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Perspectives on the Meta Era


Mr. Ion
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It's no surprise that Sonic fans sort the lifespan of the series into eras. It's a pretty common thing to do, as it allows us to generalize and compare the different aspects of said eras, and easily categorize them as a whole. Yes, generalizations aren't always good, but in this case they aren't bad, as it allows us as Sonic fans to discuss the different aspects of the series in a more concise way. 

So, as a person who grew up in the so-called Meta Era, it was pretty interesting to watch as the fanbase came to have stronger representation from fans of the Dreamcast and Dark Age Eras. As the fanbase diversified though, it became more hostile toward the Meta Era. In a lot of Sonic discourse, on forums and on YouTube, the thing I'm noticing is the lack of nuance when discussing the various eras. I appreciate the fact that people are looking at all eras of the series more critically, to look at what the series should learn from each of them, but at the same time I think people tend to be unbalanced and unfair to certain eras. The Meta Era is known for simpler stories and voice acting from Roger, and while I understand why people don't like those stories, heck even I don't really like the stories to Lost World and Forces (Generations' story is practically nonexistent, and the dialogue from Colors doesn't bother me too much), but at the same time I feel like at the beginning of the 2010s if Sega were to continue with the storytelling style of the Dreamcast games, '06, and the Storybook series, critics would have been even more sour on the series. And yes, critics aren't the only people that matter, but at the same time, Sonic's reputation in the larger gaming universe does matter, and it does affect the series' ability to find new fans and keep old fans, as well as how seriously the series is taken by others. The 2010s is also noted for its Boost gameplay, and while the Boost is very controversial, I think it did help the series and was effective for its time, though it's getting kind of stale now. I think games like Colors did good for the series, and I honestly think it gets too much flak in the Sonic Fanbase.

The perspective of Meta Era fans hasn't really gone too far in the Sonic Fanbase as most of them are still relatively young and I doubt anyone under the age of like 14 even cares about Sonic forums in the first place, but I feel like Sonic discourse will become more diverse as they grow up and begin to share their thoughts and ideas. People tend to be biased towards the things they grew up with, I like a mix of different Sonic media from pretty much all eras of Sonic, but at the same time I'm still biased to things that I grew up with, like the 90s cartoons and games like Colors. I think this is what happened with the other eras too, and I appreciate when people look at the Dark Age with a less negative eye, but at the same time I feel like people don't look at the eras aren't perfect either. The Dreamcast Era was really fun, stylish, and successful, but at the same time it could be perhaps too experimental with things like Heroes. The Classic Era was a great start but there were large stretches without any mainline games and the quality control and continuity was very uncontrolled. The Dark Age had a lot of gems and the tone of the stories was perfect around Unleashed and Black Knight, but it was also the worst time for Sonic in terms of reputation. So I guess what I'm getting at here is: how you think the Meta Era will be looked back on as more of its fans enter the fanbase and as the series evolves?

(Sidenote, I think we should probably find different names for the Dark Age and Meta Era as they are labeling said eras as inherently negative, even though they're not. I prefer going by voice actors, so Griffith Era and Roger Era, or you could call the Meta Era the boost era instead (even though the boost was in Advance 2 and Rush and Unleashed)

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Unleashed itself does have a closer tone, aesthetic, and gameplay to the Boost era than the “Dark Era”, so “Boost Era” fits. Or, we can even split the Boost Era and Meta Era, cutting off around 2014-2016. A few Meta Era games (Lost World and especially Mania) have a similar tone to the era, but different gameplay, whilist Forces is the opposite (this ignores quality). I feel like opinions will keep souring on the early Meta Era, whereas later Meta Era stuff will either be appreciated like the Storybooks or totally forgotten. 

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It will indeed be interesting once more of the children who grew up with the meta era start making their voices heard in Sonic discussions on the internet. I wonder what their relation to Adventure/dark era fans and classic era fans will be. Like, if meta era fans generally feel that Sonic should have a light tone, since that is the Sonic they are used to, then maybe they will join the remaining classic fans in their dislike of the stories and tones of the adventure/dark era?

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I think the name "Meta Era" is really stupid. 

Like I get it not everyone loves the comedy angle but it's not even Meta. It's just doofy dad jokes which people may or may not find funny depending on their tastes. 

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2 hours ago, SBR2 said:

I think the name "Meta Era" is really stupid. 

Like I get it not everyone loves the comedy angle but it's not even Meta. It's just doofy dad jokes which people may or may not find funny depending on their tastes. 

