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The Community's Collective Despair and Apathy: A Reflection

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It's hard to internalize how quickly Sonic Forces came and went, how it managed to drag us back to ground zero after the brief euphoria that came with Mania. The proclamations of Sonic's "death" and hysteria have been left at the door, and it's almost depressing to note how it looks like we can barely muster up the energy to even get upset anymore. The Hollywood film provides its own sense of dread, where Sonic's ridicule has been extended to the film scene as well, instead of simply self-contained within video games, but even that looks like it's only caused some passing suffering. Granted, there's very little to talk about, as we have no idea what the next "big" Sonic game is going to be, but it feels as though even speculation has little enthusiasm for it anymore. For a moment, I want to talk about us.

It's clear that we aren't totally divorced from this franchise; otherwise, we wouldn't still be here talking about it. But it is clear that the more time passes by, the more difficult it is for us to get excited for Sonic content. Is it only because the games continue to nosedive in a negative direction? Is the fanbase stagnating in membership, or rather, are new fans simply not a thing anymore? Are we just getting older, to the point where we have less time to worry about the direction a franchise we once loved is going in, when it continues to stumble and fail to learn from its mistakes? Is it all of the above, or perhaps even something else?

I suppose my question for all of you is, do you still have any modicum of hope in this franchise? Do you still dare to dream that one day, SEGA will finally produce a Sonic game that is not simply good, but great? And if you don't, then why are you still here? Could it be that SEGA passing the reigns of the franchise over to Whitehead is an inevitability at this point, and we're all just waiting for that to happen? (I don't subscribe to this theory, but I'm at a loss at this point.) Speaking personally, I think it'd be fair to say that a very large part of me has lost hope. I've learned to love other franchises, on levels similar to the love I had for Sonic. My childhood attachment keeps me from completely taking my fingers off the franchise's pulse though, if only for the morbid curiosity of knowing what they'll try next, even if I don't end up buying it. I suppose the real reason I haven't left completely is because I WANT to love Sonic again. To experience that euphoria of playing a title that proves to end up of shaping my tastes all over again; not merely a game to compare against, but a new measuring stick to compare other games to, I'd give almost anything to have that again. Do I know that I won't? I know that at this point, there's an almost-zero percent chance that it will. But so long as this franchise continues to have new content made for it, I don't think I'll ever be able to truly step away from this stupid blue rat.

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In my case a lot of it has to do with the deeply rooted friendships and commitments I've made in the Sonic community, as far as Modern Sonic goes, yeah no, the magic is gone, I've given up on anything from our green-eyed friend ever blowing me away like Unleashed did. I'm sure the Mania team will return and I will absolutely buy the shit out of what they release next, but we're talking a game a every few years or so.

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when it comes to the sonic movie i think people make fun of it but not because of a greater sense of contempt for sonic it's more targeted at hollywood i think. it's amusing like it was when mario had a movie or when zelda had a cartoon. people don't hate sonic itself because of how weird the movie is probably going to be.

 

at this point sonic is the cosmo kramer of games though. nothing ever goes right for him but to the point it has become endearing because what they put him through is so outlandish.

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Another thing to note is that even the good things are now being more and more overshadowed by awful ones as we go along. And the many fans who have vanished into the mists of time, never to return, even when the improvements they desire to see are made to the games. 

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I don't have hope so much as I think it's a mischaracterization to act like things are really that bad in the first place. Like, maybe my standards are out of whack or something but I can't honestly say there's a single thing about the current state of this franchise that wasn't way worse back in the time between Shadow the hedgehog and Sonic Unleashed. In fact, in the trio of horrible mainline console Sonic games of Shadow, 06 and Secret Rings I think no game since has managed to match the frustration I felt with 06 or the boredom of Shadow, and what has (Lost World 3D and Rise of Lyric respectively) have still been better for a myriad of other reasons. So for the most part it's not that I can get past the doomwank of this forum, rather I think it's unwarranted compared to what we've already been through that was much more damaging with much less high points. I suppose the difference is made by no longer having a standard line of good 2D games from a side developer (since even though Fire and Ice was good I wouldn't count Sanzaru as being in that department).

