BREAKING NEWS: the X Games are including Call of Duty in this year’s events. Really.
But think about it for just a second. Duh. Of COURSE they’re including video games. It all makes sense. What is skateboarding anyway but merchandising? The entire economy of skateboarding is endorsement deals and branded product. The industry perennially freaks about blank boards because blank boards aren’t branded. They aren’t targeted at an audience. They just are.
The X Games are also merchandising. Whether it’s awful video games (think I forgot about you like everyone else did, X Games Skateboarding?), finger boards or X-treme children’s clothing, the X Games is a great big advertisement, disguised as “action sports.”
Skateboarding is as popular as ever, so where do they go next? They already race big-ass trucks and do motorcycle jumps that make Evel Knievel look like a big dumb baby. The next step in X-treme can’t be judged on difficulty or life-risking-itude. Why not simulated war?
”Skateboarding is as popular as ever, so where do they go next?…Why not simulated war?”
They won’t put parkour or freerunning or whatever they call it now in there – skateboarders, in their infinite wisdom and intelligence would say, “that’s gay” and skip it. They won’t bring back rollerblading (sorry, “aggressive inline”) because… well, re-read the first sentence in this paragraph. Scootering? Not a chance in hell. Soap Shoes? Do kids today even remember those? But skateboarders, BMXers, moto-crossers, canyon-jumpers and pretty much everyone else is down with Call of Duty.
(An aside: when I was a little kid, we called poop “doody,” so the phrase “Call of Duty” always makes me giggle.)
When you brand yourself as the center of all things X-treme, you paint yourself into a corner. X-treme is a relative term. Skateboarding is X-treme because in the 1990s, Kids was a lot of peoples’ reference point. If they saw Thrashin’ or Gleaming the Cube, they still saw gang fights and some wicked X-treme stunts people just don’t do in football, baseball or most other sports as key plot points. Skateboarding was the punk kids getting into trouble. That’s not the case any more.
Skateboarding is sanitized and ready for primetime. So what’s the next level of X-treme? I’m honestly surprised they haven’t wedged mixed martial arts into the X Games yet. I’m sure it’s in the works.
In another 10 years, will we have last-man-standing halfpipe battles? Lava pits under the megaramp? Death Race 2000 on the Super Truck course? Jousting?
”After all, what’s more X-treme than killing someone?”
TV audiences aren’t quite there (yet). But putting Call of Duty into the mix opens some new doors. After all, what’s more X-treme than killing someone? It’s not like it’s never been a thing, either. Human history is full of Roman gladiators fighting lions, pistols at dawn, matadors fighting bulls, American Gladiators fighting Laser and Turbo …the list goes on. Are we heading toward X Games 2035: Running Man on a Skateboard?
The real takeaway from this, however, is simple. It requires no deep thought. This is the first time in a very long time I’ve thought at all about the X Games, save for the occasional disparaging reference. The X Games are irrelevant to skateboarding. At best a sideshow, at worst an accidental self-parody.
They’re like clear griptape: it still exists because SOMEONE out there, who knows who exactly, still buys it. And kids, that’s how professional video gaming became X-treme.