Remember Tony Hawk?
Of course you do. Not only does Hawk have almost supernatural skills on a skateboard, but he's arguably the first person who turned super-celebrity largely because of a video game.
Sure, people skateboarded before Hawk, and they even made a living out of rolling around empty swimming pools and down wooden ramps before Hawk pulled his first Airwalk-to-Fakie. But it was Tony Hawk's "Pro Skater" that launched both Hawk's career and the sport of skateboarding into the wide-open world of popular culture. Since 1999, kids haven't needed to crack open a copy of Thrasher magazine to learn the ins and outs of the ollie, kickflip or rail grind.
While no one was looking, Tony Hawk's video game made skateboarding into more than a fringe sport dominated by juvenile delinquents in Southern California.
But, while gamers were happily button-mashing their way through the more impossible feats in the Hawk series, EA was quietly working to return the pastime to the nitty-gritty of a pair of shoes, a board, trucks, wheels and a pile of physical skills.
With a game sedately named "Skate," EA hopes it has reinvented the skateboard game from the controls up.
The Hawk games built their reputation on arcane button combos that turned virtual skateboarding into something like piloting the space shuttle. Sure, you could grind down an impossible 100 yards of railing, if only you could remember the right sequence in which to skate toward, hop up, stay balanced and jump off.
In "Skate," most of the manipulation takes place with a flick of the left or right control stick. Pull the stick back to crouch, and then snap it forward to ollie your board into the air. Reverse the process to nollie. Complete a sharp hook maneuver with the stick to execute a shove-it. Buttons help you power-slide and push off. Triggers execute grabs, coupled with joystick-motion effect tweaks. Not only does "Skate" teach you to twiddle joystick controls; it also schools you in the diverse vocabulary of skateboarding culture and style.
Here "Skate" connects back to the Hawk legacy. Skateboarding has always been as much about expression as physical skill. As you zip out into the suburban wilds on your board, "Skate" lets you feel for a moment that you really know how to ride.
Who's It For: If you've ever ridden on a skateboard, or just thought it would be fun, "Skate" provides a safe environment to pull tricks like a pro.
If You Like This, Try That: Stacy Peralta's documentary Dogtown and Z-Boys remains the benchmark for skateboarding inspiration. Detailing the invention and rise of the modern skateboard culture, it makes you feel the thrill of sweeping down a SoCal street on a classic deck.
Best Part: "Skate" allows players to record particularly spectacular performances and then upload the results to a "Skate" website for the world to see. Whether they show jaw-dropping tricks or bone-breaking crashes, the videos on the "Skate" site provide both bragging rights and inspiration. See for yourself at http://www.ea.com/skate.