A few decades ago the masses believed video games were a waste of time for lackadaisical youths to pacify themselves while ignoring their responsibilities as both kids and young adults. As more and more people started understanding the benefits of gaming so too did the perception of what a video game is and, most importantly, the benefits gaming can bestow on a person’s life changed. Hi, my name is James Bullock and I am a gamer who has spent the better part of his existence testing the laws of physics, exploring the vastness of a world ruined, and been a champion inside various arenas courtesy of digitized worlds both driven by reality and created through pure unbelievable ingenuity unlike anything seen by human eyes. And as a gamer I’ve discovered something else video games provide: life lessons. Today I examine the game that turned me into a fan of Sega and had me begging for a second video game console, “Sonic The Hedgehog”.
Mo’ Money, Mo’ Life (“Sonic The Hedgehog”)
By 1992, the Nintendo Entertainment System was practically dead in the water thanks to the company moving onto its next venture, the “Super Nintendo Entertainment System”. New games were released rarely; and most of those games were terrible at best. Thankfully for the uninformed gamer in me at the time (this was obviously before the time when almost every bit of information was at your fingertips), a weekend at my aunt Cicero’s house would open my eyes to the “future”. I sat with Cicero’s future stepson, Reginald (Reggie or “Boo” as we all affectionately called him) and watched as a hedgehog wearing red shoes and rocking a Japanese anime style hairdo sped through this digital, colorful world before me. I would quickly discover this creature was known as “Sonic The Hedgehog” and he was awesome!
That night was spent playing the game with my cousin until he fell asleep and I journeyed on by myself before calling it a night with only a couple of hours before sunrise (maybe staying up all day and almost all night wasn’t the best way to stay fresh for a fast-paced platformer). Nearly a year would pass until Christmas 1993 and the day I became the owner of a Sega Genesis. But the Genesis package I received for Christmas didn’t come with “Sonic The Hedgehog”, but its sequel – “Sonic The Hedgehog 2”. I was in for a brand new experience that would eventually become my go-to Genesis game alongside “Mortal Kombat II” until I moved to the fifth generation of gaming (Playstation and Nintendo 64). Playing “Sonic 2” on a constant basis made me slowly realize something that didn’t ring true playing other platformers like “Super Mario Bros.”: money is a life saver.
The “Sonic The Hedgehog” series sees its lead character running through various stages (originally 2D before Sega tried their hand and mostly failed at adapting Sonic into a 3D platforming machine like Nintendo successfully did with Mario years earlier), taking out creatures ready to knock him off the screen, freeing captured animals intended to be turned into the aforementioned aggressors coming after our blue bomber, and, most importantly, collecting gold rings. Rather than simply being a way to up point scores upon finishing a level, the rings Sonic collects throughout each stage proves to be a safety net. With even one ring in his possession, Sonic can take a hit and keep on moving forward. Without rings, Sonic is prone to death at a moment’s notice. For many “Sonic The Hedgehog” players including yours truly the rings are a perfect representation of what happens when someone has the luxury of having money.
No matter where you live to have money is to have a certain level of freedom. The person who has more money than the other has a better chance of living a more comfortable life (specifically healthcare, education & housing) than someone lacking in the financial department. For Sonic, in his forest/industrialized/ancient civilization economy there are very few things as valuable as those precious gold rings. Don’t believe me? Why do you think those enemies outside of Dr. Robotnik/Eggman (who obviously has some type of financial stability to create so many robots) die so easily when hit by a jumping hedgehog? Because they don’t have a gold ring to their names. Go forth and collect as many gold rings as you can if you want end your day with the highest of scores.
Have you learned any major life lessons from playing “Sonic The Hedgehog” or any video game for that matter? Leave them in the comments below and, as always, thanks for reading.