In a world of "alternative facts," gag orders on scientists, and toxic rhetoric that would've drowned Sonic the Hedgehog in a hot minute, it's worth remembering that a lot of Sega games in the 1990s were really psyched about environmentalism. Colorful characters battled against evil, polluting corporations. Eco-warriors saved the animals. "Good guys" cared deeply about the planet.
And no one batted an eye.
Above: Sonic the Hedgehog 2 Chemical Plant Zone gameplay. Header image courtesy of Sega.
Over at Motherboard, Jason Koebler just wrote a piece about the general popularity of conservation and environmental messages in the hopeful 1990s, and how these themes were very intentional for Sega.
I've been thinking about this game [Awesome Possum] a lot lately because the federal government has just been taken over by an administration that rejects the idea that humanity should take any economically difficult steps to combat global warming. Unlike in Awesome Possum, environmental destruction isn't an explicit goal of humanity, just a side effect of continued global industrialization. But still, a very bad game from 1993 now feels like a crucial text in the canon of dystopian warnings.
Awesome Possum wasn't alone in its radical environmentalism. The Sega Genesis has a slew of games that focus on cleaning up pollution, protecting the environment, and being nice to animals.
"For us it was clearly a conscious decision," Tom Kalinske, the CEO of Sega of America from 1990-1996, told me. "I always allowed the development teams to do what they loved to do, to do what they were passionate about. The guys involved in these games were very much environmentalists."
I remember when it was cool to celebrate earth day, and get excited about the "reduce, reuse, recycle!" mantra. I even remember Captain Planet.
It was, perhaps, a better time to be alive.