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Last Updated:  Wednesday, 26 February, 2003, 10:08 GMT
Tony Hawk scales new heights
Alfred Hermida
By Alfred Hermida
BBC News Online technology staff

The pro skate boarder Tony Hawk has transcended his sport to become a pop culture superstar, thanks to the phenomenal success of a series of video games in his name.

Tony Hawk in action
Hawk officially retired from competition in 2000
Since going on sale on in 1999, the Pro Skater series has become one of the most popular games of all time, with more than 10 million copies sold worldwide.

Hawk licenses his name, likeness and expertise to the games company Activision.

"I work on them all through the development process and give ideas for locations, tricks and riders," he says in his southern Californian drawl.

"I play it every step of the way and make sure it represents skateboarding well."

The games have helped to take Hawk beyond the world of skateboarding and turn him into an idol for millions of adolescent gamers.

He has become such an icon that he has been immortalised in The Simpsons' historic 300th episode, where he skated against Homer.

Lucrative games

Hawk admits he has been surprised by the appeal of the Pro Skater games, which is now in its fourth incarnation.

The video gaming community is very fickle so they are not going to just buy it because some name is attached to it
Tony Hawk
"It's been awesome," he says. "I have always been into video games and there have only been a few skating games through history so I ate them up.

"I was really happy to finally help develop one because I knew there was more potential in it.

"I never thought it would go to number four though. I just thought it would be something that skaters appreciated and then it would be over," he says.

The games have also proved a lucrative sideline for the 33-year-old, who has been described as the most famous alternative athlete of all time.

Nowadays, he regularly commands up to $25,000 for a skating appearance and has reportedly earned $10m in each of the last two years.

He owns several companies through which he markets clothes, shoes, skateboards, events and even a remote-control action figure.

Talking to fans

Hawk officially retired from competition in 2000, after a career during which he created 85 new tricks.

Screengrab from Pro Skater 4
Pro Skater games have sold millions
Despite his celebrity status, he comes across as unassuming and down to earth. And he tries to keep in touch with his fans, answering the 3,000 e-mails he gets a month.

With such a fan base, any game in his name would undoubtedly have been a bestseller.

But Hawk denies that the success of the Pro Skater games is just down to having a celebrity tie-in.

"The video gaming community is very fickle so they are not going to just buy it because some name is attached to it," he says.

"It might work one time, but the fact is we keep making it much better and always challenging. It is not just about the names involved but that does give it authenticity."

More acceptance

So far, four games have been released under the Pro Skater franchise but Hawk feels there is still more he can offer and is working on the next title.

"There is still more to explore," he says. "As the consoles develop, the games will develop."

And the next title could pose more of a challenge for gamers who have mastered the Pro Skater series.

"We're throwing around ideas right now, thinking of getting a deeper career mode," he explains, "something that represents building your skills and getting a sponsor and not just been a pro right away."

Hawk, who started skateboarding when he was nine and turned pro at 14, believes the games have helped raise the profile of the alternative sport.

"It has brought skateboarding to a new light, more recognition, more acceptance," he says. "Kids are getting good at it because they play the game."




SEE ALSO:
Video games without frontiers
31 Jan 03 |  Technology
Think tanks for gamers
10 Feb 03 |  dot life
Computer games start thinking
09 Sep 02 |  dot life
Gaming comes of age
17 Dec 02 |  Technology



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