My Favourite Game
A skateboarding icon recalls video editing on Amigas, and how Super Mario 64 opened his eyes to an opportunity for his sport
Skateboarding icon Tony Hawk talks Amigas and Super Mario 64
Skateboarding is a time-consuming, nigh-on masochistic pursuit. Every successful trick is born from hundreds of failures, and its best are often fuelled by obsessive devotion. But for Tony Hawk, being one of the world’s most enduringly successful skateboarders has left time for other pursuits; time he came to put into Activision’s long-running skating series, which bears his name to this day. Did life as an emerging pro skater in the early ’80s leave time for games? Yes. My introduction to videogames was Pac-Man, and I liked it. But when I discovered Missile Command, that’s when I got really sucked into arcades. From there I got a ColecoVision. Or was it an Intellivision? It was an Intellivision. My dad got the Intellivision because it was cheaper. Then I learned to appreciate computers. My transition from playing videogames to getting into computers was Marble Madness. I got an Amiga based on the fact that you could play Marble Madness on it. And your affection for games spawned a love for computing more broadly? That was it – that gateway opened up the world of computing to me, to home video and nonlinear video editing, and to Video Toaster. That really sent me into a whole new world of technology. But I was playing games all along too. Across every platform, what would you pick as your favourite game? If I would pick one from my own series, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 was the catalyst for having a game franchise, and establishing a genre of skateboarding videogames. That was a very important entry in the series. The soundtrack was stellar and the gameplay was everything THPS1 should have been. And how about outside of the games you’ve been involved in? Picking a game from all through the years? That’s difficult. Probably Super Mario 64. That really introduced me to the potential of 3D games. I thought Mario 64 was brilliant. Jumping into paintings? All the different challenges? I was stuck there immediately. Is it fair to say Super Mario 64 had an influence on the Tony Hawk games? Yes, that was a great introduction to that type of 3D motion in games. I didn’t play Doom or the other firstperson shooters when I was growing up. Well, I was already grown up, I guess. Anyway, Mario 64 showed me that you could make something 3D that was fun and that wasn’t just about shooting things. You’ve just seen off Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5. What was the approach to the game’s direction? Obviously, we’re going back to roots, as the THPS title suggests. We wanted that kind of gameplay, and to recapture the control scheme, the challenges and the big-scoring trick combos. But bringing a new online element to it is something to make it more relevant to today’s culture. How have you been involved in THPS5? Previously my role had been about being authentic to skating, and keeping the roster, tricks and locations more true to what skaters would expect. That remains part of my job, but this time it has been more about being true to the original series, and to keep it authentic. And that’s because I am one of the only ones working on the game that worked on the original series. The series has been with you a long time. How important are those games to your experience of skateboarding? It changed my life significantly in terms of my recognition factor, and income and opportunities. But in terms of being a skateboarder I feel it opened up an audience to skateboarding that maybe would’ve never recognised it before. It inspired some people to start [skating], and I think it inspired an appreciation from others.
“I thought Mario 64 was brilliant. All the different challenges? I was stuck there immediately”
And why return to that early era of the series’ history? There had been a lot of chatter through the years about the fans wanting a THPS title. And it seemed like so many were going back to the original two games, and people were buying PlayStations just so they could play them. I felt like it was a request for the feel of [the Pro Skater] series. I had been pushing Activision for years to do that kind of thing. THPS HD was a step in that direction, but I knew there was something more to it.