Platformer video games like Sonic Forces are designed to inspire virtual adrenaline, but Sega decided to see how players would fare in a real-life platformer environment, so they created Sonic Forces Academy—dropping influencers into a freerunning and parkour gym.
Matthew Patrick (MatPat), Jirard Khalil (The Completionist) and Tom Cassell (Syndicate) gathered at the Tempest Freerunning Academy in California to try their hand at running and jumping in the activation, which was made to look like the iconic Green Hill Zone—a recurring level that appears across the Sonic franchise. When sections of the course became too difficult for them, expert athletes took over.
Sega’s activation—which will remain open after this launch for public access—is designed to promote Sonic Forces, its latest game launched in November.
“We were looking for a fun activation that could travel beyond core Sonic fans,” said Ivo Gerscovich, Sega chief brand officer. “We all liked the idea of giving high-profile YouTube influencers and gamers everywhere the opportunity to see what it would be like to try some of Sonic’s trademark moves in real life.”
Matt, Jirard and Tom were challenged with recreating such moves as wall run, spring jump, hoop dash, grappling hook and tag-team run. Much like the course itself, planning an activation of this nature took a considerable amount of effort and coordination.
“Sega’s marketing team spent months working with our agency, Ayzenberg,* to get the right folks involved and making sure the activation was accurate to the game,” said Nathan Shabazi, Sega associate brand manager. “This included providing lots of b-roll footage, 3D hi-res assets, and looking for some of the coolest moves in the game. After seeing the parkour and gaming influencers’ excitement upon using it, we knew we had something special.”
“We came together with Sega to put together an awesome celebration of Sonic and drive awareness of Sonic Forces going into the holiday,” Francesca Forgach, ION‘s VP of client services, told AListDaily. “We wanted to really establish a cohesive program that had multiple communication touch points across channels, promoted by influencers, driving excitement with their fans. We want fans to get hyped and excited, and want to participate in the custom parkour experience.”
Beyond the ideal timing of the activation, which allows consumers to keep Sonic Forces top of mind through the holidays, Sega’s social media manager, Aaron Webber expects Sonic fans will resonate strongly with the living game experience and the “join the uprising” tagline.
“We expect fans will be thrilled with the activation and the chance to experience part of Sonic’s world in our own,” said Webber. “In a day and age where we often find ourselves sitting in a single spot for hours at a time, it’s great to get up and get active.”
Hardcore fans who try out the parkour course will also appreciate its difficulty, which is on brand for a Sonic level.
“The reality is that we tried parts of the Tempest Green Hill Zone parkour course ourselves,” added Webber. “Not only were they even harder than they looked, but we now have an even greater appreciation for our blue blur.”
*Editor’s note: AListDaily is the publishing arm of Ayzenberg.
CORRECTION: Sega quotes were all previously attributed to Aaron Webber. Attributions have been updated to their respective sources.