NOTE: Events that have occurred, such as the closing of GameTrailers, make sourcing more sketchy here. Don’t expect as many links as in previous articles. Things are also taken in a more general perspective here, compared to the very specific route I could take in previous articles.
It’s time for another article where I take a moment to go in-depth about a particular Sonic topic. Usually I wait until later in the month, but this one was made early due to recent events. I’ll explain that in a moment.
One thing about the Sonic community that I’ve learned, and something I’ve explained previously, is how passionate they are about their love for Sonic. Fan sites tend to do a fantastic job covering the franchise because of this passion. No matter who is writing articles on Sonic fan sites, odds are they have played a lot of the games and have genuine knowledge on the brand. They’re no expert on Sonic, and neither am I, but they’re at least in a position to cover Sonic in the first place.
Unfortunately, when you leave the Sonic community and observe the gaming media…that mindset changes. The mainstream gaming media is the main source for gaming news, including Sonic. IGN, GameSpot, GameTrailers (when they were still around, anyway), and more are among the “go-to” places. However, these “go-to” places are likely going to leave Sonic fans questioning what is going on. Not because of opinions, but because of so much more. Let me explain.
For almost a decade, Sonic has taken a whole new perspective in the mainstream gaming media. As the quality of Sonic games decreased in the 2000s, then bounced back up in the early 2010s, it seemed that the mainstream gaming media just dropped all journalism standards for Sonic. And this is something that I recall happening since at least 2008.
Sonic Unleashed was the game that served as the tipping point in gaming media:
What you see above is IGN’s review of Sonic Unleashed, the earliest example I remember. It was here when I began to wonder if Sonic was being cast aside like a rag doll for biased reasons. It was here where it seemed reviewers weren’t properly reviewing Sonic games, purposely doing things to make it appear that the game was flawed. It seemed nit-picking was becoming a thing in reviews, along with hypocrisy. But, perhaps, the biggest thing that spread like weeds among the many Sonic reviews that have been published in the last decade? The bias, where the decline of Sonic game quality that occurred in the 2000s is shoved in the face of readers and viewers everywhere, tainting their material. It became the “cool thing” to do, the click-bait tactic to get views. For almost a decade, almost every single mention of Sonic will almost inevitably result in hearing remarks like “Sonic sucks”, “Sonic is dead”, and jokes about Sonic and Elise during Sonic 06 and Sonic fans. Sonic was no longer getting covered in the mainstream gaming media without feeling like they’re opinionated and biased. And at times, you wonder if they even played the game and if they’re telling the truth. Even when the Sonic game quality improved, the argument only grew.
I say the argument grew because, by this point, the increase in quality with games such as Colors and Generations made it harder for news sites to continue the tradition they had started with Sonic Unleashed. They had less of case to make against Sonic, and it showed. Remember the infamous Destructoid review for Colors? But then, as the gaming media sort of retreated with their tail between their legs, in came Sonic Lost World and the Sonic Boom games. The result? To the media, Sonic Colors and Sonic Generations never existed. In came the phase of “Sonic was never good”. GameTrailers began to join the “Anti-Sonic” crowd with Top 10/Top 5 videos, and sites retreated back into the usual anti-Sonic tirades. As I said, GameTrailers joined the crowd. Literally. They said Sonic deserved to die. And they basically said Sonic Lost World is worse than E.T! Yes, that E.T. game, the Atari one. Because “Sonic sucks”. But it has gotten even worse since. Awkward, too.
And if you thought IGN, GameTrailers, and Kotaku weren’t enough, Game Informer has been guilty of baffling Sonic reviews too. All of this leads to an event that happened recently, and it’s why I’m not only writing this article now, but why it’s about this topic in particular:
This video, right here. It has been a day since it went live, and IGN’s “scoop” about the recently announced Sonic Mania and Sonic 2017 project ended up being more of a six-minute long discussion about Sonic sucking. Very little discussion about the announced games themselves. But not only was it that, but now there were inexcusable lies (“Green Hill Zone from Sonic 2”) and absolute misinformation (“all of Sonic Mania’s levels are old remakes”). Worst of all, however, was the talking down of fans for even liking Sonic in the first place, then proceeding to label them as folks who “have sex with Big The Cat”. That was what motivated me to write this, because now we’ve reached the point where the Sonic fanbase itself is being criticized for simply existing. It was now a crime to even like Sonic in the first place. Everything Sonic is bad, including the concept of Sonic having a fanbase. This was the clinching video, the video that had basically showed that the gaming media wasn’t even trying with Sonic anymore.
