There hasn’t really been a worthwhile skateboarding video game in the last decade, but that’s about to change, as multiple titles are about to shoot their shot at becoming a worthy successor to the THPS and Skate series.
It’s literally anyone’s game, but the Easy Day Studios team behind Skater XL is especially confident they’ve got the goods. According to their marketing director, Jeff Goforth, “it could go toe-to-toe with any skateboarding game that is a leader past, present, or future. It brings excitement to the genre as a whole.”
Made by a team of skaters, Skater XL is a physics-driven game where players control the board in real-time. No canned trick animations, you can mob your kickflips like the Gonz or karate-kick your heelflips like Neen, it’s all up to your thumbs and how you flick the sticks.
When a early access version of Skater XL was released on Steam, a passionate community naturally came together around the project, helping tinker with the game to make it bigger and better.
As the full-console release comes up on the 28th, we wanted to dip our toes into the “fake skate” world to get a sense of how they’re shaping the future of the Skater XL gaming experience.
NEW MEMBER LOGIN
If you’re unfamiliar with “fake skate,” it’s an online community of gamers obsessed with skateboarding games, going back to the Skate days. As skate games became less about finding secret tapes and more focused on online multiplayer modes, the “fake skate” community spawned organically. They chat, film, and edit virtual skate videos, sharing them around to hype each other up.
During the early stages of Skater XL for PC, a flood of YouTubers, streamers, and crews had already started cranking out skate videos. When I last checked their Discord servers, one channel, FakeSkateXL, had nearly 3,000 members, while SXL MODDING, another channel, was close to 100,000 members.
During this early access period, XLers provided developers a ton of feedback, with some of their suggestions actually getting incorporated into the upcoming release. The fake skate community emulates the deep and bustling IRL industry and even has its own Steve Rocco, a user online described to me as the “90s World Industries of fake skate.”
“[Skater XL] has its own Steve Rocco, a user described to me as the ’90s World Industries of fake skate.'”
Victor Roberts, who goes by MagicNarcosis, was born and raised in Los Angeles. He grew up crowding around CCS mags and skating with friends, but as he got older, Victor went from child-size to “bigass-football-player-on-a-skateboard size,” which is roughly around 6’6,” making skateboarding feel a bit out of reach. He took to filming and then, naturally, video games arrived to keep him connected to the culture that always fascinated him.
Victor, along with another player who goes by Clayfighter, started connecting players they knew into a team. They called themselves Hoodlum Family, which, at its peak, had 50 members. This isn’t new within the gaming community, where it has long been common for people who play online together to form “clans,” but it was new to the skate niche. Hoodlum Family all cliqued over their appreciation for skateboarding and naturally brought what they already knew about real-world skate culture into the game.
Hoodlum Family makes some of the most-watched content for Skater XL. There are currently four teams under the Hoodlum umbrella: Hostile, Threat, 1954, and Vice. These sister companies resemble how a lot of real-world skate brands are set up, except their custom hard and soft goods releases for players to use in the PC version of Skater XL are free (and virtual).
For a lot of XLers, it’s not about making money, but about strengthening a community and making the game more fun to play. In Hoodlum’s case, it’s a way of funneling skate culture into the more serious gaming community, introducing everything they like about skating to a gaming culture that might not know the difference between a back tail and a benihana.
Just like in IRL skating, videos are the main way skate teams share their vision, and for Hoodlum Family’s four teams, that means filming clips for YouTube, social media, or going live on Twitch.
Keeping a fake skate team running sounds like all the fun parts of starting a skate company, but without the debt and crappy margins.
After learning more about this world of virtual brands I was told about media and magazines that surround the game and dived in deeper.
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@starheadbody 50-50 transferring straight onto the cover of @yzmag 🎉Check out the latest issue for exclusive content about our 1.0 launch, as well an interview with community member SqueegeeDinoToy, Community Spotlight photo feature, an SXL Modding Gear Showcase, and more. Huge shoutout to @5uds_ , @jaxx_xl, and @goofxl for putting it all together 🙏 Link in the bio #SkaterXL
MEET THE PRESS
YZ Magazine, which has since come to stand for Your Zine, is a digital mag started by Blake Hatch.
People can send in-game skate photos they recently took, or fake skate brands can send in their latest ad, and YZ might run it and give them some coverage. Hatch told me, “I always thought a magazine was cool to do. So it was interesting to take that medium, transition it [to fake skate], and see how it goes. It provides a sort of authenticity to fake skating in a sense.”
