The Sad Death of Surf Video Games With Chris Cote
Words by Morgan Williamson Back, Up(2), Down(2), Left(2), Right(2), Up, Left, Down, Right, Up(2), L! An energy drink, fueled addiction that kept the old and mostly young glued to their couches violently tapping away at black controllers. Surfing at one point dipped its sandy toes into this realm. In the early 2000’s there was a push, […]
Words by Morgan Williamson
Back, Up(2), Down(2), Left(2), Right(2), Up, Left, Down, Right, Up(2), L! An energy drink, fueled addiction that kept the old and mostly young glued to their couches violently tapping away at black controllers. Surfing at one point dipped its sandy toes into this realm. In the early 2000’s there was a push, cue Transworld Surf, Kelly Slater Pro Surfer and Sunny Garcia Surfing, who all strutted onto the scene between 2000-2002. It was an animation rat race that was extinguished like a dim flame in a damp room. Sunny Garcia was the sequel to the tiredly titled Championship Surfer. But if you’re like me you played the shit out of them as a kid. Late nights with Transworld Surf, between episodes of South Park and Jackass. Oh, such corruption of my feeble pre-teen mind. Transworld Surf was my jam, Christian Fletcher was the go-to; the inked out aerialist with a front deck pad. I loved it; the sharks, Fort Point and the Reef girls who would maybe later ‘wax my board.’ Nostalgia’s such a lovely drug.
I wonder what happened to the fad? It just couldn’t connect with the rest of the world. It was too early, surfing hadn’t emerged throughout society the way it has today. A video game genre born with an essence of sure-fire mortality. They were no Halo or Call of Duty series. In the world of video games first person shooters will always reign supreme.
I had chat with Chris Cote the long-standing editor of the deceased Transworld Surf about the death of surf video games and what went into the designs of a now cult classic. “All of us at the mag,” Chris tells me, “were heavily involved with the making of the game. I would love to see another surf video game. I feel like now it would do better. Within the last five years surfing’s advanced technically. It’s become widespread, from fashion to wipeouts to Fanno and the shark. Any surf product’s going to do better now that surfing’s gone mainstream. Interest in the sport is peaking.“
Championship Surfer debuted in 2000, the follow up was Sunny Garcia Surfing (2001). Both games had the right idea but the execution wasn’t spot on. Transworld Surf put surf video games on the map. “I think Kelly Slater’s Pro Surfer (2002) was marketed a bit better than ours,” says Chris. “Sales-wise, Transworld Surf wasn’t promoted well. We tried to do what we could in the magazine, but it was only played and promoted on the coast.” Which is the innate problem with making a video game about surfing; the niche. In this big world there’s a lot of ocean, a lot of land and only so much coast. So how could you make something connect across the board? “What makes most video games super popular now is cross marketing,” Mr Cote continues. “To truly popularize a surf game it would have to connect with kids who wouldn’t have any association with surfing, like the Surf’s Up game.” (The last game to go on the market in 2007, subsequently following the animation film which featured the voices of Kelly Slater and Rob Machado.)
Now, with how advanced technology in animation has become, a surf video game featuring the heroes of today could do okay. But after the flops in the early noughties people don’t want to take on the challenge. “I know one thing that’s really hard to animate is moving water,” Chris tells me. “That in itself’s a massive hurdle, it’s a pain in the ass. A lot of people don’t want to do it.”
Action sports video games have no doubt set the path for maneuvers that shock us today. “It’s like a self-fulfilling prophecy,” says Chris. “Kids who’ve grown up playing those games had to have snagged some inspiration. From all the special moves, the supermans, 540’s and 720’s. You see the shit guys are doing now and think, that’s a video game move right there.”
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