Sometimes I like to watch. Video games, that is.

As a gamer I’ve been a player, but I’ve also been an observer and supporter.  It’s with those latter two roles in mind that I write this post and discuss my experiences with one of my fiancé’s favorite games:  Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater (1999).  (Click here for a great write-up on the Tony Hawk series.)

Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater cover art © Neversoft, Activision, Sony (source)

I met my fiancé a little more than a year before THPS came out, and within weeks of knowing each other, we had established ourselves as two gamers that were destined to be together.  Hahaha…ha..hoo boy…no.  Okay, so it wasn’t all roses and rainbows at first, but we did quickly establish a common ground with video games, which has remained with us, and has probably helped keep us together to some degree over the past many years.  He was also a skateboarder and I, well…I knew about skateboards because we once lived next to a kid with a skateboard.  I tried it and learned to roll down his driveway and fall on my ass.  It was…um…fun?  Yeah, I didn’t know much about skateboarding or its culture.  So in 1999, when my significant other and his friends nearly flipped their collective lids when they heard about THPS, I looked on with a mixture of “that’s cool” and ambivalence.  I could barely picture myself on a skateboard let alone playing a skateboarding game.

Me “skateboarding” or “praying the end comes soon” (source)

And I didn’t play.  But I watched.

On watching video games…  Being able to watch video games is an important and necessary trait among gamers.  I imagine it dates back to arcades and crowding around that one game to watch that one person attain the highest of high scores.  But regularly watching and accepting the notion of watching video games produces, I think, more open-minded, knowledgeable, and curious players.  I doubt I’d have gotten into ME or GTA IV without seeing them played beforehand.

In some cases, spectators are merely cheering onlookers taking in the sights and sounds of the game and prodding the player to achieve.  Other times, spectators serves as extra pairs of eyes, helping the player find things that they might have otherwise missed.  And sometimes, spectators are coaches, guiding the player to proficiency and building their skills.  Major League Gaming might not exist today if we hadn’t crowded around Pac-Man and Galaga back in the day.

Of course, much depends on the game and the players.   Personally, I usually don’t like being watched during a game, but my fiancé doesn’t mind it, so I’ve watched him play countless games that I’d have probably skipped alone and have found most to be generally enjoyable.  Unlike movies, watching a game is never the same twice, so it’s fun going in both knowing and not knowing what to expect.

I’m sure he’s doing something cool. (source)

And I watched him play THPS a lot because for awhile that was all he and his friends played.  I was mostly the cheering onlooker.  I’d never really seen a game like THPS that involved so much precise movement and action, and the graphics were pretty great for the Playstation.  He liked the intuitive controls, the many levels, and that he got to play as famous athletes.  I liked that, for him, the game was pure enjoyment and incredibly fun; and it was interesting to watch he and his friends play almost as competitively as they would if they were actually skateboarding.  But besides the visuals, the one thing from the game that really stuck with me was the soundtrack.

In fact, to this day, Jerry was a Race Car Driver will still pop into my head at the strangest of times.

I like video game music just fine, but the fact that THPS used real songs, and a great bunch of *real songs*, was just fantastic.  THPS didn’t introduce me to the sound of then-sorta-but-not quite-current punk and alternative, but it certainly furthered my interests in the genres.  As he progressed through the THPS series, I enjoyed each soundtrack more than the last. (For another take on the awesomeness of THPS’s soundtrack,. click here.)

In later THPS installments, while I still didn’t play the games, I did become a fairly decent park creator.  THPS 2 introduced a “park editor” feature that allowed players to create their own skateparks.   Early on I had learned that skateboarders see the world in terms of what is and is not skateable.  What I saw as a bunch of park benches and ledges, they saw as a good time.  So my first parks, with pretty looking stuff crammed every which way, were not always playable.  Going to skateparks and learning from my fiancé about what was good and not good to skate helped me become a better creator.  So with THPS 2 and 3, my main role eventually became “assistant park editor.”  Some of them worked and some didn’t.  It was fun to create from “scratch” in a virtual world and watch those creations being used.  I never thought of it as anything less than gaming even though I never took charge of a single THPS character.

Even the chance to play as a girl was not a good enough reason (source)

We still have all the Tony Hawk games – he kept up with the series until Project 8.  But because he’s a good person and an all-around Tony Hawk supporter, he gave Ride a try, on the Wii no less.  Ride made E. T. look Super Metroid.  He gave it the good ol’ college try, but by god that game was downright awful.

He’s since moved on to EA’s Skate series; and just about every day after work, he’ll still play a few rounds of Skate 3 while I’m making dinner.  And on occasion, when I’m waiting for something to roast/boil/stew, I’ll usually take a seat and watch him play.

7 thoughts on “Sometimes I like to watch. Video games, that is.”

  1. I’ve never played any skateboarding games. I tried to ride a skateboard once, but I kept falling off. I sometimes watch people play games, but usually it drives me crazy watching because I want to play. I’ve become a greedy gamer, I guess. As for having people watch me, I used to want people to watch me play, but they kept saying no, and now I’ve become a really private gamer. I don’t want people around during my games. It’s my special alone time. And then if people are around, they laugh at things, and I feel uncomfortable and take it personally when people don’t take my games as serious as I do. Sniff. Don’t laugh at “Zelda”! It’s not funny! Sniff sniff.

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    1. No judging here. You be whatever type of gamer makes you happy and that’s all that matters. I also prefer to be a solitary gamer mainly because I tend to roam and do boring stuff, like buy things in shops and talk to npc’s. It might be because I don’t know where to go next or what I’m doing, but the watchers don’t need to know that and they usually get bored and go away.

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  2. Hey, thanks for the pingback! Awesome to see another lover of THPS’ soundtrack. And, you know, the game. Lord knows I know all too much about watching other people play games.

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    1. You’re welcome! I was so happy to find another post on not only THPS but also its soundtrack! And you have offer a great story besides.

      I think I enjoy watching games more than most movies. Unless it’s a game I want to play – then I have to go back to watching movies until it’s my turn.

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  3. THPS1-3 are some of the best games of all time, with definitely the best soundtracks. I just can’t seem to get into Skate – it’s lacking too much in 30 foot jumps and ridiculous combos

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    1. My better half would agree with you on that. I can’t even begin to count the number of hours he sunk into the first three games. I know he prefers the mechanics of Skate much more now – the Skate series is closer to “real” than the THPS games. We’ve talked about THPS HD, but I’m not sure if he’s getting it.

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