What is odd about Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 is its double nostalgia — nostalgia for the time I was obsessed over the original games, for this world and also for the world itself — the place before Covid-19 quarantines and pandemic isolation.
The skate the figure of a high-def recreation of the late 1990s shopping mall is bizarre in Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2. Everything is right where you left it 20 years ago : the smashable glass, the empty retail outlets, the bizarre Neutral Art display that seemed for so long like the epitome of consumerist architecture. Und despite the fact that the video game franchise — has looked beyond dead — is all glorious, remastered here — Yet none of this is what makes it seem strange. I don’t see it exactly that way.
What is odd about Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 is its double nostalgia — nostalgia for the time when I obsessed over the original games, for this world, and also for the world itself — the place that existed before Covid-19 quarantines and pandemic isolation. It’s a nostalgia for the very thing THPS takes as its greatest subject, its deepest inspiration and the arduousst desire: freedom to go where and how you want to go.
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When Tony Hawk first presented Pro Skater, in late 1999, it was in a moment where extreme sports—and in particular skateboarding—felt aspirational to a lot of young people, including myself. It was a complicated, difficult skill to learn but not outside the limits of possibility. My brother skated, although not exceptionally well. Many people I knew lived there. All you needed was a board, a little balance, some open concrete or asphalt and practice. No field, organization or support. It felt exciting and within sight a new huge reality just beyond the corner.
And if you could learn, if you could be good, like these famous skaters were good? Sadly, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater and its sequel constituted a larger than life imagining of what that might mean. In these games, every part of the mundane world is bent toward the singular goal of moving faster and better. Each sharp angle is a point to grind out and every notch of elevation is something to jump towards or from. Activision and Neversoft moved away from the typical blueprint of sports games when it came to creating something that sometimes feels more like a platformer, in creating the original games. It’s all about controlling momentum, balance and passing through a certain level in order to get where you want to go and do it in as much style as possible, earning points for tricks and accomplishing a set of discrete goals. These objectives — collecting floating letters on the map, grinding or jumping off of obscure bits of Level Geometry — function as navigational challenges and encourage you to figure out how to get there. Some of them seem impossible when first seen. None of them are. You just have to figure out the answers. Vise it, plot it, make it happen for yourself Like I said I was piratical.
Most likely we have never learned how to skateboard. That sense of independence, that vigoration of mundane spaces, was nothing about Tony Hawk and skateboarding in general that could be taken into normal life. Almost all of the level play takes place in normal places—schools, boardwalks, warehouses—and even though the games do move into some weird, goofy places (like a military base housing aliens or heaven—like, literally, heaven—the game lacks a sense of grounding—the straight line, the sharp curve, the ramp. That grounding then gave real places a dreamy joy. Your school could be a place to conquer if you had the skills and freedom of a skating fan. Architecture became a space of possibility and adventure. I used to look out the window of my mother’s car to imagine how I could cross the obstacles that we saw on the roadside.
Now I’m quarantined for approximately six months, like so many others, from the world that Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 renders with such precision imaginative potential. Probably you are like me in that way and spend most of your time occupying your home and other small, liminal strips of exterior space, maximising security while building a tiny, cloistered world for yourself. This is an important way to protect yourself and others – necessary and wise – But it makes any depiction of the world beyond quarantine feel surreal, impossible in a way that would have been difficult to imagine a year ago. Some theorists define uncanny as being that which was once familiar to us, a part of us removed and as a consequence stranged. In September 2020, the outer world itself seems uncanny.