So, 2011 has come and gone. And what a wild ride it has been for the Sonic the Hedgehog community. Sonic Generations, Sonic Boom, Summer of Sonic, Sonic CD, 20th Anniversary… the last 12 months has certainly lacked a sense of overwhelming vitriol that has plagued the fanbase in recent times.
Maybe it’s because, for the most part, SEGA hasn’t really set a foot wrong with the Sonic franchise this year, and the usual cringe-worthy auto-haters (be they of classic or modern variety) have been silenced. Perhaps it’s simply that the online community is maturing, and we’re all getting older and wiser. I know for a fact that I have.
For my 2012 Message, I’d like to focus on that a little bit. It’s no secret that I haven’t exactly been the most attentive webmaster in the past year. Personal events, an increasing workload and a desire to professionally spread my wings as a video game journalist (as well as the challenge of juggling this with a healthy social life) meant that you likely saw more posts from T-Bird, Shadzter and Alex than myself.
Of course, I’ve been around. With AAUK of Sonic Wrecks, I presented the biggest Summer of Sonic convention we’ve ever held. I was lucky enough to be invited to LA with T-Bird to meet fans at Sonic Boom. I’ve provided the odd update on TSS here and there and worked on backend code. And I also ended up being on SEGA’s Sonic Generations unboxing video.
So a lot of stuff in the Sonic world, but perhaps less so on the place that started it all for me – the site I started back in 2000. They (whoever ‘they’ are) always say that generations of fans move on as they get real-world commitments, and are replaced with younger fans with more time. I’m probably one of the longest-standing community members around – I’ve seen all kinds of fansites and webmasters come and go, and never felt like I would get into a situation where I would fall foul to those same real-world commitments.
In 2011, that all changed. And it’s made me think about the age of some of the fans in the community that are still around – the webmasters of Retro, Sonic Wrecks, TSSZ, et al. We’re in an age where a lot more is expected from a fansite than the flashy animated gif backgrounds and half-baked, poorly researched game theories of 1999. As a result, a lot of trust is put into the older generation of Sonic fans that maintain the big websites.
And as Sonic fans in our mid-to-late 20s, writing about our favourite gaming franchise as a hobby can be hard when we have jobs, apartments, weddings, and other random stuff to take into consideration. It’s certainly much more difficult to keep up to date with things for us now than it was when we were all 15 years old, with all the time in the world.
In 2010, the thought of webmasters (especially myself) quitting our hobby sites never even crossed my mind. 2011, with my relative inability to be able to post as much as I’d liked, put the thought firmly in my head. And what would happen if the likes of AAUK, Tweaker and Scarred Sun slowly start to get too swamped with real life that they can’t keep up their respective sites? Hand the torch to someone else? Look to fresh, growing sites by younger members of the community?
For 2012, I’d like to convey a more positive thought in the face of this age trend and what it might represent for the fabled ‘generation in, generation out’ tradition. Due to the fact that the community on average is older than it was a decade ago, we have been able to create situations that we never thought possible in 2000.
An obvious example of this is the many real-life meetups that take place in the UK and possibly many other countries all over the world. Sonic’s 20th Anniversary has allowed the blue blur to transcend his role as a mere gaming character for kids and as a major cult icon for adults and people of all ages. The likes of which guarantee the success of conventions and events such as Summer of Sonic and Sonic Boom.
Because of this, perhaps it is only natural that we’re collectively getting older and still fiddling with HTML code, wrestling with PHP queries and dreaming up new podcasts and online video shows in the name of Sonic the Hedgehog. There aren’t many fansites of other major franchises that can be attributed to sprightly young teenagers. So perhaps there is no cause for concern in TSS, Wrecks, Retro and other sites.
For my part, I aim to write a lot more for the site in 2012. It’s a New Year Resolution for me, so no personal backsies. And you know what? I could have been so swamped that I could have handed the TSS baton to someone just as capable as me. And an opportunity did arise for me that would have resulted in such a situation. But I realised that I didn’t want to give this beauty up. And neither, I would imagine, would the webmasters of the biggest Sonic fansites out there today. And all the better for it.
Have a fantastic 2012, and let’s hope it’s as full of excitement, fun and friendship as the last 12 months have been!