The simple fact is things are always changing in this series. In it's inconsistency it never manages to feel stale, and while obviously I'd rather it be consistently good, having more games at all means higher chances for some of them to be good. I've never been so invested in a series that every misstep feels like it has to remove an existing accomplishment, and I've never understood the school of thought that can only view each game in it's relation to the greater franchise as a whole than an individual game. I hate that Shadow the hedgehog ruins Shadow's character from SA2, sure, but it's only a bad game because it's not fun to play, uninteresting to look at or listen to, written like edgy fanfiction and designed lazily, if you get what I'm saying.

Moreover, the teenage soap opera feeling I get from trying to discuss the series is entirely specific to this forum, which is the biggest thing leading me to believe it's about more than just Sonic as a brand. Neither from the various Sonic-related twitters, tumblrs, youtube channels, nor the /r/sonicthehedgehog subreddit and Sonic Retro, does it feel like such a drag to discuss anything new about the series only to be met with the drama queen "no it sucks everything sucks all the time forever" response. Even on those other discussion hubs, the exact same people as here don't give me that. I don't know what makes the distinction, but I've had less a sense of apathy for Sonic since Forces and more one for SSMB. When the series does something wrong it's less something I dread for me not liking it and more worry that I will like it and will have to deal with attitudes I've felt were overreactions ever since Lost World came out. So I guess I have "hope" for the series in the same way that I liked The Last Jedi and "hope" that Episode 9 doesn't send everyone into the shitfit that 8 did. The quality of a thing is independent of whether it's actually fun to talk to others about it.

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31 minutes ago, Shaddy Zaphod said:

Moreover, the teenage soap opera feeling I get from trying to discuss the series is entirely specific to this forum, which is the biggest thing leading me to believe it's about more than just Sonic as a brand. Neither from the various Sonic-related twitters, tumblrs, youtube channels, nor the /r/sonicthehedgehog subreddit and Sonic Retro, does it feel like such a drag to discuss anything new about the series only to be met with the drama queen "no it sucks everything sucks all the time forever" response. Even on those other discussion hubs, the exact same people as here don't give me that. I don't know what makes the distinction, but I've had less a sense of apathy for Sonic since Forces and more one for SSMB. When the series does something wrong it's less something I dread for me not liking it and more worry that I will like it and will have to deal with attitudes I've felt were overreactions ever since Lost World came out. So I guess I have "hope" for the series in the same way that I liked The Last Jedi and "hope" that Episode 9 doesn't send everyone into the shitfit that 8 did. The quality of a thing is independent of whether it's actually fun to talk to others about it.

I can't dictate what your experiences are.

But I will say this, this seems like " the thing the other thing is better because its not this thing " . Because i've seen this sentiment on other forums, and I visit other forums and its all kind of generally miserable right now. I guess you can get more specific with twitter and tumblr but depending on what you search it can get pretty miserable or folks just making fun of sonic shit. 

The general apathy around the franchise exists and is pervasive on multiple forums because there's nothing much going on, and the future prospects don't look that great. I dunno, all the sonic people I follow are just doing other shit right now. And are happy because of it.

So I guess the answer is , all the happy sonic fans went to go be in other fanbases.

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I'm personally active on all the places I mentioned more than I am this one, I don't know what to tell you if you think that means I'm just going after something I can't have when I have had it, and have only been there more often than here because of what's happening here.

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Honestly this is the only place I've seen people expressing such a strong negative emotion towards Sonic. Most other places such as youtube have a general variation of those that remain optimistic and those that are hopeless towards it (but continue to follow it regardless). It was pretty bad leading up to Forces around here though. Tbh, I was a bit apprehensive about even discussing it just because I was anxious about how much of a backlash I could get just for saying what I thought.

I'm still holding onto the hope that this franchise can further improve though. Mania was such a big leap forward in overall quality for me, and it started development after Forces, which leads me think that they just wanted to release what they had already spent 4 years at least on, so the possibility exists that their direction has changed in the time since.