Yes, early Boost era comedy (Unleashed-Lost World, of these only Generations went hard on meta elements) was not so meta compared to later comedy from the era, or even the design aesthetic of the less comedic Forces.

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I feel like the only really "Meta" media in the entire era was the Boom cartoon, and any other really "meta" comedy was in short bursts, with it only really being prominent in maybe Colors and in one or two jokes in Forces ("it's been Generations since I've seen you!)
I agree that we should just rename it, it's kind of unfair to Meta Era fans in general. I also agree with Snowragnarok that Unleashed kind of leans towards the other Boost titles in more ways than it does the other Griffith Era titles.
It'll be interesting to see how fans of the Boost Era will interact, I agree. I feel like they'd lean toward a lower volume in games, seeing as they're used to getting less games then people who grew up in say, 2003, where we had advance, the main series, and heroes, or in 2007, with Riders, mainline stuff, Rush, storybook, etc. I feel like Boost era fans will prefer lighter tones and probably will care about good gameplay more than anything else, and will probably appreciate the classics more than people who grew up from 2005-2008, seeing as that was a bit more prominent here. Drawing upon myself, I used to play the Classic titles a lot through the mobile ports, and thus I tend to be pretty big on Classic for someone not born in the 90s. That is, if people of my generation will even gravitate towards online forums, or if those will go out of style in favor of YouTube and the toxic cesspool we call Twitter. For every lurker on here (like I was until a few weeks ago), there are even more Boost Era fans that will come out of the woodwork someday.

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The increasing generational divide between Sonic fans is a really interesting topic, especially since the divide between "eras" of both games and fans is more pronounced for Sonic than a lot of long-running franchises. The push for more complex stories and ambitious gameplay like in the Adventure era and "Dark Age" isn't exactly new - people like that were around since Colors first came out - but the fact that these people are no longer outliers speaks to how the status quo is changing. Part of it is that people who grew up during the Dark Age are starting to dominate the conversation, sure, but I think it's also a matter of "distance makes the heart grow fonder." It's easier to look back on a game like Sonic 06 and see merit in its ambition and a few of its concepts when we're no longer reeling from its damaging effects on the series. I think some might start looking back on the "meta era" more fondly if the series evolves past it, though what people might "miss" from the 2010-2017 games remains to be seen.

For the kids growing up with the games now, I could see them having a preference for lighter, more comedic stories and certainly the boost gameplay, if nothing else. The irony of the fanservice and meta jokes is that they wouldn't have much meaning for new fans because they're directed squarely at aficionados--and that's the exact audience these games are alienating. I can imagine "meta era" fans expecting more direct engagement with the fandom, though. I do hope "meta era" fans aren't too alienated by the current tone of the discussion around the 2010s games. No one likes hearing that the games they grew up with are "the bad ones."

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12 minutes ago, T-Min said:

No one likes hearing that the games they grew up with are "the bad ones."

I think this was something that the Griffith Era fans probably felt the most out of the entire fanbase, and is probably the reason why those games are advocated for more vehemently. You raised a lot of good points, where Sonic tends to redefine itself a lot, and thus the generational divide is a lot starker. And the "absence makes the heart grow fonder" angle, I never thought of that. People will look back on it with a calmer eye with time, and will be able to see it more objectively, improving (or in the case of games like Colors, degrading) the reputation of said game, or said era. Though I think in general the push for ambition and serious storytelling in Sonic will always exist, but it will be much stronger with people of certain generations, like the Griffith Era.

Another thing I was thinking about, I really love Sonic fangames, and I've been thinking about how the world of fan games would be affected once the Boost Era fans begin to dominate the fanbase. A lot of the time fan games try to emulate what a sizable portion of the fanbase isn't getting with the main series, or capitalizes on the nostalgia of certain fans. There are fan games like Sonic Advance 4, which cater to Advance fans who have never seen those games acknowledged since the end of their run, and then there are games like Sonic GT, which try to do something new, implementing the momentum based physics that Sonic fans are fond of and which the main series has lacked for years. I think, as the Boost Era fans grow up, we will see more boost fan games, but honestly I don't think the fan game sphere will change much, just maybe leaning toward things that were popular in the 2010s, maybe even a homage to the Sonic Boom sub franchise. I feel like the recently controversial Sonic Omens was very similar to a lot of things from the Boost Era, but that game was clouded by its own controversy.

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