Here’s a short tale about love and skateboards.
It’s also a little bit about the value of nostalgia but we’ll come to that in a short while.
Back in 2001 I’d used a vast chunk of the first installment of my student loan cheque to buy a Playstation 2. This wasn’t the brightest idea in retrospect. The first night I brought it home I hooked it up in the shared living room and we played Gran Turismo 3 until late on. Upon deciding it perhaps wasn’t a good idea to keep an electrical device I’d bought near anybody drinking beer I moved it into my room where it took pride of place below the 14 inch Sony TV I had at the time.
One evening my girlfriend was round and she asked me to teach her how to play a video game. She’d had a Master System and a Mega Drive when she was growing up but had never got into games the way I had. I asked which she wanted to play, she said any would do. It doesn’t sound like the most romantic of things I know but I appreciated her efforts to get involved with her boyfriend’s (sometimes quite anti social) interests. We settled on Tony Hawk Pro Skater 3 because it was easy to get into initially but more parts of the game opened up through practice. She soon took to it completely, skating around the Foundry level in an attempt to find the secret tape. We kept playing it together on a fairly regular basis from then on. My girlfriend became my wife, we’ve been together 14 years. Pro Skater 3 holds a special place in my heart because of that.
Now for the value of nostalgia bit.
Activision recently announced that the art style has changed for the upcoming remake/reboot/sequel Tony Hawk Pro Skater 5. After a good few years of trying to get involved with peripherals and motion control, all with pretty much no success whatsoever, following up with mothballing the series for a few years so we could all forget about the horror Activision have brought back Pro Skater. Instead of coming with a gimmick this time they promised it would be back to basics, a simplified score attack game just like the good old days. Activision hoped that feeling we all got with the first few games in the series would mean we’d let this one have a clean break.
They weren’t prepared for the initial reaction to screengrabs though. Pro Skater 5 looked like it had been made quickly, on demand, with somebody whipping the developers across the wrists each time they put some originality into it or updated something for modern tastes. We were supposed to take this new game into our hearts and welcome it back like an old friend. It was looking like being as welcome as a phonecall in the middle of the night.
Changing the game with only a month or so to go until release is risky at best and retail suicide at worst. Activision are desperate to dress this up as something from the good old days. They want me to spend money on this thinking I’ll get back that feeling from the student bedroom of 2001 teaching my girlfriend how to manual. They want my feelings of nostalgia to be greater than any kind of negative thought towards this game. They’re willing to do anything to make it like the good old days and it isn’t really happening.
I don’t often like to predict the future but I reckon Pro Skater 5 (which as we all know isn’t the fifth in the series by a long stretch) will still come out because it’s got too much riding on it to be cancelled now but it will arrive to a tepid welcome. It’ll sell a few copies but nowhere near enough for Activision to ride the tidal wave of cash to the bank like they did before making Pro Skater the unofficial Jackass simulator it became. Pro Skater and I had some good times but there’s no going back now.