May 26, 2013

Preplay : Tony Hawk's Pro Skater HD

The year is 2000. Blink 182, the Bomfunk MC's and the Bloodhound Gang fill the radiowaves while Johnny Knoxville and his friends set the youth up to no good with their hit show Jackass. I just turned thirteen and I'm sitting in the passenger seat of my dad's car taking in every word of advertisement that's written on the big cardboard box that contains my newest game. After months and months of playing only one level of that game, the day has finally come that I have saved up enough money to buy the full version. I still remember where I bought it. I still remember where we parked. I still remember it being a nice and sunny day and I still remember how I felt while sitting there in that car. This was the day that I bought Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2 and it's a day I will never forget because that was the very first game I bought with my own savings.

The Tony Hawk series was created in 1999 in response to a worldwide revival of skateboarding culture. For many of my friends it was a way to get to know more about the skaters they saw in 
Thrasher Magazine and get familiar with names of tricks.
The game wasn't a realistic depiction of what skateboarding is but seemed to capture the feeling you fantasize about while skateboarding. It was a power fantasy more then a simulation. Kids went out on the streets with their skateboards during the day and played THPS when it got dark out. Their love for the sport translated into a deep passion towards the game.

For me the opposite happened and I like to believe that I'm not alone in this. THPS2 is the reason I bought a skateboard. After only a few days of playing the game I started buying skate magazines. A couple of weeks later my regular shoes had been replaced with ├ęs sneakers and yet another couple of weeks later I was practicing my ollie in front of my house on my own board. Although I only stand on a skateboard on rare occasion nowadays, I still love the feeling of riding one and I would never have known it if it wasn't for THPS2.

I kept playing the THPS games up till 2003's Tony Hawk's Underground. I still liked that game but somehow the magic was gone. I had grown up and my interests had shifted to different things while the THPS franchise had grown greedier and the downfall had begun. In the course of the years the franchise had lost the ability to embody what skating was all about and instead changed its focus to ridiculous story modes, over the top maps and expensive peripherals.

By the time Tony Hawk's Pro Skater HD was announced on the 2011 Spike Video Game Awards show, promising to bring back the best op THPS, THPS2 and THPS3, I had lost all interest in the series and din't even consider picking it up. But only a few months after being released it went on sale on Steam and nostalgia got the better of me. I have played a little bit of it and I remember having a good enough time but I haven't given it enough attention to form a definite opinion. 

I hope the game will be able to bring back some of what I loved about the THPS series when I was younger. I realize a lot of that was formed by zeitgeist and puberty though so I'm not getting my hopes up too high. I know I wont be blown away by this game as I have been by it's predecessors but I do expect it to hit enough of those notes to honor those memories.


Nick Spanhove said...

Well written , the THPS franchise was one of the waves that made gaming bigger than Hollywood. I remember that anyone I knew actually knew this game, even some girls I knew played the game!(But they also played soccer and turned out gay after all :-p )


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