If seven-yearold me was told that 30 years in the future I would be writing an article about Sonic’s 30th birthday I probably would not have believed them.

But here I am, the 23rd June 2021 brings about 30 years since Sonic was unleashed to the world. Seven-year-old me probably thought my new-found love for Sonic was a passing phase, like Pogs, Lego and action figures. But I outgrew those things as my childhood focal point was set squarely on Sega's Blue Blur. It could have gone another way. I would say Lego and Sonic were pretty much tied for my attention until about Christmas 1994 when Sonic & Knuckles landed on my Mega Drive. But that is a story for another time. Today I'm thinking about what makes a video game character popular, a success or loved? How do plumbers, hedgehogs, bandicoots and gorillas steal our hearts?

You could take a simple approach and say they are the heroes of the games, so deserve our affections like Bugs Bunny does in the cartoons. But to me, there is something deeper. I don't get to control the cartoon; I am a passenger, witnessing the events from afar. With Sonic, I am Sonic! Without me, Sonic just stands there, so we go together on the adventure. Seven-year-old me certainly thought that and it still holds true for me today. Sonic lets me escape, just like Mario,

Crash or DK does. Being so entwined with what is playing out on the screen makes it easy for me to want to help my friend. We both want to succeed and see the levels through. No game character has ever grabbed me like Sonic has. There is something different about him, something that sings to my lost childhood wonderment. He is so cool; he is super fast and represents a sense of freedom to explore.

It was not just Sonic himself; the game is so different from anything at the time. It bends and contorts levels with loops, jumps and springs all over the place. To me, jumping characters before Sonic were rigid, very much up and across at angles, but Sonic could fly around in any direction it seemed! It was the first time where I felt I was leading the adventure, in control and not just fumbling buttons about in the background. The genius of Sonic is in its simplicity. There is only one button and eight directions but this gives so much control and in the hands of an experience­d player Sonic can do extraordin­ary things. When I look at the other popular retro characters, they all seem to have something magical about them. We elevate them to superstar status as we jump, smash and spin our way through their great journeys.

Every now and then a character comes along that inspires a generation of gamers. For me that was Sonic.

So, here's to another 30 years!

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