EA: I Want to Play S-K-A-T-E

EA: I Want to Play S-K-A-T-E

The game of “Skate” is to skateboarding as to what “Pig” is to basketball. In basketball, players challenge one another to make trick shots while sinking the ball in the net. The person who doesn’t make their shot earns letters. The goal is to not spell out the word “P-I-G”, having the first person to do so be the loser of the game. In a similar fashion, the game of “Skate” challenges your skateboarding kin to land consecutively performed tricks. This might sound easy, but as someone who still skateboards on a regular basis, the pressure of landing something flawlessly, and often times with less than encouraging words from onlookers, often leaves pressure to be the deciding factor.

Losing at a game of “Skate” can be ego-damaging. But, the thing that happens after winning, well—you’ve earned it. I’m talking about the bragging rights, the cred. You may have not been able to land a ‘kickflip’ three weeks ago against Steve, but now you can even switch-flip with ease. This is what comes with perfecting your craft, becoming better than the competition.

Even early on, EA managed to capture the reality of skateboarding.
Even early on, EA managed to capture the reality of skateboarding.

Skate Does What Tony Hawk Don’t

If you look at the history of skateboarding games, the name ‘Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater’ is usually the first to come to mind. It housed plenty of quirky, arcade-style abilities, some of which included grinding helicopter blades and skitching cars. There really wasn’t any real competitor to come to market with something eye-catching. That was, until EA expanded its market presence with a newly introduced franchise simply titled Skate.

Skate returns skateboarding games to their roots: sick tricks and DIY fun. Use your right analog stick to jump, flip kick, and pull off other tricks while skating around a fully-realized city.
Skate Official Site

Much like the simplicity in the name, Skate stripped a lot of the excess from what skateboarding games had become. One of the main features also brought us in closer to the character being played, delivering what we’d see if we were holding the camera in a trick video.

I’m Ready for My Close-Up

Honestly, the first time I picked up EA’s rendition of skateboarding, I was nauseated. I couldn’t get over the close proximity of the camera to your character, often creating a jerky feeling when making smaller turns. However, after getting used to the panning, things started to just flow. The focus was now placed on the skater rather than all of the other obstructions and general noise. This is something that the Tony Hawk series started to rely on, creating more faux, supplemental landscape to real geographic locations.

The emphasis in Skate is vastly different from that in the Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater series. Skate was born out of necessity. Sure, there was a lot of glitz and glam in THPS, but over time, the series couldn’t continue cashing in on the arcade style. Skate, on the other hand—err—foot–stripped away all of the excess glamour. The result, Skate “nearly” outsold Tony Hawk’s Underground 2-to-1 during its initial launch.

I went on to play the next releases in the Skate franchise. I also, halfheartedly, played some of the Tony Hawk titles, skipping out on ‘Shred. Much like the rally for excitement for these types of games, skateboarding in general has become a vastly different landscape. Even with companies, like the most recent Fallen Footwear, vacating the space, there’s still fans out there that want to see/play another EA Skate title. And, considering Electronic Arts’ tumultuous past, why not just give the fans what they want?

If you develop it, they will come

One of the biggest hindrances foreseeable for delivering on a new Skate game is the closing of EA Black Box. This was the studio behind the titles, having Scott Blackwood, a resident veteran at EA, at the reigns of development. The studio closed in 2013, also having Blackwood to move on to pursuing other ventures in the gaming industry. Undoubtedly, this provides more ammo for the debate of EA’s hand in the closure of studios, but it isn’t clear the real reason for Blackwood’s departure nor the true reason the studio close. It is rumored that the studio was working on a Miss Universe pageant game prior to being shut down. So, maybe that played a role in it.

Right now is also the perfect time. The Tony Hawk series has yet to really replicate its early successes. I was really excited for the HD remakes of the game to come to the Xbox 360. And, after being given the opportunity to review it upon release, I wasn’t too thrilled with the experiences. There were more problems than smooth gameplay, mostly due to an awfully broken physics (my previously captured gameplay) engine.

While there is no doubt a void where EA Black Box used to be, there doesn’t seem like a really, really, really good reason why the ginormous developer and publisher cannot deliver. Even with the shortcomings for some in games like Star Wars: Battlefront, there have been good things happening in games like Plants vs. Zombies 2. EA oversees development for these titles and the most important thing to bring them to fruition: money.

But, there is something else out there that is more powerful than the money a company has. That important aspect is the loyal customers that are willing to open their wallets to pay said money. If you browse any one of the many social media sites for Electronic Arts, you will see an outcry for Skate 4 to happen. Although I haven’t participated, I can’t help but get excited at the “what if” of it all. You might see these posts as trolls, but, if a large number of people were responding online to your social media posts, begging for one thing in particular, why would you not deliver it to them?

Now, if you don’t mind me, I think I’m going to go Skate.

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