Skateboarding video games are slowly making a comeback, with the Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater franchise rebooting itself quite recently. Although the genre is having another moment in the spotlight, over the years, it has been a rollercoaster ride, characterised by huge peaks followed by dips. Keep reading to learn more about skate culture and its influence on the video gaming industry.
Late 90s and early 00s
In the late 90s and early 00s, skating was at the forefront of the zeitgeist. The grunge clothing of the 90s flowed easily into skating fashion while rap and hip-hop, a popular music genre at the time, seamlessly integrated with skating culture. Many music videos during this time featured skating shots with smoother and faster cuts, influencing kids to buy skateboards and learn skating.
In 1995, the arrival of the X Games created exciting opportunities for skaters and attracted numerous sponsorships. However, the first Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater video game, which debuted in 1999, takes most of the credit. This initial title and the ones following in the series changed the video gaming industry as they acted as a digital ramp for many skaters and marked the entry of skating into the mainstream industry. They introduced thousands of kids to skateboarding and fully immersed them into the skating culture.
Skating and the mainstream industry
After the debut of the Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater games, clothing brands, music videos, video games, TV shows and even soundtracks started incorporating skateboarding culture. For example, Mullen, one of the most influential skaters in history, was a character in Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2. According to sources, Mullen was ready to give up skating when he was asked to appear in the game. This marked the beginning of his career, with many brands approaching him later on for sponsorships and gigs.
TV shows like ‘Jackass’ were only successful thanks to Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater. This TV show featured professional skaters performing skateboarding stunts and pranks. This opened up the rest of the world to skating and helped smash the stereotype of skateboarders at the time. Other professional skaters who were featured in the original Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater video games include:
• Bob Burnquist
• Jamie Thomas
• Chad Muska
• Tony Hawk
• Rune Glifberg
Tony Hawk, who the game is named after, was a popular figure within the skateboarding industry at the time. He agreed to lend his name and involvement to the game’s production to make it a success.
The decline & rise of skate culture
Unfortunately, by the late 00s, skateboarding was on its way out. The 90s kids who bought skateboards and skating video games were no longer bringing in potential skaters. While people still bought video games, none of the subsequent games released ever reached the success of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater. However, in 2020, skateboarding video games made a comeback thanks to the reboot of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater.
Kids that grew up in the 90s skateboarding era are now paying homage to skateboarding, which has also significantly contributed to its rise. Many skateboarding fans are picking up their old boards again after years and remastering skateboard tricks like the Ollie and Kick Turns. While skateboarding games make these tricks look like a breeze, they still take a bit of time to practice in real life.
The mainstream industry is quickly picking up on skating’s comeback, with talented skaters like Leo Baker appearing in music videos doing skating stunts. Cities such as London are witnessing a spike in skate parks and skating fashion is back on-trend. Magazines are also covering young talented skaters such as Tyshawn Jones, who fronts GQ Style. The debut of skateboarding in the Olympics as a sporting event is also evidence that skateboarding is on the rise again. While many might have found it strange to see skateboarding in the Olympics, there were still many who found the debut exciting. With skaters like 14 year-old Sky Brown competing at the Tokyo games, skateboarding is appealing to a whole new generation who are inspired to take up the sport.