Since retiring from professional skateboarding, Tony Hawk has not been resting on his laurels. He runs a successful skate company, Birdhouse, rolls out his huge HuckJam Tour across America every year, looks after his three kids and helps shift the Tony Hawk's Pro Skater series by the million. He is living proof that career and passion can go hand in hand. We caught up with him at London's Ladbroke Grove Skate Park as he was preparing to show the locals how he earned his place in skateboarding history.
How's the game tour going so far?
Tony Hawk: It's going well. The good thing is we've had a really good reception to the game so it's not like I have to sit here and convince people that it's good. People are excited to see the new project and it's not like they're coming to me and asking 'Why are you doing a new game?' So it's cool.
Tony Hawk's American Wasteland is the seventh Hawk's title. How does it feel to have one of the very few gaming franchises that have managed to continue to be both a critical and commercial success?
Tony Hawk: I'm really proud. I'm proud of my game; I'm proud that it invented a new genre of videogames. I feel like we really step it up each year to justify a new title; we don't just throw in some new levels, new tricks and a couple of new fixes and then that's it. We always have some advancement in the technology that makes it that much better and this one is no exception. Los Angeles is this one giant landscape and we're no longer looking at a lot of small levels with loading times in-between. You can literally skate from one end of the city to the other without stopping, through Beverly Hills, Hollywood, Santa Monica... and we've got bikes in this game too, so we're on a winner.
How do you feel about the BMX sections? Did you want them in from the start?
Tony Hawk: Yeah. We came up with a really original control scheme, and with Mat Hoffman not doing games anymore we really wanted to control that element because a lot of stuff I do includes BMX, like my tours and a lot of the performances I do. And I'm friends with a lot of those guys - Mat Hoffman, Rick Thorne... I felt justified to include them. And maybe we can generate interest in that genre again which will allow them to release another game.
What are your favourite segments of the new game?
Tony Hawk: Oh man... if I had to choose just one section it would be Beverly Hills. Skating through all the ritzy shops by grinding wall ledges and stuff like that. As for the challenges of the game, I'd go for Tony Trujillo's because they are exciting and original, and I really like that style of skating.
The punk scene features heavily in Tony Hawk's American Wasteland. Was punk
music a part of your childhood?
Tony Hawk: Oh yeah. Punk music was always playing in the skate parks I went to - it was part of our culture - so it was important to put that into our games. Especially with this one, with us bringing so many punk bands into it for the soundtrack. It's reintroducing that era to kids today, to the new generation, who may not have discovered it otherwise. So kids who love My Chemical Romance will now know who The Misfits are.
Did you think the first game would lead to all this years on?
Tony Hawk: No, not at all. I honestly thought when we created our first game that it'd be something skaters would appreciate and maybe inspire them to buy a games console. I also thought it might allow gamers to discover, and appreciate, skating. We were concerned it might be too much of a niche, and it would be hard to get the word out, but the response was huge. After the second and third game they'd raised the bar so much I didn't know where it'd go.