GUEST EDITORIAL by @bahmofairfield
Over two decades ago now, Sega’s (then) newly-created mascot flipped his way into mainstream game culture, and presented, however briefly, a legitimate challenge to Nintendo’s hegemony in the market. There was never anything subtle about it; their campaign rode hard on the free-spirited, proudly irritating ethos of their blue mascot. From the very get-go, Sonic was presented as a new breed of gaming hero; one who eschewed the straight-and-narrow image of Mario, who had become seen as the standard up until that point. Going to save a princess from a hulking beast is all well-and-good, but let’s be real; doing our civic duty to the arbitrary, widely-discredited mores of monarchy isn’t a theme that’s been relevant to most people for a long, long time. Sonic the Hedgehog modernized the struggle of good vs evil into one more relevant to liberal-democratic culture (not to mention gamers); moving the depiction of evil from the trite fire-and-brimstone lands favored by Bowser Koopa to the polluted industrial wastelands of Dr. Ivo “Eggman” Robotnik, looking not unlike the environmental degradation that decades of mechanistic totalitarianism had actually unleashed on the world, and reimagining the ideal hero as a perpetually kinetic extreme-sports-esque athlete whose mere idle animation indicated that he hated to stand still. In essence, Sega had tailor-made a video game that understood why so many played video games—because they liked having fun, and people who wanted to stop them from it could fuck right off; the character stood for them by standing for himself.
Granted, it wasn’t too different from the standard 1990s style of rebellious and edgy. Sonic was ultimately just another product of corporate marketing, edgy but totally kid-friendly, and as the Console Wars heated up, Sega’s constant Nintendo-shaming in ads would grow increasingly mean and pretentious. Ultimately, they’d fall out of the console race around the turn of the millennium; blatantly admitting defeat by porting multiple Sonic games to Nintendo Gamecube, and by that time, the Sonic series had become infamous for constantly seeking to revamp its image at the expense of quality; in a desperate attempt to capture the trendy status it once had. Unbelievably, this year their widely-panned darker-and-edgier spinoff, Shadow the Hedgehog, turns a decade old. I’ve aimed several harsh criticisms at the series in the past, and plan to aim more soon.
Still, Sonic the Hedgehog matters. He, his series and his company busted into mainstream gaming culture with a gloriously audacious attitude that celebrated reveling unabashedly in one’s basest pleasures and flipping off those squares offended by it; this approach to gaming would become an omnipresent spikey ball that, even when Sonic himself would stumble and drop it, would have plenty of Lara Crofts, Duke Nukems, Sweet-Tooths, Conkers, Tommy Vercettis and Dantes to pick it up and keep running. Just recently, we’ve seen one of the boldest attempts yet at taking deliberate aim to offend squares by pursuing pleasure, as the ultra-audacious Realm of the Flesh is revealed on Steam. Long before Sonic became a dated gaming icon, he was ahead of his time.
So perhaps it’s little surprise that Sonic is the first major general-audience gaming icon to deliver a beating to the repressive new politically-correct culture of our era. If you’re not following the new Sonic Boom cartoon on TV (Cartoon Network in the US), suffice it to say it’s basically the Sonic series reinvented as a self-aware sitcom; rather one-note and repetitive but frequently a great laugh in small doses.
In the recent episode, Just a Guy, the initial butt of its jokes is precisely the sort of intentionally-offended, thin-skinned “progressivism” that people like us have been fighting. Sonic, in a moment of impassioned heroism, declares an unremarkable sap of a bovine to be “Just a Guy”, and is boohooed by the other unremarkable saps of his tight-knit sitcom community, which lands him in Sensitivity Training and dogmatic language policing by his would-be-girlfriend Amy Rose; who’s all new levels of pretentious new-age yuppie in this series. Predictably, pleasing all these booboo-kissing, finger-wagging flakes soon proves impossible for the original Dude with a ‘Tude, and after multiple failed attempts, he is literally banished from his community. Soon after, the town is under attack, and perhaps unsurprisingly, all of the sensitive saps are too wimpy to save themselves, and Sonic, being the conventionally-altruistic guy he is, comes in to save their asses.
The show goes out of its way to attack the culture of perpetual-offense-taking and show how it wrecks the integrity of communities, but as if that wasn’t enough, this episode also threw in a dig at another maddening philosophy SJWs have introduced to progressivism; the idea that inferiority is an absolute myth. This culture fetishizes underdogs to ludicrous levels; scarcely ever blaming the low for their own lowliness, and always eager for a chance to claim that the high and mighty are oppressing people outside their circle and keeping them out of power. I hope I’ve debunked this myth adequately in this essay; namely the section on music, but it remains the go-to excuse for those who can fit it into their zealous identity politics, as we’ve seen with all the recent hipster sabre-rattling at the cold shoulder given to unconventional “art” games. SJWs jump to blame overall indifference-to-derision to such anti-classics as Depression Quest, Revolution 60 and Sunset as proof of widespread gamer hostility towards women and exploration of socio-political themes; never mind the success of Tomb Raider, Bayonetta, Civilization, SimCity and Deus Ex! The notion that their new pet projects fail because they’re simply inferior to other efforts of the same type simply doesn’t gel with ultra-leftist political-correctness, but Sonic Boom is totally unafraid to dust off Occam’s Razor and remind us that yes; some people simply suck at what they do.
Is it inevitable that these people keep sucking? Probably not, but it simply doesn’t help them improve by pretending they’re fine just the way they are, and that it’s everyone else who must adjust his or her standards. These people should instead be told that they must, as Jennifer D’aww says, “Git Gud.”
So once again, Sonic the Hedgehog has landed right on the pulse of the defiant, pleasure-centric nature of popular culture; proving that the people behind him know both what we love and what we hate. At the time of this publication, you legally watch Just a Guy here, so head on over and support companies with the balls to stand with us against professionally-offended fruitcakes!