The Sonic the Hedgehog franchise just celebrated its 30th birthday with much fanfare. Before the big day, players already know that Negative color will be re-released, a new main game is coming in 2022, and the green blur has partnered with Minecraft for a left collaboration.
It’s been an exciting June for Sonic fans, but the best part of the month-long celebration isn’t a game – it’s a livestream special anniversary concert. The two-hour musical performance spans the franchise’s eclectic history with a full orchestra and rock concert ensemble by veterans of the Crush 40 series.
It’s a nitro-filled nostalgia ride that not only shows us the right way to celebrate the history of a video game; it’s a shining example of the power of digital events when done right.
The Sonic Anniversary stream began quietly in the middle of a day of low news for game fans. A full orchestra took to the stage, opening the show with a beautiful rendition of the classic Green Hill Zone theme. For longtime fans, it’s hard not to get chills as performers slowly work their way through a set of compositions that highlight the franchise’s ever-strong soundtracks. how strong. Hearing the 8-bit sounds and blobs translated to full sequence speaks to the enduring power of the original tunes in these games.
As the event started, it gradually became a water cooling event for the fans of the game. My Twitter timeline slowly fills up with conversations as more followers follow through word of mouth. By the time Crush 40 took to the stage, it was starting to feel like a real concert with fans screaming and shouting at songs like Live and learn.
The program operates at two specific levels. On the one hand, it acts as a perfect flashback to the franchise. The Sonic series has always been eclectic (in both positive and non-floral ways). The trip back into memory is a delightful reminder of how much form the series has gone through in its 30 years. It has gone from being a colorful Mario competitor into an edgy 3D action series filled with teenage anger.
Is there anything more surreal than seeing Shadow the Hedgehog raise his gun just an hour after watching a stage full of tuxedo musicians perform an ensemble of ’90s nostalgia?
Beyond the celebratory nature of the stream, it is simply a perfectly crafted digital event. Over the past year and a half, we’ve been flooded with live streams of all shapes and sizes. It’s getting harder and harder for those events to make sense when it seems like every few days there’s another.
Just look at this year’s E3, which gave viewers four consecutive days of game content. The whole thing was a bit of a mess, with no consistency from line to line, leaving periods of dead air blowing the wind out of the event’s sails. It was not a memorable experience.
The Sonic concert is a rare example of a digital show that truly feels special. Part of that is just the nature of a live concert like this. Orchestral video game shows like this go on constantly, but fans often have to hope for a tour show to come to a city near them and shell out some serious money to see it. This brought that somewhat exclusive experience into our homes, turning social media into an amphitheater.
It’s as relevant to the fans as it is about the franchise. It felt like we, as viewers, had to get in on the show instead of watching a two-hour marketing stunt. Fans can instantly share personal and community experiences, such as a concert or live sporting event.
That’s exactly what we’ve been missing in this new age of live streaming. We often end up watching them because we feel like we have to, not because we want to. Those are forced social moments designed to create engagement. Loud Twitch chats filled with emoji spam just don’t echo the heartwarming thrill of seeing thousands of fans enjoying a moment of collective fun together.