On Teaching “Old Games”: Episode 31 Fallout


Hi all, Matthew here. So today the new episode of Abnormal Mapping went up, and in it we talk about Tony Hawk’s Project 8, a game I experience a lot of frustration about. People on twitter, as people on twitter are wont to do, responded with blanket statements of objection that ‘Tony Hawk is great’. And maybe that was once true, but I felt like Tony Hawk isn’t great now, and we talk about it in the episode. Anyway, I got kind of prickly about the whole thing. Here’s the twitter conversation:

After that, I went to Jackson on Skype and began this conversation about Tony Hawk that evolved into a clarification I feel worth sharing.

Matthew Marko: I’m mad but I’m not sure about what.

Jackson Tyler: I assume it’s just not understanding where what looks like an uncritical consensus comes from when there’s these obvious issues. I bet it just comes out of being frustrated with twitter and folks going NO THE THING IS GOOD or NO THE THING IS BAD. ’cause on the podcast, this discussion went real well without bubbling up like this.

Matthew: Yep. Basically I think not conditionally talking about Tony Hawk the way you would a lot of old games is really unconscionable. It brings up just how frustrated and annoyed I was with the game being obtuse and shitty. Like it’s not a game for humans. It’s for fans of the series. That’s a thing that needs to be included.

Jackson: It not being included meant skate killed the series, on some level

Matthew: Like it’s why when we did FF7 or Link to the Past I spent a lot of time trying to talk both of you through the contexts. Because I knew. And Tony Hawk is old and obscure enough to need that.

Jackson: For sure, but I think that’s why folks are reacting badly to your dissent, and why I go to Mario 2 because that’s a game you love and understand and I just didn’t in the slightest for the longest time, and I think that’s a more comparable situation than you’re giving it credit.

Matthew: I don’t because a lot of Mario 2’s swerves are deliberate whereas Tony Hawk’s are based on audience assumptions. It’s like a late 90s adventure game. Many unspoken rules.

Jackson: Yeah, a late 90s adventure game is a good comparison point.

Matthew: Like Tony Hawk is interesting, but it suffers from the same things that make portal a bad intro to games game. It’s for people with high game literacy, specifically literacy in a single series to boot.

Jackson: This is kinda making me regret not picking an earlier game, because even though Project 8 is to me the right direction that series was going, it’s a really weird one to be the only one you spend time in.

Matthew: Probably, but also I would have played like an hour of TH1-3 instead of the dozen I put into Project 8.

Jackson: Yeah, I mean, even from the start it was designed to be a thing you use and just get used to over time, which, skate exists so TH does only make sense in a very specific era. Because stacked up at that goal against that, it’s abject garbage.

Matthew: But yeah. I dunno. Like I already learned the lesson of ‘gotta bring in a lot of extra work to teach old games’ but like … Games people don’t think of Tony Hawk as old games.

Jackson: Yeah, and that’s probably the deeper issue here is a lack of shared historical context, because historical context is still defined in games mostly by “games I played as a kid” and “games I played when I was older”

Matthew: And like… the more I think about AM as a games podcast for humans, these sorts of points become really important to me. We should put this talk on the website. Podcast postmortem.

And that brings us here. Hopefully that illuminates this discussion a little.

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