Blake and a team of three others put in work, conducting interviews and laying out each issue. YZ’s contributions to the game haven’t gone unnoticed. Easy Day keeps them as a part of their media schedule, leaking new information to them ahead of time to coordinate with issue releases. Easy Day wrote a letter in the April issue of YZ thanking the XLer community for their support. “They’re like the Thrasher of fake skate. We reached out before the game was even launched just to make sure we were doing the right things,” says Jeff from Easy Day.
MODERATORS & MODDERS
Much of what XLers have accomplished wouldn’t be possible without Discord, the online forum where they communicate. Discord hosts servers like Fake SkateXL and SXL, where users can chat, read the latest announcements, catch up on content, and access mods for the PC version. The people who run these servers, the admins, basically work full time for free to make sure everyone is happy. One of those admins, Goof, real name Seth Gavitt, talked me through what he does and how much Adderall he has to take to keep up with it all.
One of the main discussions amongst the Discord crowd is about how Skater XL’s expansion from PC to consoles makes it much harder to make changes to released console versions, so that game can become outdated if a competitor drops something better.
Hardcore XLers are constantly making mods on the PC version since anyone with basic coding skills can access the open-source code and tool around with it. But console versions are a more closed system, so Discord admins have been working on a new platform with Easy Day that hopes to replicate that same community-driven feedback that makes the PC version so vibrant.
Mapmaking is one of the most popping kinds of mods in the fake skate world, because who doesn’t love a new spot? Jean-Olive is a known map maker whose work will be official game content on the upcoming console versions of the game. He’s entirely self-taught, working off a used PC that he bought in April 2019. After watching YouTube tutorials, he made his first spot, the Mairie d’Ivry in Paris. He then put out four maps that year, including a replica of Fort Miley, working almost every day after his eight-hours-a-day job.
In the upcoming console release, there’s a map called Streets, which Jean-Olive designed as a mashup of Barcelona spots. It originated as a mod on Discord. “I selected pictures of different real spots and the challenge was to put all of them together on a single map by trying to keep some flow,” he told me. “The release of this map was beyond all of my expectations.”
For Jean-Olive and a lot of other XLers, the feedback and hype of seeing someone skate something they designed, makes all of the free work worth it. Whether it’s making brands with gear, new maps, or specialized controls, everyone ends up benefiting from it. Playing the game is one thing, but contributing to it makes for solidarity and a sense of belonging that is greater.
“TURN ON, TUNE IN, DROP OUT”
Even if most XLers are in it to make friends and have fun, with such an active community around the game some form of “going pro” was inevitable. People will always find a way to monetize a movement.
Jesse Lack, who goes by JBoogie, started Twitch streaming Skater XL the very first day it went up in December 2018. He’s put in the work: creating sound mods by recording his own IRL skating, streaming 5-days a week, making appearances on fake skate media, including a video-game version of The Nine Club.
Jesse’s a natural at keeping his viewers interested. He’ll carpet board, change camera’s to his bong cam, and take trick requests and give tutorials. His Twitch stream is massively popular as a result. When I asked how much he’s made so far, he told me it fluctuates monthly, but that in a recent month that amount was about $1,300. That may not sound like too much, but for, as Jesse put it, “basically getting to hang out, smoke weed, and play video games,” that’s not so bad. “I’m having a great time doing it,” he told me.
“I’m basically getting to hang out, smoke weed, and play video games. I’m having a great time doing it.”
It might just pay off in the end. Jesse recently cut his hours at work to be able to stream more, something he never thought possible when he first started playing. He’s also been given the opportunity to create official content for Easy Day. In the time since he first logged on, Jesse has gone from renting out camera gear to being poised for a big break as the game opens up to more users with the console release.
When I asked him if he’d make the jump to gaming full-time if the possibility opened up, he told me, “One hundred percent. I’ve never really known what I wanted to do. I’ve known it from basically since I started skating that I wanted to do something creative—making videos or shooting photos. The whole streaming thing with this game and the whole community is the perfect blend of every single thing I’ve wanted.”
The conviction in his voice led me to think maybe he’d daydreamed about putting in his two weeks’ notice before, and casually dropping that his next move would be pro gaming. Being paid to play would be the ultimate end for one of them. For all of the work the fanatics of Skater XL put in during these especially precarious times, it would be sick if we saw one of them made it big like that.