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I remember being disappointed by Lost World, but not terribly so. That game was clearly going to be smaller-scale and more of a throwaway thing from day one. But then they waited 3 years, hyped the shit out of their next game with an emotionally evocative teaser trailer, and then waited another year to finally release the puddle of utter mediocrity that is Sonic Forces. Never before have I seen something built up so much only to be so brazenly disposable upon release. Yes, ‘06 was a much worse game that got more hype, but at least in that game you could tell someone was trying. 

Sonic Forces feels like a game made by skilled developers who aren’t trying. Sega has gotten to a point where we as players won’t careen over edges and fall through the floor, where we won’t get stuck on random polygons or crash into unforeseeable spike traps. They’ve figured that stuff out. But now we have new problems, ones not so awful to play but far more frustrating to think about even briefly. They seemingly know how to make these stages more than 2 minutes long. How to give us multiple pathways. How to present us with actual challenges. We can see scattered evidence throughout the game. But for whatever reason, they just choose not to. Is it budget? Time (lol)? Or just pure apathy? I don’t know, but to me Sonic Forces comes off as the most cynical mainline game in the series. 

That brings me to the present, or rather the future. Both, I guess. Team Sonic Racing looks like fun. Sonic Mania kicked ass. The IDW comics manage to fit in with game canon and present an entertaining take on the characters.  Yes the movie looks like shit, but the live-action/CG hybrid genre is viewed so poorly to begin with that it will do nothing more to Sonic’s reputation than it did Woody Woodpecker or Yogi Bear. 

This all leaves “Sonic Team” (whatever that may actually be) with the ball squarely back in their court, at least once the Team Sonic Racing dust has settled. And as much of a sucker as it makes me feel like to admit, Iizuka’s recent interview about Sonic Adventure seems genuinely appreciative. His thoughts about that game’s scope and scale, along with its now-apparent flaws, do not sound like the words of a man genuinely pleased with a product like Sonic Forces. This newfound evidence - that he still gives a damn - certainly gives me some hope. 

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I don't really feel any despair towards Sonic. Probably because I didn't think Forces was bad, just meh. It's not like Sonic is in a place where he's utterly irredeemable or barely active. I definitely still think there's a chance for the series to improve in the near-future and put out a great game instead of one that's just so-so. I can understand why people are burnt out, though. People are passionate about things they care a lot about, and a lot of us here care about the franchise a lot. I can't speak for anyone, but for myself, Sonic was a big part of my childhood and the games of his that I still like still give me happiness to this day. To see something that was once so great and popular is probably really disheartening to a lot. I think it's good to see how a lot of fans are still very passionate about the series in a way.

I also think the movie, which I have massive reservations about, still might have a small chance of just being some weird thing that happens and then is sort of viewed more as a curious misstep instead of being a giant disaster that drives an axe into Sonic's head. Kind of like Mario's infamous movie.

I still generally positive about the series and I still have hope and love for it, but I can absolutely understand why a lot of fans are pessimistic.

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"Apathy" is a way of putting it which makes sense to me.  We're definitely out of the worst of it, I feel, in terms of actual franchise-breaking lack of quality and terrible writing; but there's nothing on the horizon right now to really get excited about.  Forces ended up being bland without being outrageous, TSR looks okay but not a patch on past titles, we don't know if we'll get a Mania 2, and commentary on what little we know about the movie has been exhausted.  There's no energy, positive or negative; no great enthusiasm or dread about the future.  In a way, that turns people off more than anything else.  It's just no fun right now, being in the fandom.  As the movie posters demonstrated, at least with terrible ideas there's something to talk about.

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The way things are going it might be just apathy in general rather than just Sonic, however considering that Sonic games are both inconsistent and vary even between game it can be pretty hard to keep up with the series where it can go from go happy lucky to dark and depressive the next or even in between and people have different tastes, it can be surprising that a community can survive.

Community wise is feeling apathetic because it knows that the series can do better and can be more fun to play but it isn't there with the current games (Mania aside and not everyone in the Sonic community is into that) and there doesn't seem to be any word to give us confidence over the next mainline game especially on the 3D side. It's also because of this time of year that there isn't an announcement to ease people and judging by the type of year, it is going to be a slow one so more people will feel apathetic and fed up of Sonic until the next game or even beyond that... Episodes of Sonic Mania Adventures are great but not everyone follows the non-game stuff of Sonic. Mario & Sonic Tokyo Olympics is most likely coming but again not many fans follow that game series. The movie also doesn't help either since that is going to get the most attention. Its a case of low morale and at the moment, only the comic fans seem happy but again a sub-section of the community.

