The popularity of skateboarding has always come in peaks and troughs, but it has maintained an unprecedented level of popularity since the 1990s. At this time, hip-hop culture integrated itself into the skateboarding world, bringing a more sleek aesthetic into the culture that has given it greater visibility around the world. If you’re interested in learning more about skating video games and how one of the world’s most popular skateboarders influenced the gaming industry, then read on to find out more!
Where did it start?
The X Games is undoubtedly a big part of this rise in popularity, but a lot of credit must also go to the series of video games endorsed by (or based on) Tony Hawk. They first appeared on the PlayStation in 1999 and served as a gateway for new skaters. They brought this underground culture into the mainstream and it has now even become an Olympic sport.
The culture is about more than just kickflips and spins; impressionable kids have also learnt about clothes brands and the names of skating legends through Tony Hawk games, and the soundtracks incorporated everything from metal to punk rock to hip-hop. Games like Pro Skater 1 + 2, American Wasteland and Underground introduced skateboarding culture to the world, right on people’s games consoles, and the impact has been huge.
Rodney Mullen is widely regarded as one of the most influential skaters in history, and players could play as him in Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2. Hawk brought him in right at a point in his career when he was considering retiring, offering him the opportunity to appear in the game. The result was that more people than ever turned up at Mullen’s subsequent tour and his success was catapulted to new highs.
In the words of Mullen himself, quoted by The Guardian: “When [Pro Skater 2] came out, not only did it blow up the existing community…it also brought an awareness…to outsiders.” Things like slang and the dress sense of skaters began seeping into mainstream culture and this was something that has never happened before. People knew about names like Bob Burnquist, Kareem Campbell and Rune Gilfberg, and began wearing apparel from the likes of Seasons, CITYSTARS, Autonomy, Flip and Blind.
These were names that appeared in the games, and people quickly started learning that they were awesome. Stereotypes were smashed and young people who would go on to become some of the world’s best skaters discovered the culture for the first time.
Why did it have such a huge impact?
From a gaming perspective, nothing quite like the Tony Hawk skating games had been done before. For some, it was the ancestor of the most popular Grand Theft Auto games – players could walk around in a gritty open world, discovering objectives and unlocking new spaces. The ambience evolved as the series progressed and new Tony Hawk games were made, reproducing iconic skateparks and creating a world based on skateboard culture that players simply couldn’t get enough of.
The music helped immerse people in this fantasy world, while the presence of popular skaters and the best skateboards and apparel lent authenticity to it. Great care and attention was paid to ensure the jumps and tricks were realistic and challenging, and incredibly satisfying to pull off.
Defining an era
Tony Hawk video games played a big role in defining the late 1990s. Baggy jeans and skate pumps were everywhere, and rock music was experiencing a golden age. Incorporating other music cultures into that helped it grow and further encapsulate that moment, bringing in a generation of teen gamers who have never quite forgotten the magic of Tony Hawk’s superb games.
Even Tony Hawk’s own skate brand, Birdhouse, was influential in the skate scene and even appeared as unlockable apparel items in Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2. According to this skateboard brand guide from Slick Willie’s, Birdhouse is one of the top skating brands out there as well as Santa Cruz, Baker, and many more.
Whether you were most drawn to the gameplay, the aesthetic, the capturing of skate culture, the soundtrack or something else, it is no surprise that Tony Hawk video games have been such a phenomenon. The culture is still going strong and there is a lot of demand for the fashion and musical scene it is closely associated with.