Advocate for Sega. Fan of the 90s.
Here at Checkpoint, we recently celebrated the 30th Anniversary of Sonic The Hedgehog. He’s easily one of the biggest icons in gaming not to mention pop culture and, needless to say, we love the little blue guy. We got to have our say on the special episode, sharing our memories and moments getting to know Sonic. But we have one more treat, because I also got to have a bit of a chat with Katie Chrzanowski who is the Social Media Manager for Sonic from SEGA of America. You can listen to the interview right here:
Katie’s journey to SEGA is a fascinating one to say the least, a life long gamer, she was working as a software engineer and started streaming on Twitch after work for fun. Eventually starting to visit conventions, she met Aaron Webber from SEGA. During a trip to visit friends in Los Angeles (remember when we could travel?) she decided to visit the Sonic offices where Aaron mentioned they were advertising for a new member of the team, and she jokingly said she would apply. They called her bluff, with Katie thinking she wouldn’t even get an interview, she threw her hat in and the rest is history – now she has been at SEGA for two years.
Katie told me that there is no typical day in her world; it varies from social media work, figuring out what’s “hot”, dreaming up new ideas, some influencer work, being mindful about what products are coming out soon and what events SEGA can partner with. She also interacts with many different teams within SEGA including licensing, collaborating with their animation and production teams and basically wearing all sorts of hats.
Katie was also part of producing (the brilliant) Sonic Symphony which was part of the 30th Anniversary celebrations, a two hour live concert celebrating three decades of Sonic music. She explained that as a big fan of video game symphonies when she started working at SEGA she felt that Sonic has some of the best music in video games (I agree) and wondered why there had not yet been a Sonic symphony tour. The original concept was for a touring production, however 2020 happened, so plans needed to change and it wound up being a one time free live streamed event.
The event itself was fantastic in my opinion, the first half featuring medleys from different games and platforms then they broke out the “rawk” for the second half. Katie said that with so much great Sonic music and well known songs it was really hard to narrow it down for the show, which left loads of ideas on the cutting room floor.
Katie noted Sonic CD, 3D Blast and the Game Boy Advance titles as just a few of the ideas that didn’t make it into the final production. One of my favourite era’s of Sonic however, did, the Saturn Medley and the appearance of NiGHTS. They had to ask Iizuka-San from SEGA Japan if they could use NiGHTS in the game and luckily he agreed, as it was a real treat. With so many great left over ideas I think there is definitely a case for Sonic Symphony 2 or maybe a directors cut.
Of course though, we wouldn’t even be here having this discussion if it weren’t for Sonic himself. Lightning in a bottle since the day he was revealed 30 years ago. Loads of ‘icons’ have come and gone in video games, but Sonic has legitimate pull, appealing to everybody, people of all ages. What makes him so special? Katie feels that a big part of it is that Sonic is a free spirit; he has a bit of an edge but is a good person/hedgehog at heart who does what is right. If there is adventure or some fun to be had, Sonic is all in.
Another crucial part of Sonic is the fantastic community that supports him and the way SEGA and Katie’s team embraces, supports and communicates with the fans is just so unique and inclusive. Katie described Sonic fans as brilliant, creative and wonderful. They do regular live streams with fans, showing off fan art, talking about reveals and playing games, just spending time with the community. She said that it would not be the same brand without the fans, she enjoys spending time with the community and feels lucky that Sonic has such a wonderful supporters.
Speaking about Sonic games, we had to ask if she had any favourite titles. She told us the first Sonic the Hedgehog is special because it was one of the first games she had ever played and where it all began, the Sonic Adventure series which were the first 3D games (and featured Chaos of course!), the Advance Series being able to play Sonic on the go (which also features a Chao garden…), plus the usual suspects Mania and Generations, so… all of them, basically!
Noting that there are so many wonderful characters, not counting Sonic (and not counting Big the Cat) Tails is a favourite of hers, partially due to being the younger sibling, but also because Tails is a cute character. Amy Rose, Tangle and Whisper (the latter two are from the Comics) also got some mentions as favourites as well.
Which characters could possibly hold down a spin-off, a game of their own? Ideas included Bean the Dynamite ad Honey the Cat but the standouts are some of the female characters like Amy, Tangle or Whisper so we could get to know them a little bit more, and it’s hard not to agree.
Speaking about the future, Sonic has always been incredibly popular but we both agreed that it feels like he is on a bit of a roll at the moment. The first movie turned out really well and had some fantastic moments, and everyone is excited for the sequel featuring a returning cast. The Netflix series Sonic Prime is heading our way next year, the comics are rolling along and there are some new games on the horizon as well. Not only the as yet untitled new game slated for next year but also the Sonic Colours Remake on the horizon which is due to drop on September 7th.
Katie describes Sonic Colours as a brilliant introduction to Sonic 3D games and the boost formula. They are making the game even more accessible to newcomers because there are so many new Sonic fans. They’re also making sure to include plenty of content for core fans as well, so this is definitely not a straight remaster. Of all the upcoming projects she is excited about there is also a short form animation Rise of the Wisps on the way, which accompanies Sonic Colours. Definitely something to look forward too and – a bit of a spoiler, but if you listen closely to the interview you might even hear her voice.
Katie also had a message for Sonic fans in Australia:
“Thank you so much for all of your support for Sonic throughout the years, whether you have been here for 30 years or whether you have been here as long as you listened to the show today, we really appreciate it and we are excited to continue sharing Sonic with you and the rest of the world, thank you, we appreciate you, you are the best”
We appreciate you too, Katie. Big thank you to SEGA and Five Star Games for arranging the interview for us.