Grinding on the names of the Dead in Skate 3
July 1, 2010 § Leave a comment
Skate 3 is in my opinion the greatest skateboarding game since Tony Hawks Pro Skater 3. It’s taken everything that was wrong with the previous two Skate games, fixed them, and made pretty nominal improvements everywhere else. Its unoriginality may have turned off many reviewers around the time of its release, but this approach has lead to exactly the game I wanted, after having gotten caught up on the admittedly minor annoyances of past games.
The problem with Skate 3 however, is that it allows you to skateboard around a war memorial. It allows you to grind along the ledges of monuments which in real life would contain the names of those who died in the first world war, and although it’s likely the names on this fictional structure have nothing to do with any real conflict, the imagery is too important to ignore.
Great lengths are gone to to ensure the connection is made in the minds of every gamer. Even if you miss the place name popping up on screen, it’s obvious enough where you are when the rows of red flowers and bronze plaques come into view. There’s even a gap positioned so that if you choose to, you can jump over the statues of three World War 1 soldiers. The ramp for the gap is provided by an angled memorial introduction, classy.
It’s difficult to understand why Caverton Memorial Gardens have even been included in the game. You could argue that it makes Skate 3’s virtual city more realistic; after all most cities have a war memorial in some form or another. There are however literally hundreds of structures that most cities have in common, and as such there’s no pressing need to include this particular one.
You could of course point towards the hundreds of shooters released every year that turn historical conflicts into gameplay experiences. Why is it acceptable for these games to be physically set within the conflict, whilst it’s not all right to even allude to them in a skateboarding game?
The difference is of course one of tone. Skate 3 is a really fun game, and it never tries to be anything different. Most shooters meanwhile will certainly be fun, but will always carry with them a serious tone which will at the very least make you think of the war as something more than a place to set up a cool skate line.
It’s also important that shooters will use the presence of a real conflict to the benefit of the gameplay. Setting your game as a struggle against the Nazi war machine has a huge benefit to player agency as we know how evil the regime was, and so the game has to do very little to make us want to kill every enemy soldier we come across. Meanwhile I can’t see a single gameplay benefit to having a war memorial in Skate 3. Sure, it’s an excuse to put a load of large concrete structures in the game world, but the most you can do with them is skate along their low ledges. You might as well just include the stone structures without the names of the dead on them, which would have provided exactly the same gameplay opportunities.
EA Black Box certainly didn’t set out to insult people, but they’ve been incredibly naïve including a location in which many believe you shouldn’t even talk loudly, let alone skate. It is an offence in the UK to vandalise a war memorial, and although skateboarding is obviously not the same thing, it comes pretty close in terms of disrespect.
Of course, no one is forcing me to skate around the memorial. If I wanted to, I could spend the entire game avoiding that one area, or put down the game entirely. I won’t though, because the rest of the game is so polished, and fun, and allows so much more creativity than many other games. It does make me uncomfortable though, and it’s definitely something Black Box should have given a second thought to before putting it in the game.