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How ‘Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater’ raised the bar for an underground sport

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It’s about how a protective subculture opened up to survive, how an easygoing skater named Tony Hawk became the proto-influencer for millennials, how an impossibly cool soundtrack introduced SoCal punk to the world, and how a video game changed the art of skateboarding forever.

The underdog story of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater isn’t just about the success of an extreme sports game. It’s about how a protective subculture opened up to survive, how an easygoing skater named Tony Hawk became the proto-influencer for millennials, how an impossibly cool soundtrack introduced SoCal punk to the world, and how a video game changed the art of skateboarding forever.

“Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater introduced kids to a new art form,” director Ludvig Gür tells Inverse.

Pretending I’m a Superman, a new documentary releasing August 18 on VOD, chronicles the rise and fall of the touchstone video game series Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater. True to its title, the games made it easy to feel like a professional skater.

Consequently, gamers-turned-skaters innovated tricks deemed impossible in Hawk’s time, pushing the boundaries of the sport. As told by the documentary’s subjects, including Rodney Mullen, Bob Burnquist, Chad Muska, and Elissa Steamer, the video game franchise showed kids what was possible on a skateboard, even if no skater ever matched it IRL.

A young filmmaker from Sweden, Ludvig Gür is also and attributes his adoption of the sport to Pro Skater.

“It allowed us to see the sport as something else,” he says. “The game opened up kids’ imaginations. The first trick I ever tried was Rodney Mullen stuff [I did in the game]. Seeing skateboarding in a video game inspires you to think outside the box.”

“When you see someone do something, it becomes possible in your mind,” says Ralph D’Amato, producer of the Tony Hawk series at Neversoft from 1999 to 2007. “At the time, there weren’t a lot of combo flip tricks. They’re now doing tricks the game inspired them to try.”

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