My Seven-Year-Old Son Is Going To Be A Sonic Mania Speedrunner Someday

My seven-year-old son Archer loves to play Sonic Mania on our PlayStation 4, but only in Time Attack mode. Watching him work his way through Green Hill Zone Act 2 for the umpteenth time in a row, I ask, “Are you going to be a speedrunner?” Archer, eyes locked on the television screen, replies “Yes.”

Archer, like his twin brother Seamus, is on the autism spectrum, though in a very different place. Seamus is a big talker. Archer talks more to himself than anyone else. Seamus doesn’t like making decisions, asking others for input before making a choice.

Archer knows what he wants and doesn’t care what anyone else thinks. Seamus is easily distracted, but when Archer focuses on a thing, his focus does not waver. When that focus is, say, wanting Pizza Hut for dinner (or “Pizza Hunt,” as he calls it), it can get pretty annoying. But when it’s getting the fastest time possible in Sonic Mania, it can be inspiring.

I don’t know what drew Archer to Sonic Mania in the first place. I am guessing he’s seen enough of Sega’s blue hedgehog in the horrible YouTube videos we try to stop him from watching that the game’s icon, which is Sonic’s smiling face, is like a beacon for him.

Archer likes to start new games.

Our PlayStation 4 is in the living room of our home, as is the hospital bed where I spend most of my time, still recovering from a major medical incident last year and subsequent surgeries. So when Archer plays Sonic Mania, he plays it sitting on the couch beside me, or while bouncing on a yoga ball (it’s a stimming thing).

Due to our close proximity, I’ve been privy to his progress. It’s been fascinating to watch him learn new routes through Sonic Mania’s levels and see how he overcomes obstacles. For instance, there are these film reels in Studiopolis Act 2 (which he prefers over Act 1). Running atop them causes them to move along a track. When the end of the track is reached, Sonic runs around the reel in circles until he jumps off.

I watched Archer get stuck on these spinning reels over and over. He wasn’t sure when to jump off. Maybe he just enjoyed the spinning motion. But after I don’t know how many tries, he started jumping to the left and hitting that red bounce pad. Now he does it every single time.

He lives for that “New Record!” announcement that plays when he beats his own times. His mother and I have started using the phrases as a positive reinforcement when he does something well in other aspects of his life.

We also help him out in the non-Time Attack portions of the game. When he’s at school or has gone to bed for the evening, I play through the main game in order to unlock new levels for him to play in Time Attack. He’s not big on boss battles and tends to hand the controller to his mother or me when he gets stuck on those.

When it comes to time attack, though, he’s better than the both of us. He’s got a long way to go before getting anywhere close to the top ranks, where the current PS4 leaderboard topper for Green Hill Act 2 is around 27 seconds, but he’s top-ranked in our house. I’ve seen areas in Sonic Mania I never knew existed, thanks to his constant experimentation.

There are worse things Archer could be than a Sonic Mania speedrunner. And there are worse things I could have to watch him play over and over again on our living room television, trapped in a bed and unable to flee. I’ll take Sonic over YouTube Poop any day.


Comments

    Love the intersection of gaming and family life which is the stage I'm currently entering. Only the eldest plays games so far, the younger one not quite there and the youngest one still learning to grasp objects.

    My 6yr old, who is also autistic and ADHD is amazingly obsessed with sonic. He plays on Xbox one and holds a few records for fastest times in classic mode.
    He worked really hard and entered competition hosted at our local shopping centre for the release of the DLC UPGRADE for Sonic Mania with the aim for the fastest time to complete Greenhill Zone act 1.
    Just 5 yrs old at the time, he raced against 6 to 15yr olds and smashed the times of all those set before him and came in finishing at 42.72 secs! 2nd place was 50.22sec. He was ecstatic. They had Sonic and Tails there and he won complete Sonic package with ps4, sonic games and other merch. He tells everyone new he meets about the day he met sonic!! And kick the teenagers butts!

    There is something about the blue little hedgehog that has my boys heart ????

    Kids on the spectrum are interesting when it comes to games. My son is on the spectrum but his gaming obsession of choice is Minecraft. He loves to try and copy things he's seen in videos such as parkour maps. It took a while for him to get into the playing of games because he mostly preferred to watch and would get EXTREMELY upset if he tried playing a game (such as Mario) and missed a coin or, heaven forbid, died. Even when I played it in the early days, if I missed a single coin or power-up he would cry.

    I got him to play Minecraft one day with me when he was 4ish and we built a lovely rainbow house together after a lot of frustration and crying on his part, but he wanted to keep going. He's edging onto 6 now and plays Minecraft at every opportunity, he's gotten so good at it, watches videos about it, reads those Minecraft books, has Minecraft bedding. It can be frustrating when you're trying to talk to him about something and he gives a short "yes" answer before returning to his Minecraft topic of choice and "And did you know, in Minecraft...".

    Like the article says though, there's worse things he could be watching / playing, at least Minecraft is creative and stimulating, even if he is building his millionth dropper or parkour level, though we have recently started a few projects or survival / achievement maps that he and my wife play on PC while I join in on the Switch.

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