Video Games

Posted: 2020-11-29 in Uncategorized

Like so many other 30somethings, one of my first exposures to skateboarding was through the Tony Hawk Pro Skater videogame series. The 90’s were a pretty magical time with things like the X Games bringing extreme sports to television on a regular basis; videogames like 2Xtreme and Cool Boarders making extreme sports simulations attainable as a playable feature; and the whole World Industries domination of skateboarding as portrayed in the movie The Man Who Souled The World, talking about how Steve Rocco usurped the whole-ass industry. Big Brother magazine gave way to Jackass on TV, which was tangentially related to Viva La Bam and the Camp Kill Yourself series, which spawned a band. Everything was exciting, high-flying, dramatic, and most importantly, EXXXTREME!

The Tony Hawk Pro Skater series captured the essence of the exiting, extreme, high-flying drama in a way that earlier games hadn’t. You could watch the X Games on TV, then go play as those skaters in a video game, and the game *felt* like you were controlling characters on the TV broadcast. To this day, over 20 years later, the Warehouse level still feels exciting – smashing the glass, rolling down the big hill, then doing a sick grab and getting the “Over The Pipe” and “Secret Room” gaps while grabbing the hidden VHS tape in the secret room. THPS2 introduced combos; building up massive lines by doing reverts into manuals and carrying on without bailing. THPS3 introduced flatland tricks, giving you time to rack up more points while manualling. By THPS4 and Tony Hawk’s Underground (THUG), a mechanic was introduced to get off of your board, and an element of free-roam was introduced as a storyline.

The point is, though, that each of these progressions felt epic. The climactic trick in THUG, for instance, was doing a trick over a helicopter. Ridiculous, sure, but words cannot describe how amazing that sequence felt as a player! Then, Activision stuck with that formula for a while, releasing THUG 2, Tony Hawk’s American Wasteland, and a few other games.

Out of the wings, Electronic Arts debuted the Skate series in the mid 2000’s. Focusing instead on realism and being a true skateboarding simulator, Skate gave the player precise control on tricks. It was no longer just tapping “X” to do an ollie, you had to move the analog joysticks in a certain way back and forth to have your character move his feet to do an ollie in the game. You couldn’t just hit Circle and do a grab, you had to manipulate your character’s arms. You couldn’t just hit Square to do a flip trick, you had to use both joysticks while in the air to move each foot individually. This amount of control was, once again, revolutionary.

While the Tony Hawk series was aimed at synthesizing the extravagance and spectacle of extreme sports, Skate was aimed at putting the player in the game. There are reasons that people who actually ride skateboards are drawn to the Skate series: It feels less fantastic, and more real.

With all that being said, I miss the extreme over-the-top feeling of the Tony Hawk series. While I can truly appreciate the real feel of the Skate series, and it is incredibly satisfying to play, there was just something about jumping over a helicopter or flying totally over a halfpipe.

I dunno…I recently got into playing Rocket League and got to appreciating the feel of high-flying aerial maneuvers, and missing the feel of that in skateboard games.

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