Decade Moment: Visiting SEGA’s London HQ

What is a “Decade Moment?”  It is a moment from the past ten years that us here at TSS remember vividly to this day.  A game announcement, completing a tough level, or acquiring some slick merchandise… everything memorable and certifiably Sonic counts.
Being a life long Sonic fan has been difficult at times, being a lifelong SEGA fan even more so. When I was growing up you were in one of two groups; either a SEGA fan or a Nintendo fan. This division separated playgrounds around the country with kids either boasting about their new Mega Drive or SNES games. Harsh words were spoken, sometimes fights even broke out but supporting your chosen brand meant everything and meant it for life. At least, it did for me.

Believe it or not SEGA were actually the more popular company in the UK while I know Nintendo ruled the US. Unfortunately this didn’t last for very long. With the botched launches of the SEGA CD and 32X SEGA’s popularity waned and by the time the Saturn rolled around hardcore SEGA fans were few and far between, taunted by the legion of videogame players who’d turned to the PlayStation or N64. While they enjoyed the likes of Final Fantasy VII and Mario 64 I happily played NiGHTS, revelled in Sonic R & Sonic Jam and waited patiently for the next real Sonic game.

I felt I was rewarded for my loyalty when I won a Dreamcast around its launch from the old SEGA Europe website in 1999. To say I was happy would be a gross understatement. I remember screaming and doing laps round my house, pumping my fists in the air. Everyone knows how the Dreamcast’s commercial failure spelled the end of SEGA’s console manufacturing days but it was good just to be part of what’s now being called the world’s most underrated console.

If you’ve read up to here you must be thinking what all of this has to do with my moment of the decade. The problem is without a back story my moment won’t seem that significant and hopefully now you’ve got a small insight into my mindset when it comes to all things SEGA.
As these things tend to happen with people so passionate about the pastimes they love I ended up writing about SEGA related things and because of said writing I was invited to SEGA’s HQ in London to preview Sonic Unleashed two weeks before its release in 2008. The trip on the train from Leeds to London was nerve-wracking and navigating London’s Tube system a nightmare. Despite all the best written directions I had I was sure I was going to get lost but after taking the exit from a station I saw it from a distance; those four blue letters adorned on the top of a building; SEGA. I took a picture.

Allow me to elaborate on how much of a near religious moment this was for me. Since the age of six I’d asked for and bought all things SEGA so finally visiting the Mecca that is Sega’s London HQ was astounding. Add to the fact that I got to play a new ‘proper’ Sonic game two weeks before the majority of the population, be one of the first people to see Night Of The Werehog, take home some SEGA merch and a Sonic advent calendar and I was absolutely ecstatic. That’s not all, I also got to meet the awesome AAUK, Svend, T-Bird, Shadzter, Vger, Flyoy Fox, Violet and more (If I’ve forgotten your names play hell with me in the comment section of this post) and chat to them after the event. I’ll never forget how knackered poor AAUK was in the pub after, too tired to even contemplate my offer of a pint. Talk turned to how the intro to Unleashed was probably the best Sonic intro ever and hopes for it to be truly special.

The jury is out on how special the game turned out but at least its rated rather highly by TSS staff. What was special beyond a shadow of a doubt was that day, visiting SEGA HQ and meeting some fantastic new faces. No wonder I ended up writing here.