This doesn’t even count them hating on Sonic Robo Blast 2, a decade old fan game. They inaccurately called it a “Doom mod” and even though they absolutely hate the fan game, they still have to make it clear that this is “better than SEGA’s 3D titles”:
Oh yeah. If you think the whole “Sonic was never good” mindset happened only just yesterday, think again. They literally made a video called “in defense of Sonic” that didn’t defend anything about it. And in just the first two minutes alone the “Sonic was never good” remarks were mentioned.
It’s an aspect of Sonic that has not sat well with Sonic fans. Your opinion of the Sonic games is of no importance when you’re covering Sonic news. I’ve tried to make my news reporting work as unbiased, un-opinionated and as informative as possible. I haven’t been perfect, and the reader base of My Nintendo News would gladly tell you this, but never would I talk down to people like that for simply liking a franchise.
What hurts most of all is that, you can show as little interest in the reviews and videos as you want, but SEGA can’t. The mainstream gaming media is SEGA’s best venue for getting the word out for their content and getting people interested. It’s also how feedback on Sonic games spreads most of all. Why? Because reviewers get the game early. And, unfortunately, there is the crowd who are followers of reviews. This was especially true in the late 2000s and early 2010s. Nowadays, the word of mouth has lessened this somewhat. So when gaming journalists reply with “we didn’t review that Sonic game” as an excuse, it doesn’t make a difference. The staff of that site, including them, approved of that review for their website, and it’s their site’s Sonic game review. Who writes the review doesn’t matter. The site does, and regardless of who wrote it, they represent that site and the content they’re known for. But reviews still play a significant role, and it’s part of the reason why SEGA has been really keeping the main games free from any gameplay that doesn’t involve Sonic as a playable character. Remember the many “crappy friends” complaints that the media would make? Even in IGN’s review of Generations, just the fact that Sonic’s friends were there as mere side characters that you didn’t technically play as received criticism. But a lot of Sonic fans don’t actually seem to mind Sonic’s friends. In fact, quite a few would love to play as them again in a new Sonic game, so long as SEGA does it right.
It’s not the anti-Sonic opinions that are the problem. It’s the lack of professionalism. The blatant disregard for journalism standards that are given to other franchises to make some site traffic. The talking down at people, the poor humor and repeated jokes. The onslaught of negativity and clear bias, regardless of the topic at hand. The snarky jabs for absolutely no reason whatsoever. The nit-picking and excuses. The constant reminders of the “Sonic Cycle”, long after it had even been broken. The hypocrisy, where they’ll criticise Sonic for doing something that other franchises get praise for. The blatant lies and misinformation. The hating on Sonic fans for simply being fans of Sonic. And, of course, the incompetence at showing off a Sonic game and properly reviewing it. It piles up, and it has gone on for almost a decade now. Depending on who you talk to, fans are either unsurprised at a new event of “anti-Sonic click bait”, annoyed, or they simply don’t care. Either way, people seem to feel that Sonic’s portrayal in mainstream media could be better.
This isn’t a defense of bad Sonic games like Sonic 06 or Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric. This isn’t “fanboying” over how Sonic is always good and it’s perfect. This is a defense of Sonic as a whole, and a criticism of how Sonic is poorly covered in the mainstream media, and how it seems they’re not quite doing the job I would expect them to. I haven’t even gone into the very similar antics of a certain Let’s Play channel that is more so grump than not so grump. However, regardless how mainstream journalism sees Sonic nowadays, it doesn’t change how the community sees Sonic. And that’s with passion. It all boils back to, yet again, the article I wrote for Sonic’s birthday back in June. We care. Unfortunately, it seems we care about doing our jobs of covering Sonic news better than mainstream sites. And even though the gaming media will tell you otherwise, the fact that we are still here talking about Sonic in the first place is all the evidence needed that Sonic has been good in the past, and can do so if SEGA puts in the effort, whether the mainstream media wants Sonic to succeed or not.
This post was originally written by the author for TSSZ News.