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To celebrate the release of Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1+2, we spoke with skateboarding legend Eric Koston. Having been in the series from its very beginning, It's safe to say these games had a big impact on Eric's life, elevating him to a new level of fame within the public consciousness.
Below is our full conversation with Eric, talking about his career, the world of skateboarding, and, of course, video games.
GAMINGbible: How would you describe the impact of the Tony Hawk's Pro Skater series on your life?
Eric Koston: There was a big change in what I was used to as like the 'professional skateboarder fan base'. It was just skateboarders back then. When the game came out, that all changed and it became anyone who played the game, which was kind of surreal. People who didn't seem like skateboarders would actually come up to me or recognise me in different places. They would be looking at me, and I would feel that. Then they come up to you and be like, "Yeah, I play with you on the game", and that was very strange. *laughs* It was really cool, you know, because it can be at random and it could be kind of anyone.
Do you have a favourite THPS game?
Two was the one I actually played the most. I would just go play School (II) and just skate around, just session, you know? I would go to Leap of Faith and pull tricks down that, all these ridiculous tricks that could never ever do for real. That and also technical stuff with grind tricks down that rail. Like, there's no way in hell that you could ever do that in real life. *laughs*
There's been an increase in people learning to skate during the pandemic. Does skateboarding feel more relevant now?
It's still growing, getting bigger. It's even in the Olympics now. There's a whole new generation. Thinking about playing that first game, there are those people who are parents now and maybe got their kids into skateboarding, and so on. Now there's a whole new generation. I feel like it still seems to be booming. During this weird time for the world - almost shutting down - it's still doing well, and I think that's happening a lot with any sort of outdoor activity. We're actually selling more boards than ever during this pandemic.
You've been a part of some huge video game franchises. Would you call yourself a gamer?
Unfortunately no. I'm not totally against it. There's times where all my friends are playing other games or they're playing together and I do get FOMO a bit, but I just don't have the time. I have an eight year old and 11 year old and they're definitely already starting to get interested in gaming though.
Do you think your kids will play as your character in the game?
They'll probably play as another character *laughs*
In your opinion, how close do skateboarding games feel to the real thing, in terms of satisfaction when playing?
It does feel a lot like the real thing. It's very satisfying. It's obviously exaggerated because it's more exciting to look at something or do a trick on a video game when the rails like 40 stairs long compared to nine. Even for me, it's fun because I'm playing a video game and I want it to be a bit exaggerated, a little bit out there. The fact is some of these tricks can happen in the real world, but maybe not as glorified as in a video game, but that's what the video games are for.
What advice do you have for anybody learning to skate?
There's a few things I tell people. The simplest thing is I ask them if they really like it a lot because to be able to learn tricks and progress with skateboarding is a hard thing to force compared to traditional sports. Having said that, it is similar to that: it's a game of repetition, you know? You have to try and try until you finally get something. You're training your muscles to understand what each trick is, until it becomes instinct over time. It's not like you can just flip a switch and get a trick.
Another thing I ask people is 'Are you okay with slamming hard on the ground?', because sometimes that's a real shock to people. That can catch people off guard and really kind of scar them mentally. I have friends who used to skate back in the day and they'll be like, 'Let me jump on your board!', then they slam onto their hip and are completely shocked, and I'm like, 'you haven't skated in like 15-20 years!'. It takes a while to get back into it. You just gotta love it and you got to be okay with taking a hit.
What would you say is the highlight of your career so far?
It's not like specific contests that I've won or things like that. I feel there's a lot of things, even the little ones like learning certain tricks, but I feel like the real highlight is maybe when I was able to buy my first house. I was like, 'Wow, this has got me this far', you know? Skateboarding got me to this point.
When I was way younger, I didn't even think about it. Early on when I turned pro, it paid very little money. Tony (Hawk) was there, he'll still vouch for that. I remember when he was starting Birdhouse (Skateboards) when he was maybe in his mid-20s. He thought he was done, you know? He's like, 'I got to start a company'. He had just had kids. He had to start figuring out what to do. That was back in an era where you hit your mid-20s and that was the end of being a professional. Tony showed you that was not the case. You can actually keep going if you stick with it. It was a very small industry where everyone was having fun, and you'd do just enough to get by and keep doing what you love.
Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1 + 2 - Remastered hits PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC on September 4th.
Featured Image Credit: Activision / PA Images
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