Unlike Heroes, Shadow and 06 where those three games nearly put me off the series altogether if it weren't for the Rush games, Sonic Boom and Forces really did damper any good will that the series had with its turnaround and those two games didn't appeal to me at all by not getting them. Forces isn't completely terrible as at least it is functional but could be done so much better. Do I have any hope for the series? Well... It's not for me to answer that question. I have no interest in Team Sonic Racing even though 10 years ago that would be glimmering with joy but not the same Sumo literally, not the same quality. If a Sonic game appeals to me and turns out to be at least decent, I'll give it a try. Saying that, I was even apathetic over Mania and even had concerns despite turning out to be a good game at the end. As for why I'm still here? Sonic is one of the few things from my childhood that is still going and grew up with it that is pretty impressive for a series that is going to be 30 years old in the next two years. I liked some of the games, cartoons and of course his character design. It's also more of a community thing being here for the past few years even though admittedly Sonic wise not much to talk about. Some might argue Stockholm syndrome though and some fans suffer from it.

Then again as times change, so does the community. There are still Sonic fans, both of the older kind and of the newer kind. As time marches on some of the older fans either lose touch or move on and because the series is still going it will get new fans to take its place, maybe not as much and might not be as focused but still like the blue hedgehog. Some new Sonic fans would have played Sonic Dash as their first game however most of those wouldn't be here but at more kid focused areas of the Internet. I think a lot of the apathy myself included is just that we are getting tired of the series but not tired enough to completely move on say like the older Sonic fans who were into SatAM as an example. Our childhood is being very stubborn and not letting us go whether its the classics, the Adventure games, the Rush games or the Unleashed-Colours-Generations era as the games that we enjoyed. Mania is like a shot up the arm for the classic fans (and of people who used to be in the series but left having one more go) and is attracting other fans because of the quality of the game. Had Mania not existed, I think a lot more would have moved on.

Outside of the fanbase is a different story. While it is getting a bit better as he is not considered a joke as much as he used to be, its appeal isn't as strong as it used to be with not much talk these days. The same opinions as us over the movie. Saying that there seems to be more Big the Cat fans these days that definitely wasn't a thing before.

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3 hours ago, FFWF said:

"Apathy" is a way of putting it which makes sense to me.  We're definitely out of the worst of it, I feel, in terms of actual franchise-breaking lack of quality and terrible writing; but there's nothing on the horizon right now to really get excited about.  Forces ended up being bland without being outrageous, TSR looks okay but not a patch on past titles, we don't know if we'll get a Mania 2, and commentary on what little we know about the movie has been exhausted.  There's no energy, positive or negative; no great enthusiasm or dread about the future.  In a way, that turns people off more than anything else.  It's just no fun right now, being in the fandom.  As the movie posters demonstrated, at least with terrible ideas there's something to talk about.

While I could certainly make arguments about forces being a bit worse than some think it is, generally I agree with this. But to add to this, this is ontop of general apathy which is the hell that is trying to talk about sonic on the internet.

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I guess I'll just focus on answering the OP's question since it's really the only thing I have a leg to stand on here since it will be speaking about myself.

So do I still have hope? In a word yes. Hope for what? At this point just that Sonic will continue to exist. That may seem like a low bar from someone who has been very vocal about all of the improvements that they'd like to see in the franchise, but the thing is, those improvements won't come if Sonic simply ceases to be. Then there is also the fact that for me Sonic and the things that I love about him as well as sharing and partaking in the thoughts of other fans is about the only thing in the world that keeps my depression and darker thoughts reasonably at bay. That makes Sonic extremely valuable to me on a very personal level regardless of how much he entertains me when he is at his best based on my preferences for the franchise. So while hoping for him to continue to exist and receive official new content on a persistent basis is a fairly low bar, every possible improvement and possibility of getting it right requires that bare minimum and as a result my hope lays there. I unironically love this franchise and as long as it persists and leaves an impression either that inspires continued fan activity and interaction I can continue to hope for the better as well as that it will continue to persist.

