I cannot, for the life of me, offer a sound explanation as to why I ever owned Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater. I only had a handful of video games and limited interest in them; skateboarding was a hobby relegated to the cool boys at my elementary school; and the only previous exposure I ever had to this game was in a hotel room during Spring Break one year. But for motivations that remain unclear—did I want to impress a boy?—by age 10 I found myself wasting away hours in front of my television screen, controlling a line of code to grind on poles in an underground warehouse and perform indy nosebones through an abandoned mall while Suicidal Tendencies screamed “I HAVE CYCO VISION!” in the background.
Moments ago, I called my parents, hoping that they’d fork up some story about purchasing the game for me, or a memory of me playing it. As it turns out, my dad has no memory of me owning Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater in the first place. Meanwhile, my mom asked, “Were you into skateboarding?” I reminded her that I’ve never even been able to balance on a skateboard. “Well,” she started. “I remember that you were good at that little game!” Thanks, mom.
The first Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater game was released on August 31, 1999. I’ll never know why I owned it, but in the 20 years since its inception, I’ve half-jokingly credited the series’ soundtracks to making me a baby punk (as early 2000s pre-teen standards go).
By 2001, pop-punk had already burrowed a Mark Hoppus-shaped hole in my 10-year-old brain. The accessible, mainstreamed fare—Blink 182, Green Day—were already planting formative seeds that would sprout into a passion for punk music that I’ve held to this day. But unbeknownst to me at the time, Tony Hawk Pro-Skater’s soundtrack, filled with Dead Kennedys, The Vandals, and Suicidal Tendencies, assured a solid punk foundation on which to build.
There is no other reason why I would have been exposed to those bands at that age. I’m the daughter of black baby boomers from the south. The only dead Kennedys they knew were named Jack and Bobby.
After listening to the soundtrack again today in honor of its 20-year anniversary, I can announce that I agree with our sister site Kotaku: It still holds up and is such a fun blast of nostalgia. And I’ve deduced that The Dead Kennedy’s “Police Truck” is the best song on the soundtrack. Unfortunately, the most memorable song is arguably “Superman” by Goldfinger, a ska song that is the absolute epitome of a tweet I once read that described ska as “what plays in a 13-year-old kid’s head when he gets extra mozzarella sticks.” Since we’re all supposed to find our ska phases endlessly embarrassing (I sure do!), it pains me to admit that nearly 20 years later, I still remember every fucking word.
The next and only other Tony Hawk’s Pro-Skater game I owned was the fourth one, which I received as a 12th birthday present along with a PlayStation 2. The game had progressed since its first iteration: I could play as a woman (my own character, who I bestowed with massive boobs) and the soundtrack offered some of my earliest exposure to The Distillers (a woman-fronted punk band that defined my early teens) and The Sex Pistols (well, The Sex Pistols).
After I wore out the cheat codes on Tony Hawk’s Pro-Skater 4, I never bought another video game in my life, and to this day Tony Hawk’s Pro-Skater is the only video game I know how to play. But I still have the soundtracks of both games memorized from start to finish and can safely say they were paramount to my musical awakening, bad ska and all.