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December 11, 2011 / jwaxo

Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater (Real Soundtracks)

“So here I am…”

There’s a certain meme out there on the internet where you post a single picture of this game and a single line from a song on its soundtrack. Immediately, anyone who sees the picture and accompanying line and has played the game will start singing along. This is because playing games while listening to music will irreparably twin those–

Oh, right. Already done that. Well, let’s keep on that same topic, then, and briefly go over the revelation that real people actually make those soundtracks.

The game I’m talking about is Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, a truly revolutionary video game in that it brought extreme sports to the video game conscious.

Back, a long time ago, there was this thing called “skateboarding.” I guess people still do it; I’ve seen some high schoolers bopping along on their skateboards. But, for a while, they seemed like the ultimately awesome thing to be good at; all of the cool kids “skated”, the less-cool kids “bladed”, both of them argued about which should be called “skating”, and some third group did neither and were a lot less cool. Maybe they didn’t skate because they couldn’t afford a good board, or maybe they both didn’t think it was a good means of transportation nor a good means of doing tricks, or may be they just could never get the hang of it.

Probably that last one, actually.

My brother was huge into skating. By “huge” I mean he certainly seemed obsessed with it, and even owned more than a few boards. He taught me the lingo: trucks, grip, goofy, ollie. And though I didn’t skate myself, due in part to complete fear and lack of good balance, I was a pretty big expert on the sport. We watched the X-Games with their main inception, made really poorly put-together quarter pipes, and neglected to wear our helmets unless our parents were around.

In part of my brother’s love of skating, he brought home Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater one fall day.

I’m not sure if you’re aware, but that game changed the face of extreme sports. Of course, it wasn’t the first extreme sports game, and not even the first one that was mostly point-based: there was a flurry of snowboarding games, and, heck, even SkiFree counts as a predecessor. But THPS combined all of the same elements into one massively popular package. The difficulty of tricks; the time limit; the lack of other race elements, instead focusing on exploration and several different goals. There were a few downhill skating segments, but they didn’t rely on speed for their interesting moments. It was a whole new game.

Our own attempts at downhill runs are best left uncommented on.

And the one thing that tied it all together, that one element that I’ve brought up time and time again, was the soundtrack.

I can safely say that Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater was the first game I had ever played with actual bands that contributed to the soundtrack. Sure, I had encountered movies that did the same thing–Godzilla being the one that stands out the most, with Foo Fighters, Green Day, basically anyone important back in the late 90’s contributing. But a video game that did it was strange and new. It wasn’t some sweet score, orchestral pieces changed into a musical chipset to loop forever in my head. Instead it was actual bands, actual punk rock bands that you might hear on the radio, playing over and over.

The idea that this could even be done was pretty mindblowing, for some reason.

I still remember the exact circumstances that it hit me. One song on the track, a very specific one, by ska punk band Goldfinger, faded out sometime in the third verse like it always did, as my brother was in the middle of a particularly good run, and I complained that the songs ended before they sounded like they were finished.

“That’s where it ends. It totally does, right there,” he said. “My friend has this album.”

“You can get these songs on album?” I asked, incredulous.

It was a whole new world. A world where real bands could contribute single songs to other works to make them better, greater. Not just movies, not just compilation albums (I’m looking at you, NOW: That’s What I Call Music!), but to art that I actually cared about.

Of course, I was definitely right that the songs included in THPS were cut short, but in arguments with your brother, might makes right.

As you can see, he was clearly correct.

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