photo: tcm-gaming

future “athletes” / photo: tcm-gaming

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.)

photo courtesy of espn & x-games

photo courtesy of espn & x games

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.

Comments

  1. ROTX

    May 10, 2014 5:47 am

    Of course COD in the Xgames is weird, but this article sounds just butthurt.

    Reply
  2. isaiah

    May 10, 2014 2:27 pm

    I just don’t get who’s gonna watch that. I don’t even wanna watch my friends play COD, let alone some random fools I don’t even know

    Reply
  3. asd

    May 10, 2014 8:12 pm

    Make no mistake, e-sports are big and getting bigger. It’s physical* competition for people who are not particularly athletic.

    Think about it like this. Billions of dollars worth of 50-year old dudes watch college football and the NFL every week. Why? Because it reminds them of what they did in their high school and college days. I have no statistics to back up this claim, but it seems reasonable that way more kids nowadays are playing video games than football. Why wouldn’t they crack open a beer and watch a DOTA tournament at the age of 30?

    But yeah, I’m confused about who exactly watches the X-games. I feel like anyone with any interest in skateboarding should figure out pretty quickly how boring and tame it is compared to skate videos and you know, actual skateboarding.

    *Physical in the sense that’s it not mental, e.g. chess.

    Reply
    • fuck

      May 11, 2014 6:34 pm

      Chess doesn’t sell energy drinks

      Reply
    • bowling it

      May 12, 2014 11:17 am

      “I have no statistics to back up this claim” – should have stopped there

      …but I’m 30, and if I want to relive the nostalgia of playing video games I can crack open a beer, fire up the fucking Xbox, Wii or dust off my PS2 and play a fucking video game. It’s not like you need to gather a group of friends, a bunch of gear and find a football field to play Call of Duty. you need an xbox.

      Reply
  4. Crazy Joe Davola

    May 13, 2014 9:50 pm

    I’m stoked on this.

    ATTN EVERYONE: SELL YOUR SKATEBOARDS! SKATEBOARDING IS OVER! GAMING IS THE FUTURE!

    I’m looking forward to seeing skating die in favor of something else. Bring it on!

    Reply