I came away from The Summer of Sonic convention learning a lot of things. Most of those things involve organisation skills, and things that I could have done better to make the event a smoother day for everyone involved (and saved me a huge headache). But something I learned that I’d like to talk about is about the Sonic fan, and the atmosphere of SOS which greatly surprised and humbled me. Even after eight years or so being at the forefront of it all, the Sonic community can still surprise me.
We have had problems in the past with in-fighting and segregation in the online community. Hell, it only just recently happened when everyone jumped down our throats for being humourous over an announcement of Sonic and the Black Knight. There’s always this notion of what a Sonic fan should like, shouldn’t like; how they should act and damn you all to hell if you don’t agree.
We’ve seen some bitching in the SSMB Forums – “screw you” if you thought Sonic 06 was a good game, “you’re retarded” if you think Classic Sonic is the only way to go. Everyone’s so damn serious on the Internet. What the hell’s going on, it’s like a warzone out here. I’ve considered quitting the Sonic community on various occasions because I feel that one should feel comfortable liking what they like, or disliking what they don’t.
Of course on an Internet forum you’re going to get a clash, a difference of opinion. But how do you go about that clash? Not everyone wants the same things you do from a Sonic game, and to be quite frank, you as a single fan aren’t important. Not if the only thing you want to do is piss and moan about how bad the games are and yadda yadda yadda. We get it. Sonic’s games are crap now. It’s something most fans have pretty much accepted, but the community should be making up for this fact by being a united pack of mates, not force-feeding their opinionated cocks down everyone’s throats.
And of course the same can be said the other way round. Does it do anyone any favours to be automatically optimistic about every single new release? Does it benefit anyone to say to someone “your opinion is crap because you’ve not played the game”? The short answer is ‘no’, it doesn’t. All you do is force-feed your own auto-optimism down people’s throats just as much as the uber-pessimists do.
Basically, all the extremists really piss me off.
I’ve been trying to create a community in the SSMB that doesn’t include any of the “Sonic fan terrorism” that we’ve seen over the last few months. It really bothers me to see some poor idiotic soul complain that “Why does everyone hate Sonic?” or “Why does everyone lick SEGA’s arse?”. They are really poor generalisations of a fanbase. Just because you met some guy who happens to like spamming numbered boulders around a pointless desert stage, or you saw someone say they hate Sonic looking like a retarded Sir Gallahad, that’s cause for concern of the whole fan community? Give me a break, it’s called having an opinion.
You’ll notice I’ve just been blase about two factors in recent or upcoming Sonic the Hedgehog titles; Sonic 06 and Sonic and the Black Knight respectively. Does that mean that I automatically hate Sonic 06 and SatBK? No (well, I do hate Sonic 06 but you get my point). We’re not allowed to inject some humour into our lives?
Sonic looks absolutely ridiculous as a werewolf. I mean, he looks really fucking ridiculous. I could make jokes about Sonic Unleashed till the cows come home. But then again, I could make jokes about Sonic CD’s wankered Amy Rose plotline, or make a crack at how much Sonic 2 on the Game Gear really hates all lifeforms and was created by SEGA as some sort of torture test because of the difficulty. I could even rag on Sonic Adventure’s crappy mouth animations, despite how godly the rest of the game is.
You see, the point is to not take all of what people say to heart. I’m aware that the Internet is lulz and is filled with 13-15 year olds that like to say ‘fuck’ all the time by default, but surely there are some mature people with common sense, that recognise that a joke is simply that and not something that is automatically calling your grandmother a slag?
Wherever they are online, I found them all on Saturday face to face. The beaming smiles of people that were just happy to be there, chatting away for the first time to people they only knew by their 150 pixel sq. avatars. Chanting lyrics to every Sonic theme song when they were played by the DJs, clapping away to Richard Jacques’ enchanting performances, gasping in awe at the sight of Nigel Kitching and Lee Brotherton’s new version of HIS WORLD, along with TJ Davis’ ‘Diamonds in the Sky’.
Everyone in that hall knew they were all fans of Sonic – it doesn’t matter what road they took to get there, be it the modern games, the classics or even Sonic X (shudder). Respect was had in that hall. How many people hate Sonic Underground? I know for a fact I do, bloody Sean Connery (turns out Connery wasn’t involved in Underground, which was an even bigger tragedy). But it was hilarious hearing a group of fans sing the Underground theme song when T-Bird said the name of the cartoon during his stage quiz.
Do I hate them for singing it, or loving the cartoon? No. Did I walk over to them later and told them that their reasons for liking the show were unfounded, and that the quality of the production was in fact lacklustre, the animation was lazy and they were in fact buying into a shoddy DiC creation by even considering to like the show? Hell no. Why the hell should I? It’s not my right to tell people what they can and can not like, what they should and should not do.
To use a template from Slingerland:
POINT: If you wouldn’t do it in real life, why would you do it online?
You come across as a total dick. I’m not saying that having a debate is out of the question, not at all – you can disagree with someone based on your own preferences with regard to Sonic the Hedgehog – but when it comes to having a personal grudge against someone because they like Big the Cat, that’s when you need to crawl out of your mother’s basement, sunshine.
In that hall on Saturday, I made several cracks on stage. I asked if there were any Shadow fans in the audience – cue massive response, and I pull a disappointed, almost disgusted face. In another instance, I ask Sonic whether he was enjoying the show – to which we all heard a bloke’s voice shout “Yeah!” and my instant response was “Oh no, Sonic’s talking now, he’s ruined the whole series for me!”
I didn’t see anyone after my intestines holding a blunt spoon, much the contrary. People knew I was having a laugh and didn’t really mean it. Even if I believed all that crap I was spouting, the intention is never to hurt anyone’s feelings that would think differently to me. And everyone in that audience understood this.
I came away learning that there could well be a way to save the online side of the Sonic community – if we all just kicked back, took things less seriously and were just cool with people believing or feeling how they do… if everyone online took the attitudes of the guys in that hall as gospel, we would probably be on to a real winner here.