The lights are on
Pro Skater is remembered as a classic, but it wasn't always so. Back in 1999,
it was an unknown game from an unheralded PlayStation developer in a genre that
many thought could never be successful. I still recall the first time I saw
of my career at Game Informer have grown a bit hazy over the years, but I was
either an unpaid intern at that time or had just been given a full-time position
as an associate editor. In either case, the Game Informer "offices" back then
were an odd-shaped room of about 15 feet long crammed to the ceiling with all
the editors, piles of video games and promotional materials, and forests of
empty Coke cans. Because we all shared the same space, every time a new game
came in the office, all the editors could easily check it out.
The day that
Tony Hawk arrived, no one was particularly excited about that game. While that
might seem like heresy now, you have to remember the times. Skateboarding games
hadn't been a hot property in gaming for years; you'd have to go back to
old-school titles like Skate or Die!, 720°, and the boarding portion of the
ancient California Games to find decent skateboarding games.
perspective, Tony Hawk's Pro Skater was a licensed game developed by
second-tier studio, Neversoft, which was best known (if it was known at all)
for a middling PlayStation game called Apocalypse that featured goofy
voiceovers from action star Bruce Willis.
checked out the new games in those days, and he dutifully booted up the game to
get a feel for it. This early version of the game contained the now-iconic
first level (Warehouse), and it didn't take long for us to see that Neversoft
had created something special. This was video game skateboarding the likes of
which we hadn't seen before.
began to grasp the complex, fighting-game style combos and learn the grinding
lines, a crowd began to gather around his desk. While it was hardly a
simulation of real skateboarding, the superhuman feats he was able to perform
had us all transfixed. Our attitude of indifference had changed to one of
eagerness; we were soon asking Reiner if we could grab the controller and have
To this day,
it's hard to remember a game that had this kind of impact in the office. For
the next few years, Tony Hawk (and it's excellent early sequels, Tony Hawk's
Pro Skater 2 and 3) became a staple of our outside-the-office gaming. I still
remember the apartment I had in the Uptown neighborhood in Minneapolis where I
spent countless hours trying to perfect half pipe tricks and grind lines.
title made such an impact on us that it won a spot on the cover of Game
Informer. Reiner made the gutsy decision to pull our originally planned cover
in favor of Tony Hawk's Pro Skater. I'll let him tell that story:
"With editor-in-chief Andy McNamara gone on a trip to attend
the PlayStation 2's unveiling in Japan, and no means of communicating with him
at the time, I decided to pull the planned Pokémon Yellow cover story in favor
of Tony Hawk's Pro Skater. We only had a day to make the change and I had to act fast. I thought for sure I was going to get fired for
changing the cover without telling Andy, but on the day he arrived back in the
office, he said I made the right call. Like all of the editors who fell in love
with the game, once Andy saw Pro Skater, he knew this game was destined to be a
Email the author Matt Helgeson, or follow on Twitter, and Game Informer.