I'll be honest: I wanted to hate Skate 3. It's so completely not the game for me. I don't enjoy skating games, skaters or skating.
Skating is hard. I tried for three summers to master it and came away with little more than skinned knees and an abiding dislike for the activity. I'd see skaters skating around with their hair flips and long t-shirts and envy them their insouciance. Every ollie, flip and whatever else they're called was like a tiny dagger aimed directly at my skating ability-challenged heart.
So when I got my hands on my very first skating game (probably Tony Hawk 2, although my mind has blanked out the memory) I thought my time had come. If my treacherous, earth-bound feet wouldn't serve to allow me to partake in this wretched sport, my well-trained, dexterous, game-playing hands would finally offer a chance at redemption. Little did I know the game - a videogame, for crying out loud - had been designed with skaters in mind.
I couldn't master the in-game moves any more than I could master them on an actual board. Worse, I could hardly even understand what was being asked of me. To me, a non-skater through and through, the culture of the sport was impenetrable and actively exclusionary. The game didn't want me to enjoy it any more than the flip-haired hooligans thrashing the K-Mart parking lot wanted me to hang around with them.
I could handle being shut out by a sub-culture, a gang of kids or even an actual sport, but by a game. My mind reeled. A scar was formed and my mind lit a tiny, white-hot coal to sear itself with whenever it even considered enjoying skating.
It's not anyone's fault - except mine perhaps - it just is. Skating and I are like Roy and white tigers; if we're in the same room together, one of us is going to get hurt. Until recently I remained confident that whatever it is about skating that makes skaters love to skate would remain beyond my ken. Enter: Skate 3.
When the developers at EA Black Box told me they had designed Skate 3 from the ground up to be welcoming to newcomers while simultaneously ingratiating the hard core, I laughed. Everyone says that and it's never true - except when it is.
I have to admit, that after a few minutes playing Skate 3, I still hating skating and skate games. I fumbled with the controls, struggled to line up a grind and couldn't find the timing for an ollie to save my life. And then, barely a half hour into the game, something clicked; my fingers fell into a rhythm and I was doing it: I was skating. And it was awesome.
One of the difficulties with skating games is there's a lot they have to live up to. People diss sports games, saying they're not as inventive or creative as "real" games, whatever those are, but when you're making a space marine game, there aren't a whole lot of space marines around to tell you how wrong you're doing it. With a sports game, you're presenting something people actually do - which raises the bar a little bit.