An exuberant, incisive look at how Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater transformed a culture
Going from a hobby toy for surfers to an Olympic sport, skateboarding has had a tumultuous history. Today, professional skateboarders land endorsement deals with Nike and Adidas, while popular television series like HBO’s Betty tell the stories of diverse crews of skaters living in New York City. So how did a fledgling subculture rise from its near-death knell in the ’90s to become ubiquitous today? It was simply a matter of finding the right messenger.
In 1999, the bestselling video game Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater was released, and a new generation was exposed to skateboarding culture right in their very own homes. Kids and adults alike could now spend hours playing as actual skateboarders, learning the vernacular, listening to the music skateboarders loved, and having fun onscreen before trying to skate IRL in the driveway.
Right, Down + Circle explores how a video game starring the most famous pro skater in the world brought skateboarding culture — and its ever-shifting markers of music, subversion, and coolness — to the masses and ultimately transformed the culture it borrowed from in the process.
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Cole Nowicki is a Vancouver-based writer, producer, publisher, and lifelong skateboarder. He was a columnist for King Skateboard Magazine, lead writer for the acclaimed skateboarding documentary series Post Radical, and writes the skateboarding and pop-culture newsletter Simple Magic. His freelance work has appeared in The Walrus, Vice, Maisonneuve, and more.
Published: September 2023
Dimensions: 4.75 x 7 in.
“Cole Nowicki's Right, Down + Circle is a lightning speed time machine held together with grip tape and wallet chains. It immediately transports to an era of CD collections, ripped band tees, and sibling video game rivalry. Nowicki recounts the cultural alchemy that launched Tony Hawk's Pro Skater to global ubiquity and charts its influence right up to the present day. A wholesome joyride full of delightful trivia.” — Sarah Berman, author of Don’t Call It a Cult
“As one of the people whose life changed forever the first time I picked up a PlayStation controller, Right, Down + Circle perfectly captures how it felt to witness a subculture becoming an inescapable phenomenon. Nowicki deftly follows the trails left by the urethane wheels of skateboarding and how it would change video games, music, and culture as we know it. Written with a familiar and vivid lived experience, Right, Down + Circle charts how Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater changed those of us who felt like outsiders as we tried to find ourselves on the digital and concrete pavements of the streets that raised us.” — Niko Stratis, culture writer
“By turns panoramic and personal, Right, Down + Circle is a sharp, lucid, and vital reminder that the value of any game is how it teaches us and gives us permission to play.” — Kyle Beachy, author of The Most Fun Thing
“With incisive and heartfelt writing, Cole Nowicki unlocks the source code of the massively influential cultural phenomenon that is Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, and finds wonderful Easter-eggs of meaning within. Even non-skaters will be wowed by this examination of youth, community, risk, and authenticity and gain a new appreciation of skateboarding’s massive influence upon our larger culture. This is my new favorite book about skateboarding, which isn’t really about skateboarding — it’s about everything.” — Michael Christie, author of the novels Greenwood and If I Fall, If I Die
“Cole Nowicki nails the thrill and mystique of playing Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater — yes, the fun of playing, but also the absolutely serious stuff of providing refuge. This is a tender tribute to a fragile time, a frontside 360 ollie that feels like a hug.” — Elamin Abdelmahmoud, author of Son of Elsewhere