A Million Tricks

We did tricks worth a million points back then“ says the Tekken-Pro next to me, holding the Dual Shock controller. He does not talk about his favourite fighting game though; he talks Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater. At that time in 1999, he spent days and night with his PlayStation to find the longes grind routes, the highest airs and the best gaps. Over twenty years later we again swap the controller back and forth to prove that we still bring it while playing the remake of that skateboarding sports game that actually is not a sports game at all.

If you stood on a skateboard once you know the conundrum that comes with the complexity of elegance. Balance, speed, turning, doing an ollie? It looks so easy what the other kids do and it is so hard do master. The transition to that video game that is named after a famous skateboarder, at least replaces the learning curve of basics with button presses. It might not have much to do with real skateboarding anymore, but thanks nonetheless. Who wants to spend hours just to hold balance on a virtual board?

Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater and its successor shine in other areas. Music, characters, setting, colours, brands and attitudes all sparkle the vibe of an oh-so-cool skating milieu. Demigods on wheels, far too tough for school or for refraining from vandalism. Well, it is supposed to be fun, exaggerration is part of the deal.

Yes, it probably was this radical portion of coolness and “maturity” that brought attention and maybe even fame to that game. Its measurable success and its status as a videogaming milestone on the other hand is based on a fascinating mix of genre concepts that only truly becomes visible after decades in which gaming genres got more and more differentiated.

Two minutes. That is the interval in which the controller goes to my skate partner and back. One hundred and twenty seconds to gather five letters, reach 100,000 points, to find the hidden tape – or to do everything at once. We do roll forth automatically but without timed jumps, precise steering and level knowledge we go nowhere. That makes Tony Hawk’s core to a platformer, a collectathon, a micro-open-world, a speedrun game and due to the learning and repeating of tricky input combinations to a close relative of fighting games, that on this matter are actually nothing but high speed chess.

Two decades ago we neither had these names nor a widespread selection of respective installments. Of course, there are still mixes of genres, but each woven in sub genre is automatically held against its archetype. Back then we maybe were green enough to just welcome this colourful offering and enjoy it. Back then development was most likely rather free from thoroughly defined concepts and that might be the reason why the remake of this old game is a refreshing highlight in contrast to many modern titles.

Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater‘s charm lies in its wonderful naivity where each part wants to spread fun and satisfaction. Me and my couch-coop-partner are rejoicing over finally managing that viciously large gap over the rooftops in the Downtown level. Now and then, the band Goldfinger provides us with the lyrics that express this feeling so congenially:


From “Superman” by Goldfinger

By the way: the developers decided to show realistically aged versions of the virtual skater crew. That is probably less for the reason of realism but more an acknowledging humbleness towards life and changes as such. And why not. Nobody needs ageism. Old gentlemen in quarantine do agree.

Tony Hawk’s began as Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater in 1999, a second and third installment in 2000 and 2001 on Sony’s PlayStation, all developed by Neversoft, who later got bought by Activision. The quality of numerous further parts (among those a sublime adaption for the Game Boy Advance) was mixed and often disappointing with the official fifth part in 2015 as an all-time low. This year Vicarious Vision, who were already responsible for the makeover of the Crash Bandicoot Trilogy, got their hands on part one and two, which turned out to be a very successful operation.

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