|Catch the Winter X Games? During
the women's slopestyle competition, one of the riders pulled a double-grab 360. The
announcer hollered, "ding ding ding," and called the trick. It struck me that he
was making a Coolboarders reference. The video games are affecting the sport itself.
Snowboarding is the latest trend in video gaming. Last Christmas season Coolboarders 2 was one of the top-selling PSX games. Currently out are X Games Pro Boarder(PSX & PC), Coolboarders 3(PSX), 1080(N64), and Snowboard Kids(N64). Due out soon are Big Air Snowboarding(PSX), Capcom's Freestyle Boardin' '99(PSX), Snowboard Kids II(N64), AirBoardin' USA(N64). Clearly, there's no shortage of games available, and the demand is as great as ever. So what's the deal?
Well, first off, they're fun. Snowboarding games are like racing games mixed with fighters. You go really fast, dodge obstacles, and oftentimes must beat the other guy down the hill, but you also get to do button combos to pull tricks. From a coordination standpoint, the video game dexterity required is medium to high, and I think this aspect in and of itself draws people into the games.
Then there's the easy obvious explanation: Video games and snowboards are both made for 14-year-old boys. To an extent, I think this reasoning is fairly sound. When I was 14 I thought snowboarding was the coolest thing in the world. Ten years later, I still think snowboarding is damn cool, but it kind of embarrasses me how the industry has its recurring bouts with juvenilia, even though I can't deny that it was exactly that immature "fuckoff" attitude that led to my initial love of the sport. So what? The 14-year-olds are happy, I'm happy, everybody's happy because they can now play good snowboarding games on their systems.
But to say its only teenage and twenty-something males playing these games, indeed to say that these are the only demographics enjoying snowboarding, would be incredibly shortsighted and stereotypical. One of the other aspects of snowboarding that I've always been fond of is the diversity of riders. Snowboarding as a sport officially began in the early 1980s, and within ten years there were notable female snowboarders. A couple of years later the female professional snowboarder emerged, and at resorts nowadays there are plenty of women dragging knuckle. Ben Hinckly is an African-American professional snowboarder, riding in videos and competition less than 20 years after the formation of the sport. How long did it take hockey to get a brother in the league?
This diversity is represented in the video games. There are characters of both genders and all nationalities and ages in Coolboarders 3 alone. X Games Pro Boarder, the only game to feature real professional snowboarders, has three women and five men available for play. The research says that females are not as interested in blood and guts games as males are, and the relative non-violence of snowboarding games therefore appeals to them. I know at least a few women who are really good at Coolboarders 2, 3 and X Games Pro Boarder. I think the snowboarding games really do transcend gender boundaries, presenting the kind of aggression and tension appreciated by both sexes.
Regardless of all else, the fact is that snowboarding is making people money, and lots of it. There's no end in sight for snowboarding video games as long as we keep snatching them up. And if you thought that "alternative" sport games are seasonal, EA Sports is cashing in this summer with Street Sk8ers. I'm intrigued. I haven't seen anything good in the way of skate games since 720.