At 40, professional skateboarder Tony Hawk is still living the adolescent dream -- pulling tricks on his board and making video games. Hawk is working on his 10th game, Adrenaline, due out next fall from Activision.
The Tony Hawk video game series is one of the most popular franchises in the industry, having sold several million copies and generated more than $1 billion in sales since the line was introduced in 1999. The first game, Tony Hawk’s Pro-Skater, was said to revolutionize the extreme sports genre of video games and helped popularize skateboarding as a sport.
Although sales of the game have started to slow, Hawk’s enthusiasm for the sport has not. He still puts in skate time in the half-pipe and is hard at work on the next game.
Last week, we caught up with Hawk as he was re-gifting a fruitcake, of all things. Turns out the San Diego native was raising money through a PayPal charity campaign on Facebook in which members can re-gift a virtual fruitcake or keep it and donate to the Tony Hawk Foundation, which builds skate parks in low-income communities. Here’s an edited transcript of our conversation.
What’s with the fruitcake?
It was an idea PayPal came up with. I felt it was a good way to introduce the Facebook generation to charity. I feel like I’m speaking to a younger generation.
How does it feel to be 40?
I don’t think of it that much. I still do the same things for a living that I did when I was in my 20s. People keep asking me, how long can you keep doing this? It’s a question I’ve gotten for years. There’s a stigma to skating. People think of it as a kid’s sport. People kept telling me I couldn’t possibly make a living out of it. Then they said I couldn’t keep it up in my 30s. And here I am in my 40s, and I’m still improving my skills. The only difference is that I have a baby, and my oldest son is 16. Half the guys competing in the X Games are in their 30s.
Is that a baby I hear in the background?
Yeah, that’s my [6-month-old] daughter Kadence. She’s supposed to be asleep, but she’s not.
Do you still compete?
I stopped competing in 2000. My schedule is freer, and I can spend more time with my family. When you compete, it’s nine months out of the year, every single weekend. I don’t feel I have to prove myself.
How do you feel about the video games?
I really like how they represent skating. I like how they brought skating to a new level. In the past, the only fans of skating were skaters themselves. With the success of our games, people have learned to appreciate the sport without actually skating themselves. That’s crucial to the longevity of our sport.
How realistic are the games? Do they reproduce the feel of actual skating?
It’s as real as you want it to be. All the locations, riders and tricks are there.
The difference is that in real skating you can’t fall off two-story drops and get up and do it again. There are combinations of tricks that you couldn’t do in real life, but that’s what’s fun about it.
There have been many versions of your skating game. Which is your favorite?
To be honest, I always like the latest one because I feel we include the best of all the previous games. But I really enjoy our very first game because it was revolutionary. It created a genre in action sports.
How involved are you creatively in the development of the games?
Since the very first one, I play through every one. The developers send me updates of the game. I have a testing unit so I can play the games as they’re being developed. I give them feedback the same day.
What are you working on now?
We’re working on a new type of game, and I’ve been even more involved in this one than I have been in the last five games. It’s a real departure for us. It’s a whole new direction for us. And it’s going to be way more realistic and way more interactive. I’m really proud of it. I can’t tell you much more about it, except that it will come out in the fall of 2009.
How long have you been skating?
I started skating when I was about 10 years old.
It was in an alleyway. I picked up my brother’s skateboard and stood on it. I started to roll down the alley, and I yelled at my brother asking him how I turn the thing. At the end of the alley, I just jumped off, picked up the board and physically turned it around. That’s how it started.