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April 8, 2012 / jwaxo

Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 (Downloads)

Alternate subtitles for this post: “Patience”, “Begging”, “Getting Away With Things”.

The original Tony Hawk game did a lot for the young me, getting me actually interested in an extreme sport, started me watching the X-Games with my brother, and introduced me to some sweet punk-rock music. It was unforgiving at times, and I didn’t get to play it that much due to the fact my brother didn’t have nearly as much fun watching me wipe out over and over and over again as I did. And, as the game was for his Playstation, I was forced to sit back and merely observe as he beat the game over and over with each separate skater.

What I rather desperately wanted was the same game, but on my own home turf: the PC. So I began scouring the internet, one slowly-loading page at a time, for such a thing.

Of course, the idea of a game being released for multiple platforms was, at the time, pretty ridiculous. The closest that had ever happened was the two Aladdin games that came out for the SNES and Genesis, both of which we had tried at friends’ houses and found were actually completely different games. But I had hope on my side, and the power of the internet.

The belief in the internet in our house was frightening, at best. It started with a simple AOL membership, from which my mom introduced me to the downloadable games library and warned us about something frightening called “chatrooms.” These brief glimpses of the amazing internet superhighway caused fantasies fueled on by the few clips of the thematic predecessors to The Matrix I had seen.

“I’m sure the internet will be just like this in a few years.”

By 2000 we had assuredly moved on to a classy 56k modem and a more straight-laced browser than the pathetic AOL could afford us, but it still was as slow as heck and still tied up our phone line whenever we needed to so much as check the weather. We once waited three hours for a minute-long trailer for some forgettable sci-fi movie to load in a memorably horrible moment.

So you have to understand, when I went out looking for a PC version of Tony Hawk, there was no way of knowing what I would find. It was completely uncharted territory.

Of course, as you can guess, I did find word that the sequel to Tony Hawk was going to come out for Windows. I even found a website hosting one of those things that I loved so much: a demo.

It was 27 megabytes.

Now, I have no idea how 56k modems actually work. Supposedly they can download up to 56 kilobits per second. The important thing is to notice the “up to” in that description; ideally this would mean I could get my demo in 9 minutes, maybe 8 if I was lucky.

The estimated download time that good old Internet Explorer 5 told me was 4 hours and 2 minutes. 4 hours and 25 minutes. 4 hours and 56 minutes.

Surely, it will come soon.

With one phone line available, a 5-hour wait was just impossible. My parents would never let it fly. Not for a stupid computer game, and especially with a phone company that billed by the minute.

I begged. I cajoled. I reasoned. I left the browser open to the right page and told my parents all they had to do was connect to the internet and click “Go” before going to bed. The entire thing would download before they even woke up, and I would get up extra-early to shut off the internet. I would be happy, they would be happy, everyone would be happy.

After the rejection, I did it anyway. I woke up at an absolutely ungodly hour (12:30 am), snuck downstairs, and booted the computer and modem up. I had saved the location in my bookmarks so, heart pounding that nobody would be hearing me, I connected, and I downloaded. I considered sneaking back up to my bedroom, waiting out the inevitable scream of fury at my discovery, but instead sat at the desk, reading books and watching the progress bar tick along. Eventually, after truly hours of waiting and a lot of scares and fantasies of being torn to shreds by my parents, I had the game saved to my desktop. I shut down the computer and snuck back upstairs.

No one was the wiser. But I probably had about five heart attacks that night in fear of being caught, and barely even played the demo afterwards for fear that someone would ask how I got it. I had learned my lesson: sometimes getting what you want isn’t worth the stress of potentially being caught.

There’s some sort of subtle irony here, since my brother was kind of sneaking out every night around that time, mostly consequence-free.

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