The X Games are in full swing this weekend in Los Angeles, and we’re tuning in as we’ve been doing for many a past summer. Though I’m not quite the action sports enthusiast that my husband is, I still enjoy watching the amazing output of the resilient athletes. The same notion definitely applies to his long-standing interest in skateboard video games and how much I enjoy watching him play those too. They’ve been THE staple summer games in our house since the release of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater in 1999. Aside from building a few parks here and there, I’ve never actually played one of the games. Even so, this series has probably had more influence over my life than any games that I’ve played.
First off, let’s talk music. This week on my blog, I wrote a post about “End of the World,” a great song by The Living End. I first heard this song on the soundtrack of Tony Hawk’s Underground 2. In preparing for the post, I reacquainted myself with the Tony Hawk soundtracks — a process that reminded just how absolutely killer they are. More than half of the enjoyment of watching THPS games was listening to all the fantastic music that accompanied each game. They had soundtracks made up of everything from well-known and unknown punk and rock songs to hip hop and jazz songs. And though I’m not much of a video game soundtrack aficionado, these particular soundtracks still resonate very strongly with me today. They definitely got me into some crazy good sounds from Suicidal Tendencies to Atmosphere to the Scissor Sisters. The blend of music from soundtrack to soundtrack both mimicked and enhanced what was happening in the action sports culture at the time of each game’s release.
But the Tony Hawk games swayed my life in ways beyond music. In the beginning, I didn’t know anyone outside of skateboarders — namely my husband and his friends — who played them. I had watched the games enough to be able to keep up relatively decent conversations about them. But just meeting these individuals who acted and thought outside of normal societal conventions changed the way I thought about people. They changed the way I perceived the notions of right and wrong. Simply being an auxiliary part of this group opened me up to happy, new experiences (hindsight being 20/20 and all that), which I may never otherwise have had. To them, skateboarding was a means to an end, and they loved the camaraderie and competition that the Tony Hawk games captured so well. To me, skateboarding was a means to a means to an end. Learning about it and the culture was just one stepping stone on my path to growth and understanding. I’ll admit that I held onto a rather naïve world view for many years prior. But my husband and his friends and THPS helped me see all the beautiful shades of gray that pepper any one person’s life. We aren’t one-dimensional people, and there’s more to skateboarding than just riding a board.
It goes without saying that video games have impacted our society in ways both known and yet to be discovered. They’ve surely affected me in ways that I may never fully know or understand. All I know is that I can’t see my life without the visuals of THPS — the parks, the skaters, the pirate ship! I can’t imagine not witnessing the joy on my husband’s and his friend’s faces upon playing the newest THPS installment. I can’t envision a time when he and his friends weren’t trying to one-up each other either on the streets or in the latest game. And today, though he’s moved onto the Skate series, watching him and watching the X Games reminds of the journey that got me to where I am today.