Hi. I haven’t written about games in a while. In fact, I just haven’t written in a while (so, sorry if this sucks). My day-to-day job involves writing, to an extent, and I’ve been busier than ever in that regard. Plus, I got burnt out on games writing and video games, in general. That might sound weird because I’ve never been a full-time games writer or a consistently paid games writer. And yet, I felt burnt out. Plus, I’ve just been absolutely bummed by the current state of games—mainly in the AAA space. Nothing’s really piqued my interest so, on top of the burnout, I haven’t even felt inspired to write. My Xbox has spent more time unplugged than it ever has. The spark has been gone. But it is back now, kind of. I’m playing Sonic Unleashed and, for some reason, I feel compelled to write about it.
Sonic is a character and a series of games that, historically, I’ve never really given a shit about. But last week, on a whim, I bought Sonic Unleashed. The few games that I’ve played lately have been competitive shooters and Skater XL (which is, in many ways, the only game I’ve been playing the past 5 or 6 months). I guess I just wanted something different, something simply fun, and a game with a classic bopping gamer soundtrack. Sonic Unleashed has it all.
Sonic Unleashed is the most fun I’ve had with a game in a long time. It is incredibly simple, profoundly stupid, and in many ways, actively not that great. But I’ll be damned if I’m not having a rip-roaring time with it. Dr. Eggman does something to the Earth and Sonic has to save the day. He can also turn into a werewolf (werehog?) now. Look, this essay from here on out won’t be that deep, I won’t be close reading the game or comparing it to our current moment in some way. I just want to write about it and how bizarre it is. Sonic is a werewolf who is often tasked with performing exorcisms by taking flash-on photos of people with a magic camera gifted to him by a college professor. This game is weird as hell.
Sonic: Unleashed, based on some half-assed research by yours truly, seems to be one of the 3D Sonic games people dig the most, minus the night-time werewolf levels that trade the speed of Sonic for a slow-paced, surface-level brawler vibe that just sucks. There is an odd beauty to this game’s sheer stupidity. Weird humanoid animals exist side-by-side normal humans and the game implores us to just take it at face value. And in that way, it is pretty endearing. The game knows what it is doing and just leans into it. Speedy levels, bopping tunes, god-awful cutscenes, and bad brawler levels all add up to create a weird, oddly satisfying experience.
I’m just genuinely shocked by how much I am enjoying this game. I think that I’m close to beating it, but I’m not sure. That’s all I really have to say about Sonic Unleashed. If I can be frank for a moment, it feels really good to feel good about games writing again. I’ve met some incredible people through doing this, been given wonderful opportunities, and writing about games has helped me find a voice I never knew I really had. The fact that I haven’t done it in almost half a year surprises me. There’s been a weird hollowness and distance in me for a while now, and I think that’s been my critical voice atrophying. Focusing on my day job has paid off in more ways than one, but it doesn’t bring me the joy that writing a good essay about games or cinema brings me. I’ve missed that in my life. It has been painful dealing with the fact that I’ve just felt over it. Taking a break is fine, but it hasn’t been a good time. My friends are still penning killer stuff and getting amazing opportunities, and that makes me happier than anything else. But it hasn’t felt right being apart from it all when I know that, deep down, I still want to be a part of it (or as much a part of it as I’ve been these past few years—so not a big part). Like I know that my critical writing will be washed away in time, no one will remember any of what I’ve written in this space a decade from now, and that’s fine. That’s to be expected, in many ways. I’m a fine writer, but not a great one. It would be hubris to think that my work deserves to be remembered. Cool, I’ve got some bylines and a blog. There’s pride in that but it isn’t forever. I’m not sure I want it to be, but I also still feel like I’ve got something to say. Cool, fine, a white guy in the games media space still feels like he has something to say, just more of what we need, right? No, probably not. I’m not sure. But it does feel good to be writing about games again—I hope I can return to a regular cadence to pen essays if not for others, but for myself.
At first, it was a weight off my shoulders to disconnect from it all. Now, well, it just bummed me out to not be doing this. And in the past month, I’ve started and then stopped like seven essays. They felt forced, and I never want to have my critical writing feel forced. Just because I wanted to do this again wasn’t enough to actually do it. That extra spark was needed, and I guess fucking Sonic Unleashed of all things is that spark. It’s not even like the essay above is a good or deep critical essay about the game, but I felt compelled to write it. That has to mean something. I’m writing about games again. That feels vain to type. You’re welcome or I’m sorry.