Why the Tony Hawk Games Matter to Me

By Marco Verch (Tony Hawk's Pro Skater HD) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
By Marco Verch (Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0), via Wikimedia Commons
With the recent announcement that Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5 is going to become a reality, our house has been abuzz with, well…let’s say cautious optimism, as well as comments like “they better get the controls right…” Though the Tony Hawk games don’t rule our gaming roost much anymore, they were once kings in our humble abode. I didn’t play the games, but they still affected me and my outlook on games and the people who play them. This I mused over in a post that I wrote a couple years back for Geek Force Network, shared below.


The following article was originally posted on Geek Force Network on August 2, 2013.

The X Games are in full swing this weekend in Los Angeles, and we’re tuning in as we’ve been doing for many a past summer. Though I’m not quite the extreme sports enthusiast that my husband is, I still enjoy watching the amazing output of these amazing athletes. The same notion definitely applies to his long-standing interest in skateboard video games and how much I enjoy watching him play those too. They’ve been THE staple summer games in our house since the release of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater in 1999. Aside from building a few parks here and there, I’ve never actually played one of the games. Even so, this series has probably had more influence over my life than any games that I’ve played.

First off, let’s talk music. This week on my blog, I wrote a post about “End of the World,” a great song by The Living End. I first heard this song on the soundtrack of Tony Hawk’s Underground 2. In preparing for that particular post, I reacquainted myself with the Tony Hawk soundtracks. During this process was reminded of just how absolutely killer they are. More than half of the enjoyment of watching the THPS games was listening to all the fantastic music that accompanied each. They were soundtracks made up of everything from well-known and unknown punk and rock songs (in the beginning) to hip hop and jazz songs (as the games progressed). And though I’m not much of a video game soundtrack aficionado, these particular soundtracks still resonate very strongly with me today. They definitely got me into some crazy good sounds, from Suicidal Tendencies to Atmosphere to the Scissor Sisters. The blend of music from soundtrack to soundtrack both mimicked and enhanced what was happening in the extreme sports culture at the time of each game’s release.

But the Tony Hawk games swayed my life in ways beyond music. In the beginning they were niche games – I didn’t know anyone outside of skateboarders who played them. I had watched the games enough to be able to keep up relatively decent conversations about them. But just meeting these individuals who acted and thought outside of normal societal conventions changed the way I thought about people. They changed the way I perceived the notions of right and wrong. Just being an auxiliary part of this group opened me up to  new and happy experiences (hindsight being 20/20 and all that), which I may never otherwise have had. To them, skateboarding was a means to an end, and they loved the camaraderie and competition that the Tony Hawk games captured so well. To me, skateboarding was a means to a means to an end. It was just one stepping stone on my path to growth and understanding. I’ll admit that I held onto a rather narrow, black and white world view for many years prior. But my husband and his friends and THPS helped me see all the beautiful shades of gray that pepper any one person’s life. We aren’t one-dimensional people, and a skateboarder isn’t simply a person who rides a board.

It goes without saying that video games have impacted our society in ways both known and yet to be discovered. They’ve surely affected me in ways that I may never fully know or understand. All I know is that I can’t see my life without the visuals of THPS — the parks, the skaters, the pirate ship! I can’t imagine not witnessing the joy on my husband’s and his friend’s faces upon playing the newest THPS installment. I can’t envision a time when he and his friends weren’t trying to one-up each other either on the streets or in the latest game. And today, though he’s moved onto the Skate series, watching him and watching the X Games reminds of the journey that got me to where I am today. And the journey is far from over.

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