger at the concept, and the eventual criticism toward such expression.
This was the message expressed on the front page of TSS after the Nintendo Power cover of SBK was leaked:
Words cannot express how pissed off I am right now. This “leaked” Nintendo Power cover better be a hilarious prank. Knowing SEGA, though, I doubt that it is.
That led to several reader complaints regarding the direction of TSS, and confusion surrounding its position as a blog versus a news source. This was just some of the harsh language written by assumed new generation fans, published on TSS shortly after the above post:
dude seriously i don’t think you are a sonic fan i mean seriously mario had to travel through space to find a freaking princess its the same story line over and over again, so what if sonic makes a game about sub characters it just adds to the story line, at least sega is trying unlike nintendo, or YOU, they have great ideas, u can take this feed back anyway u want, seriously just let sonic be the way he is, and stop bitching about something new about him,
yours sincerely a true sonic fan
What’s up with the news post about the Black Knight? Not only do you slate something you know next to nothing about, you attack a guy guilty only of providing us with this information. Really, that’s poor journalism and an insult to members of the Sonic Stadium.
Sonic Stadium staffers have, in many ways, found themselves at the center of the clash since, regularly defending their right to their opinion on the front page of TSS, and using editorials, crass comments, and even comics to label the vehement, stubborn opinion of the new generation on a level tantamount to trolls. In many times and many ways, doing so has arguably involved stooping down to the same ill-informed level some purport this new generation to have.
Some veterans have given this generation nicknames they do not want, such as the “Defend Sonic Brigade” or the “Sonic Defense Force,” mainly due to how strong the opinion is, and the lengths it’s believed they are willing to go to make it known.
IGN’s Matt Casamassina is well aware of this; he received threats in light of his poor review of Sonic and the Black Knight. While he used the moment to poke fun at Sonic fandom as a whole in a radio podcast shortly after the review, it did nothing to quell tensions between the reviewer, the website as a whole, and factions of its jaded readers. Casamassina, in the podcast, also mentions criticism received by fellow IGN staffer Hilary Goldstein, who may not have given Sonic Unleashed a fair shake prior to his review.
Indeed, the release of SBK and its almost universally poor reception in the mainstream gaming media has done nothing to unite more seasoned Sonic fans with the new generation. Veterans have used SBK as a shining example of why Sonic must return to its classic roots, while the new generation of fans accept the story on its merits, finding the good yolk inside a tough egg to crack. The Sonic Stadium, with its good standing as a whole in the community, has attempted to quell tension with its “No Drama ’09″ initiative, only to have seen some derailment, in part stemming from a sudden shutdown of the website and an ongoing rebuilding effort. Webmaster Svend Joscelyne’s review of SBK also did no favors toward the new generation; that prompted a promise to oust “trolls” who were leaving unsavory comments in response, but it also called into question concerns as to whether Joscelyne is using the “troll” label to silence, in part, this new generation–something that has been denied publicly on TSS. It is only been recently that Joscelyne has found something good to say about SBK, but that in of itself has drawn ire from many veteran Sonic fans elsewhere.
Even this site has seen its share of extreme commentary from the new generation. It is our job and responsibility to bring you the news of Sonic and Sega, unbiased and unafraid, and that has unfortunately meant covering a lot of the negativity surrounding SBK. Some of these stories TSSZ News has run since July have been met with strong responses. Here is a sample of some comments left:
GOD FUCKING FORBID SONIC TRIES SOMETHING DIFFRENT YOU DUMB ASSHOLES!!!!!!!!
srsly how much of that “classic sonic feel” needs to be mashed into their freakin heads before they shut the hell up.
man…they just want everyone to hate them huh?
I’m just so angry…EVERY SONIC GAMES ARE GREAT!! almost every time for me the last Sonic game that comes out is better then the last one!
IGN is no longer reliable anymore…
HELL!! I never looked at a review before playing a game!
I hate reviews…I hate IGN…I hate reviewers!
Black Knight was awesome!
Sonic 06 was INCREDIBLY AWESOME!
Unleashed was great!!
it’s just that for me a Sonic game that is almost perfect is:
1) one with many characters!
2) a great story( they are ALWAYS great)
3) fast platforming like usual
Sonic don’t suck! IGN sucks!!! Curse you IGN forever! Hope your company goes down this month and SEGA will sue you for your sucking ratings!
Break out the torches and pitchforks!
And in positive times, we’ve seen responses such as this:
Finally – a site that gives the game a review it deserves.
They always say that the “younger ones” don’t know what a real Sonic game and stuff like that is. It still feels like a Sonic game beacuse od some elemts, but still it isn’t thet kind of Sonic game if you know what I mean. I ejoy it and I’ve some missions left and it’s really fun.
this review is somewhat ok because its like close to a 7 so ya so good so far…
With such wild fluctuations, where should the line be drawn?
The new generation deserves as much a voice in the community as veteran Sonic fans do. It does not deserve to be demeaned or censored in the name of reaching toward an ideal for Sonic as a whole, as it is evident the new generation is the generation Sega is catering toward in these times. All things must evolve with time, and Sonic the Hedgehog is no exception. As his evolution continues, it will only bring in a new influx of fans who may feel completely different from the current crop clashing today. Both generations must learn to evolve, accept, respect, and eventually coexist; that is the only way toward peace in the Sonic community. One generation can learn from the other. A strong defense of one’s own viewpoint against the other will only send community affairs into chaos. No single voice of clout is the sole voice of what is and isn’t in Sonic fandom, rather several voices of reason are needed to quell tension.
It is clear, contrary to popular belief, that many do care about the state of Sonic. The civil and welcome exchange of ideas of what is and what’s to come may ultimately be how the generation gap is bridged, ensuring that all of us are “True Sonic Fans.” But the destruction of new ideas, the silencing of those who dissent, and the lack of respect from both sides will be the genesis of a lost generation.
The Ten is a multi-part series examining the 10 events of the past decade that have shaped Sonic fandom and community affairs today. It is part of a series meant to complement the 10th anniversary of TSSZ News.