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I can only speak with regards to the way I've always looked at things, which can be rather hard sometimes, as it took even me a while to figure out why it is I like certain things and why I don't. It's still not a widely accepted thing to be someone who plays video games because of how much of an interactive experience it can be in terms of following a story and characters through an awesome looking world. Sonic Adventure 2: Battle wasn't the first video game I ever played but it was the one that made me realize just how much an experience like that meant to me and propelled me into becoming both a Sonic fan and sparked a general interest in games in general. At the same time, I had access to Super Mario Sunshine and Super Smash Bros. Melee and neither could satisfy me anywhere near as much as Adventure 2 did because of their lack of the same type of immersive storytelling. Nowadays I do have more respect for storytelling through discovery of the world that you're in and not just what a narrative is telling you but at the time, that's the kind of stuff that enchanted me.

It's the reason why, despite things technically being worse with shit like Shadow and 06, the time of those games didn't feel anywhere near as bad as it does now. One of the reasons might be because I was a much more innocent kid at the time. I was just off the heels of Adventure 2, Sonic Heroes, and Sonic X was just something I randomly discovered on TV on a boring Saturday morning one day. To say my status as a super fan was being charged up would have been an understatement. However, I do feel like another reason is because despite how bad the games around that time were, I was still able to get something out of them because the ambition to carry something across the finish line still felt like it was at least there. They didn't succeed at it but they were clearly trying to invoke some sort of genuine emotional reaction even if the ones they got weren't the ones they were expecting.

Shadow the Hedgehog is a stupid and reprehensibly irresponsibly dumb game and I don't have any "love" for it nowadays but you'll often see me bring it up and some of the ideas it had as examples of things Sonic Forces should have done. I praised the system where you would head into a level and meet up with a random Sonic character on their own mission because it made the world feel bigger when they weren't all lazily huddled together and it made everyone seem proactive. I bring up the fact that Shadow's game actually did a great job simulating something that felt like a war. The levels were huge and spacious and there was a ton of things happening in the background. You could see how the Black Arms were affecting everything around them and how the military was trying to fight against them within the levels. They weren't completely divorced from the story like the ones in Forces felt like they were, aside from Burning Nameless City. 

Because Forces opted to keep things super linear and 2D, carrying this across would have been a lot harder for them, even if they had tried. Putting the fact that they didn't try on top of that just made for a bland experience. If this was a Sonic game that came out during that early 2000s timeframe, I can almost promise you they would have done way more with that premise than they did back in 2017. Sonic Heroes did more with it's characters and their reactions to things than Forces did. That game had to reintroduce the Chaotix and E-123 Omega all at once and despite some questionable writing and translation errors, they managed to pull it off for the most part. Infinite was just one dude and they couldn't even make him as intimidating as that idiot Mephiles the Dark, another villain from another awful game that's better by virtue of actually being what he was obviously intended to be.

It really does kind of come down to the fact that, for me at least, things being bland and boring is turning out to be far worse than simply being awful. All the problems with Forces and it's direction just scream extreme laziness on all fronts. It's astonishing that a game focusing on their main villain of 25+ years finally getting what he wants amounted to to maybe 4 hours of game and a multitude of rehashes of things we just saw from Lost World, Generations, and Colors. Even the music, despite liking some of the tunes, feels like the work of a computer on autopilot. 

In a sense, I can probably understand someone's viewpoint that the Sonic Movie might be something to look forward to literally just for its sheer "What-the-fuckery" on display. They might just have the mindset of it being something worth paying attention to because it's at least interesting. I don't subscribe to that line of thought obviously. I don't see why we can't get something that's both interesting and technically sound so I tend not to be as forgiving nowadays. 

So do I have hope? I'd imagine I must if I'm still considering the games as a part of the Sonic lexicon I'm paying any damn attention to. I've got other things that are keeping me invested in the series, most of it fan material, but as someone who used to buy systems just because a new Sonic might be on it, taught myself to draw because of Sonic, and spend this much time on a forum because of Sonic, I can't imagine me ever abandoning the series at least. 

If the ship sinks I'll at least be there to watch it go under. 

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