Five Valuable Life Lessons I Learnt From Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater
**I originally wrote this in 2015 for another website which has since closed down, so I thought I’d republish it here – Enjoy!**
Last week Activision announced that the 5th edition of classic Playstation series - and best skateboarding game in the universe - Tony Hawk's Pro Skater, would be released later this year.
I am ridiculously excited. I have been a massive fan of the series ever since the first game's release in 1999 and have racked up hundreds of hours on the first three titles.
I loved all of it. From perfecting gravity-defying tricks to beat the computer in skate competitions, collecting random objects like videotapes and spray cans across huge (at the time) levels in a just-about-doable amount of time, to "graffiti mode": a frantic and occasionally brutal 2-player battle to 'tag' the most ramps and rails with your chosen colour. On top of all that, it had an epic soundtrack.
It was difficult, but not complicated. It was silly, but not cute. Best of all, it was cool. It was everything the 14 year old me wanted to distract myself from the awfulness of real teenage life.
But the game has taught me more than how to grind across helicopter blades and ollie over sleeping homeless men. In fact, Tony Hawk's Pro Skater taught me some valuable life lessons.
Real life is disappointing
It's a common problem with a lot of games, but after playing this game for a while you start to feel like you could actually be good at Skateboarding. Like really, really good. It's like when you binge-watch every episode of Orange is the New Black in a day and end up convinced that you wouldn't mind going to prison for a bit.
Of course, I borrowed my older brother's board and attempted to ollie up some steps and grind down the handrail, maybe with a little kickflip to finish it off. You know, start off small.
Turns out, skateboarding is fucking hard.
Practice makes perfect
No, I didn't practice really hard until I was the best boarder in East Anglia. That would involve a lot of physical effort, and I was not, and never have been, the sporty type.
But damn, I got good at that game.
It's testament to the brilliance of the game that it managed to keep me entertained for the best part of a year. My attention span is normally about the length of an episode of Coronation Street.
Regardless, whatever urged me to play the game until was 100% complete also taught me about perseverance, patience, and that quitting and re-starting the level after 5 seconds because you bailed on your first trick was totally okay, and all part of the learning process.
Boys are rubbish
Despite being terrible at actual, real-life skateboarding, I still liked watching it. The games came out at the time when skateboarding was the cool thing for teenage boys to do (apart from drinking). Being a teenage girl, I happened to really liked teenage boys. And a teenage boy with a skateboard = hot.
Armed with my advanced knowledge of skateboarding trivia, I couldn't wait to hang out with the cool boys and watch them effortlessly pull off tricks that I knew the names of. They were boys - they had to be better at it than me, right?
(14 year old Kate had not heard of feminism at this point)
But teenage boys also suck at skateboarding. And so they should. It's really fucking hard. My heart broke when I realised that not even real Tony Hawk is as good at skateboarding as I was in pixel form. Yes, boys looked hot in their baggy jeans with a skateboard under their arm, but utterly sad when repeatedly failing to even ollie up a tiny kerb. Also, teenage boys don't care how much skateboarding knowledge you have. They only care about seeing your boobs. This was just the start of many years of being bitterly disappointed by boys.
But, it wasn't all doom and gloom...
I could be just as good as the boys
You didn't need to be a boarder to be good at THPS. You didn't even need to know anything about skateboarding, just how to push buttons in a certain way very quickly. This might sound obvious, but if you're anything like me and have played plenty of computer games, but still remain perplexed by football games like FIFA and PES, then you know my struggle.
As I mentioned above, my brother was briefly on board (sorry) the skateboarding wagon and we would often play THPS in 2-player mode against each other. It was probably the most evenly matched competition we could ever hope to have. Every single match was a new opportunity to out-trick my brother, and 50% of the time I did.
He was a boy, he was three years older than me, but I could regularly beat him at a game that would more than likely have been classed as a 'boys' game. But I never saw Tony Hawk's as a boys game. It was just an awesome game that I was awesome at.
Now I work in a predominantly male-dominated industry and from time to time it can be tough, but I know that if I can be good at a 'boys' computer game, I can be good in their real life games too.
I still got it. And it's not all about boobs.
Recently, 16 years post-Hawk, my boyfriend mentioned that he had THPS2 on his Playstation. After I'd finished squealing with glee and demanding he immediately load it up so I could play, he sat and watched me smash through the first few levels with weird a mixture of pride, awe and fascination that I'd never previously been afforded.
It might just be a silly game, and I know I'm good at a ton of other things, but it's nice to be reminded that boys can still be impressed by things that aren't boobs.
Well, the non-teenage ones anyway.