(This is an old piece from my minor in writing and rhetoric at Chapman University. Since most of my writing is pretty loose on here, I figured it would be cool to post something that had more structure. I wish I could find the prompt, alas I cannot. I also could not find the grade.)
When posed with the task of writing about a video game culture surrounding the genre of this blog (if you haven’t figured out that its surfing, you should probably stop reading now and go scope the previous blog posts) I was a little concerned. Historically, there have been few surfing video games on consoles and a couple on websites. For a core surf enthusiast, there are only two that stayed relevant for a period of time and were dubbed as “good enough.” These two were Kelly slater pro surfer (2002) and Transworld Surf (2001). Sunny Garcia’s pro surfer is positioned as third relevant, but the point is none of them were extremely successful or complex in gameplay. So, I decided to stay in the sphere of action sports. Now many of the readers of this blog (or just about anyone) would be familiar with the Tony hawk video game series depicting the world of skateboarding. Similar and derived from surfing, I chose to pick a game from this extreme sport, but not the critically acclaimed Tony hawk series.
The tony hawk franchise appealed to almost everybody, in comparison to the more core skateboarding videogames. The main problem with the tony hawk series was the unrealistic aspects of the gameplay. In Tony hawk you can jump off just about anything and stick the landing, grind for thousands of feet, and do many more incredibly unrealistic skateboard stunts. I tie this similarity to the surfing games that came out on consoles. In Kelly slate pro surfer for example, a surfer can kick flip as an aerial. This is out of the realm of normalcy for even the most experienced professional surfers. Just enough aspects of the game gave it the Tony Hawk syndrome, making it appeal to a lot less surfers. On top of this, Kelly slater was before my time, so if I wanted to play it I had to hunt for a PlayStation 2 or an OG Xbox. The amount of people (especially kids) playing video games when it came out was probably far less than current day trends.
So you may be asking, what game will we be dissecting? If you have ever skateboarded for more than a month you would be familiar with the game SKATE 1 2 and 3. A game for core skateboarders, doing tricks required you to simulate foot position or “flick” (for example, a kickflip required you to push the right stick down then up, just as the front foot does in real life when performing a kickflip) and had realistic ceilings to what you could do in the game. I think the “flick” aspect is one of the things that catches people’s attention and makes them enjoy the game even more. If you play the game enough, you still will be able to do things a real skater could dream of, but it still required some skill. On crazy skateboarding video parts on YouTube (like this recent Nyjah Huston part) you see people in the comments comparing his skateboarding to that of SKATE, referencing the crazy tricks he put down in his part.
The flick aspect and overall execution of tricks strikes home for skateboarders, as someone who knows how to skateboard but has never played the game could probably figure out the tricks if they applied it in a way as if they were outside skateboarding and not tapping buttons the controller. This simulated a realism not many action sports video games of the time had been able to accomplish, and that is pulling the strings of someone who practices the sport enough to know the mechanics behind certain tricks. While this is the most basic aspect of the game that allows the person participating to feel like they are skating, there are also plenty of other aspects of the game that alter the reality for better or worse.
The SKATE series depict also what a typical professional athlete life would be like outside of just skating. This includes things like endorsements and sponsorships. Finally a skater can get sponsored by the dream company they have daydreamed about in their high school history class. Whether it’s NikeSB for shoes and Baker skateboard decks, you can have your ideal pick of equipment down to the bearings. Endorsements are when you perform a public event or skate demo to make a company that might not be your sponsor happy. Finally, as far as professional achievement, you can compete and win real contests like the Maloof Money Cup and Xgames. While it is really fun to do all of this, some things in the game I don’t necessarily agree with how they are portrayed.
One big thing is the security aspect involved at certain famous skate spots or in places you wouldn’t particularly skate but have ideal setups for in game movies. An icon is illuminated on the map telling the player they are in a spot with security, and starts blinking when a guard starts chasing you. When the cop catches up to you, you get tackled; reenacting the viral videos of security guards harassing skaters. This reinforces the negative light cops and security guards are painted in the skaters’ eyes.
You can also film your tricks and post them to an online community. This is similar to making a video part or even just a home video to put up on YouTube or show your friends. Players can “work for a trick” like a real pro, and harder tricks require more time and effort. When you finally land the trick, you can pick your angles and edit together footage to post. Some dedicated skate fans recreate their favorite skate video parts.
Overall, the videogame can cast the shroud that you are maybe a successful or at least a better skater than you are in real life. These games make the player feel happy and apart of the experience in becoming their avatar or character. When you pick the shirt your character wears, it makes you feel like them. And when you do tricks the same way, it makes the bond even closer.