Five Things We Learned From Tony Hawk's Pro Skater

By Aaron Matteson in Five Things, Humor, Lists!
Tuesday, June 28, 2011 at 11:00 am


Tony Hawk's Pro Skater -- helping kids do shove-its from the comfort of their homes.

Everybody loved Goldeneye. Its terribly entertaining multiplayer (not to mention a badass single-player mode that included dam jumps and 3D renderings of Sean Bean that pushed the limits of existing technology) transported players to another world -- one of intrigue and excitement and high drama.

Tony Hawk's Pro Skater was another wildly popular game released during the same general time period. As we'll explore later on in the article, it was not a strictly realistic game. But it was closer to home certainly than Goldeneye and many of the other hit games of the time. Often the thirteen and fourteen-year-olds who were doing shove-its in abandoned warehouses in Tony Hawk were spending the remainder of their free time doing actual shove-its in actual abandoned warehouses (though likely with more bailing and hopefully with a little less shattering of glass). Seeing their exploits translated into video game form, seeing their chosen pastime, one that many adults were loathe to acknowledge, elevated to the level of an actual sports game was a fulfilling experience.

But Tony Hawk's Pro Skater wasn't just about awesome music and scoring points.  It was about the human ability to dream.  It was about finding the potential in the ordinary.  And it was about shove-its.  Ollie over the jump to find out more!

1.) There are different levels of realism.


You want real. But do you want REAL real?

Tony Hawk is generally a realistic experience in terms of video games, as we noted in the introduction. Sure, it's about skateboarding at a professional level (the title tells us so!), but most of the levels aren't even about competitions -- they're about skating around a level, exploring, attempting to do tricks, essentially exactly what people do when they skateboard. Yeah, the magical floating letters auspiciously spelling out "SKATE" are not a real-life phenomenon, but in essence it's a realistic deal.

We would actually argue that Tony Hawk is about as realistic as you want a skateboarding game to get. Because if it got any more realistic then about 75% of the gameplay would consist of the player character bailing and then having to run into traffic to prevent his deck from being destroyed by oncoming sedans. An additional 10% of the game would be the player trying to extricate him or herself from various altercations with mall security, parking lot attendants and bored cops (Press "B" to hit them with your deck!  This initiates the popular "arraignment" mini-game). This would leave about 15% of the game remaining for doing shove-its.  Not exactly an ideal experience.


2.) A little imagination can do wonders.


It takes a lot of imagination to come up with this kind of crazy shit.

​Skating and free running (or parkour, or, if we want to go into Bond territory again, "that crazy shit that dude does at the beginning of Casino Royale") are based on essentially the same imaginative leap -- transforming the urban landscape into a canvas upon which the art of motion can be expressed. To the awe, confusion or consternation of bystanders, practitioners of either sport jump, slide, grind or shove-it their way across the modern world. Innovation can take the form not only of how to build higher skyscrapers or faster trains, but of inventing new ways in which we interact with a quickly changing world.

Incidentally, parkour video games are more difficult to find than skating games. The one that springs to mind immediately is Mario 64 ("WHAAA-HAAA").


3.) Discontent can be expressed in many ways.


As a skateboarder, it's your duty to destroy this.  Because, let's be honest, the fucking rollerbladers aren't going to.

​As is noted earlier in this article, Tony Hawk does not allow players to hit cops with their decks, or perform pop shove-its over old ladies having lunch in the park.

But don't think that Tony Hawk fails to capture some of the generation-gap-fueled angst that turned skating from a sport to a full-blown counterculture. Several levels include borderline or full blown acts of hooliganism, most markedly the downtown level, which demands that players destroy several signs which prohibit skating.  It's a small act of vandalism, but still a definite acknowledgement of the undercurrent of rebellion that goes with the territory.


4.) Every adventure starts as only an idea.


The tapes you collect in Tony Hawk the same way you collect stars in Mario games have great meaning. These are, presumably, not VHS copies of Jurassic Park you are collecting (though that would be pretty rad, too; okay, scratch that, maybe they are). These are skating videos, the lifeblood of the community, the proof that certain tricks can be done (like the legendary 630 degree shove-it) or that certain painful groin injuries actually occurred.

Passed between peers and friends in the community, skating tapes were like a physical manifestation of an idea. The idea -- with only a plank with wheels on it and a willingness to grievously injure ourselves, we can have an adventure.


5.) To outsiders, the lingo of a sport can be bewildering, and in some cases, hilarious.


Mr. Hawk, we must assume either directly before or immediately after completing a shove-it.

Did you notice how often the term "shove-it" is used in this article? It's not a coincidence.

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