Two deck-ades of Tony Hawk

The reason why everywhere I go I think about grinding things.

I bought Rage Against the Machine’s “The Battle of Los Angeles” because of Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2. “Guerilla Radio” was, for me, the standout track on an excellent soundtrack, though thanks to censorship I had no idea exactly what it was that Zach and co. were imploring me to turn up until I spun that CD.

Turns out it was "that shit".

Anyroad, the Birdman's venerable shred-'em-up series from Neversoft turned twenty at the weekend, and it's difficult to think of a long-running series that's had such a significant effect on me. I knew it was the start of something beautiful when I played the demo of the original Tony Hawk's Skateboarding more than I played most full games. The series grew along with me, adding manuals, reverts, spine transfers, acid drops and Natas spins as it progressed through, 2, 3, 4, Underground, Underground 2. It was never a series that simulated skateboarding – not really – but every new addition moved it further and further into the riotous wide-open quasi-platform game.

Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2 on Game Boy Color, because you already know what the big boy version looks like.

I thought it was great. I still do. Many bemoaned the series’ gradual Jackassification, culminating in Bam Margera’s co-starring role in THUG 2, but I loved it because I loved Jackass. Along with that embracing of a very marketable counterculture came a freewheeling spirit that preceding games lacked. The timed challenges that comprised most of the series’ content were largely eschewed from the main game, relegated to a totally separate Classic Mode (which was itself remarkably full-featured). Instead, you were given a list of “goals” and the freedom to achieve them as you saw fit. The individual levels were like miniature sandboxes full of tantalising targets and hidden content. The loose, whatever-you-feel-like play style actually calls to mind Super Mario Odyssey with its discrete areas full to the brim with obscured challenges.

The rather excellent Tony Hawk's American Sk8land on Nintendo DS.

The best thing about the THPS series is that even when you’re not tangibly aiming to complete something, it’s still fun to play. The clever, intricate combo system and extremely granular controls are simply a pleasure to master. It staggers me that such an enjoyable franchise was allowed to fall by the wayside, but even a yearly series of stunning quality will eventually burn out. I think I’d have been happy with them for the remainder of recorded time, but the games industry doesn’t revolve around what I want. That’s why you can’t buy Alfred Chicken Legacy Collection on Switch.

Once, in high school, a girl I liked came over to me and took off my headphones to see what I was listening to on my portable CD player. She handed them back to me and said "You know what, Stu? My respect for you has actually gone up."

It was the Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3 soundtrack CD.

Thank you, Tony, for making me cool exactly once.