This Throwback Thursday piece is dedicated to Chelsea Howe and her love for Sonic Spinball. Chelsea is the Creative Director for EA Mobile in Austin. As described on her website, she “optimizes live games and prototypes upcoming products.” When explaining her passion for games: “To me, games are interactive experiences that enable people to explore their own stories. They are an art, a philosophy, a cultural necessity. The world needs play. My calling is to make play better through psychological and aesthetic experience theories, outreach, research, and experimentation.” In 2014, she was featured as one of Fortune’s 10 Powerful Women in Video Games. During her free time, she designs indie games and trains her dog, Keeshonden.
Thank you for your time, Chelsea. Let us dive into her Sonic Spinball history:
“Sonic Spinball was a family affair, a vital Howe tradition that lasted years in my mind but likely only a month or two in reality. When we sat down to play, it was all of us against the game, prepping for an epic battle where our only soldier was a blurry blue ball that was painstakingly batted between synchronized flippers.
We took turns leading the charge; each of us specialized in one of the four zones. My younger brother took the first zone – a toxic sewer dominated by a Robotnik scorpion. I can still remember the bomp-bomp-bomp of success when you managed to trap yourself under the arch of his tail and hit him repeatedly.
My mom owned stage 2: a magmatic series of tubes between open airways filled with robotic chickens (those damn chickens! Decades later and I still have such animosity…). We would all cringe and groan when CLUCK ALERT flashed on screen or when a stray enemy ended our winning streak. It was a good day if we left the sewers with all lives intact; it was a GREAT day if we survived zone 2 unscathed.
The third zone was mine, a purply hell of 8 bit skids and screeches. I spent hours at a time (read: minutes) trying to control my sonic ball enough to navigate the maze of tubes and mechanical maws that would randomly transport you throughout the level. Finding five blue gems felt like a near-impossible feat at the time, but every few nights, we’d manage to mash Robotnik’s cute-animal-into-technological-demon machine to bits.
That brought us to zone four. We rarely got to it and for the life of me, I can’t actually remember if we ever beat the game. I don’t remember winning nor admitting defeat. But then, winning never really mattered. A goal was just a convenient justification for the fun of playing together.
I’ve played games my entire life, and the vast majority were labelled “single-player”. But for me, watching someone play was always just as engaging as playing myself. All the single-player games I played as a child, I played with other people: with my parents, with my brother, with my friends, and all of us were “playing” even if only one person had the controller. We were all emotionally engaged, aiming at the same goal, which is exactly what a good co-op game feels like. We share in the victories and the defeats, the surprises and delights, and the agonizing frustrations of repeated failure. I will always remember sitting around a flickery blue screen in the basement surrounded by my family, sharing all the wonderful emotions of games with them and uniting around one silly, spinning little hedgehog.”
Thank you again for your time, Chelsea and thanks for stopping by! If you want to know more about Chelsea, you can follow her on Twitter: @ If you want to stay updated on more Gamer Compatible reviews, you can follow us on Twitter: @gamercompatible or on Facebook: @gamercompatible.
Game on! And signing out.