When Ben Mallison was a child in the early 90s in Manchester, England, his favorite video games featured Sonic, a blue hedgehog who wore red-and-white, Michael Jackson-style boots. Ben was a "Blue" -- a hardcore Sonic fan. "I always batted for Sonic over Mario," he remembers. He watched Sonic cartoons. He wore Sonic T-shirts. He carried Sonic pencil cases and backpacks to school. He slept in Sonic pajamas. He owned every Sonic game for the Megadrive -- the game system known in the U.S. as the Sega Genesis -- and its successor, the Sega Saturn. He collected "Sonic the Comic," a biweekly magazine.
Ben and his friends loved trying to solve the mysteries surrounding Sonic. The games were full of Easter eggs and secrets: not only hidden bonus levels, but also art, sounds and even characters that were planned and then discarded. Some Blues went further, unearthing scrapped prototypes and unlocking beta versions of Sonic games. The quest for hidden features was at the center of Sonic fandom.