It is hard to believe, but a blue hedgehog that runs at the speed of sound is now 30 years old today. So, let’s take a moment to reflect on the impact that the franchise has had around the world.
In 1997, I may have been only 5 years old, but I was already a video gamer. And if I wasn’t playing Mario and pinball games on the SNES, I had been playing Sonic (and pinball) games on the Genesis. Little did I know at the time, but this little blue hedgehog had already touched the lives of millions in the 6 years since his first game had released, and he’d continue to do so for many years to come.
It’s all the more impressive when you consider that, after not one but two slumps in game quality that happened in 2006 and 2014, this franchise shouldn’t even be alive anymore. It has seen highs and lows, ups and downs (and all-arounds). And despite that, this franchise has had such a significant impact and its legacy is so great that there’s a reason why we’ve dedicated an entire week to it.
But, there is one thing that the Blue Blur has had the most impact on, more than anything else. And that is the community – the many fans that have stuck by the franchise through thick and thin. Millions of them. Many of them have since become artists, or game developers, or writers. Sonic fans have organized meet-ups, created fan conventions, modified Sonic games, created Sonic games, you name it, they’ve done it.
There are two common things about fans of the Blue Blur. We love the franchise, and we’re passionate about it. In the 30 years that Sonic has been around, neither of these have changed. It’s a fanbase that has had its own share of criticism, and perhaps it has become infamous for that, but that is the case for every fanbase, no matter what the impact or legacy was.
I definitely think that, as the Sonic franchise continues to mature, so does the fanbase that has supported it. When I first joined the community in the late-2000s, a lot of the fanbase had been begging for a return of the Classic era, and calls for a return of good gameplay were not hard to find. That has since been replaced with begging for a return of the Adventure era, and calls for a return of ambitious gameplay. The toxicity has decreased over the years, most definitely since the Sonic 4 Episode 1 days, but that’s another story altogether.
The point is, just about every impact that has been made by this franchise, just about the entirety of the franchise’s legacy, have the same beginnings. That young kid that played Sonic Adventure on their Dreamcast. The teenager that got up on Saturday morning to watch Sonic X. And then there’s me, turning 30 myself next year, playing Sonic and Sonic Spinball at the age of 5.
And of course, I think of the future. It began last year, as people around the world got to see the Sonic movie. The entire experience was just heart-warming from top to bottom. The opening, the movie’s success, the franchise’s mainstream exposure for the first time in years, it still gets to me. But most of all, I think of the kids that were watching the movie. The cheers from theaters as people reacted to a certain mid-credits scene gets me choked up even now.
Why? Because they’re the future. Someday, they’ll be the ones doing the very things we’re doing. Drawing fan art, creating mods, developing games…they’re doing exactly what we did long ago. They’re seeing a little blue hedgehog running across the big screen, and the seeds of inspiration are being planted. Memories that they’ll look back on in a couple of decades are forming. That movie alone may have inspired a new generation of Sonic fans. It’s a cycle that never ends.
But, seeing kids in those theaters get so thrilled at the movie…I can’t help but shed a tear. Because I was once a kid getting excited at playing Sonic myself. Being able to see children having that same enjoyment from the franchise I had is something I’ll never forget. That is never going to get old, even though I personally am.
And that is, beyond any doubt, the Sonic franchise’s biggest legacy. That is its biggest impact. This franchise has inspired millions to do amazing things, and it continues to do so. There’s a good reason why SEGA gave the fandom the spotlight just before the Sonic Central broadcast last month, and it’s what got me thinking and eventually led me into writing this. Because it’s the driving force of this franchise, and it’s going to continue to do so.
So, as we look back on 30 years of Sonic today, I think about the people that he’s inspired. There are so many of them, me included. We all live different lives, got introduced to the franchise in different ways, but we all have one desire. And that is for the Sonic franchise to keep on running. And it has. It’s now 30 years old.
Happy birthday, Sonic The Hedgehog. <3