Skater Auteur

In my other life as a professional skateboarder in Skate 3 I’ve been pretty busy. Other than doing some wonderful skating, I’ve had to keep an eye on my company’s image. That means shooting great video, wearing great clothes, and, more than anything else, making sure that photos of myself and my team look just right.

Seriously, that’s a really significant part of Skate 3 in my mind – not in an intrusive way, but just in an “allowed to be important” way, which is lovely. In short, Skate 3 is a surprisingly aesthetically-oriented game, even putting aside the balletic wonders of the skating itself.

A commonly occurring event in the game is needing to pull off some particular move in order to get a photo in a magazine. So you spent your time feverishly trying to pull off the actual move and then, with practice (and some light swearing), you get it. But the show’s not over, because then you get some options to tweak the photo itself before it goes in the magazine. The control’s you’re offered are fairly basic (pan, zoom, saturation, brightness, along with choosing the specific frame to use), but remarkably expressive.

For me, personally, this has led to very strong feelings about my company’s image (we’re called “Teamwork”, for the record). Our photos, under my careful editing, are based around highly saturated, abstract images of skateboarding. Wherever possibly, I aim to emphasize abstract shapes over any glamorizing of the actual skateboarder or trick. Better still, because I’m given complete editorial control over the shoot, the magazine will publish whatever I ultimately choose. At times I even take photos where the skateboarder, purportedly the subject of the shoot, isn’t actually visible. Sometimes I hide him behind the magazine’s name, for instance – I like to think of it as an implied skater, something for the readers to think about instead of swallow whole.

Even more artistically expressive than the trick-based shoots are when you just get to take advertising shots for you team – for billboards or magazines. Here you get to place the camera and then tell it when to shoot. Presumably the implication is that you get a shot of your skater doing something extremely rad, but you don’t have to do that. Instead, I’ve tended to take more moody, art-house shots. A closeup of a hand holding a skateboard, say, or two feet standing in a gutter. And there’s something deeply satisfying about seeing those kinds of images on my billboards for all the city to see.

Skate 3 allows you not just the glory of seeing yourself on magazine covers and billboards (which is a whole other thing, and deeply fulfilling also), but to actually art direct your in-game image to a much higher degree than most games do. Because a substantial component of the game is about projecting your team’s image inside the game itself, you’re given tools of expression and can quickly find ways to use them in non-obvious, or at least non-encouraged ways. Just as with its core gameplay, Skate 3 gives you tools rather than directives, and gives you an impressive amount of freedom to make something.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I have rails to grind.

13 January 2011
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