Gaming Top 5: How Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater influenced gaming

PC World looks back at the skateboarding game that brought the activity into the mainstream

It may be hard now to imagine a time when skateboarding what not well represented in video games, but that was the situation until 1999 when the original Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater came out on the Sony PlayStation. The game may have initially arrived with very little fanfare and media hype, but it soon became a hit with gamers worldwide and was promptly ported to other platforms. With Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater coming out in HD on Xbox Live, the PC World team looks at what impact the game had on release and its legacy.

5. Realism instead of arcadey-ness

The route Sega took with its Top Skater game in 1997 was to take an arcade-style approach to skateboarding, which may have been fine for an arcade setting but would not be as appropriate for a console experience. Understanding this, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater developer Neversoft made sure to make the game a reasonably realistic experience that was respectful to those who skateboarded in real life, while at the same time ensuring that it would be an enjoyable experience for a typical video gamer.

4. Accessible yet challenging

Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater was generally easy to get into and start playing for someone who had never skateboarded in life or had any interest in the sport. While playing American Football and typical sports games usually requires a certain level of knowledge of the rules, anyone could start navigating skate parks and busting tricks in Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater. For those that wanted more depth, the game consisted of numerous challenges of various difficulties to aim for.

3. Appropriate soundtrack

Like many games that make use of licensed music, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater is a time capsule of the time it was released. Artists such as the Dead Kennedys, The Ernies, Even Rude, Goldfinger and Primus litter the soundtrack, providing a raw intensity during gameplay that helps set the scene. The inclusion of “skater rock” into the game was not only appreciate by skaters, but also served as an introduction to a new type of music that gamers may not have been exposed to.

2. A faithful representation of the sport

The level of detail in Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater was impressive for a PlayStation game, more so considering it was a skateboarding game and not a more widely recognised sport. In addition to featuring likenesses of real life skateboarders, the game also included branded skateboarding gear and allowed the player to customise their own skateboard. The locations also featured a solid mix between street and ramp skating, ensuring that both styles of skateboarding were represented.

1. Made skateboarding cool

As an underground sport, one could say that skateboarding has always been “cool,” but the way it was represented in Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater meant that that level of coolness behind the sport would reader a wider and much broader audience. Skateboarders who did the sport in real life appreciated the game, despite the various limitations of the PlayStation hardware, while gamers were able to become a virtual skateboarder and bust impressive tricks without the fear of injury. By far, the long standing legacy of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater is not what it achieved on a technical level, but what it did on a emotional one.

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Patrick Budmar
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