Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater developer Neversoft officially closed this week. Matt Martin says thanks for the games, the music and the career.
“The thing that grabbed me immediately about Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 wasn’t the gameplay but the soundtrack.”
I’d never been enamoured by a video game developer before I discovered Neversoft and I don’t think I have since. It’s not like a record label, where everything released by Def Jam or Skint or Warp was worth checking out. Games studios have never really been like that, they never seem to have that specific identity. I probably imagined it, but for me, Neversoft did.
Now as Neversoft officially closes I feel a little sad and I’ve never felt like that about a business before. Neversoft gave me Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, it gave me Spider-Man, it gave me Apocalypse and it gave me Gun. Neversoft got me interested in video games all over again and prompted me to apply for a job as a staff writer on a PlayStation magazine when I had my heart set on becoming a music journalist. Forgive me if this is a little self-indulgent.
I left college with a degree but bummed around for a couple of years trying to start my own business and get regular freelance gigs reviewing music and live gigs. I was stoned and drunk and I fucked about and wanted to be Lester Bangs when in truth I was just an annoying prick hanging around record labels and venues.
I eventually moved back to my home town and got a data entry job tapping numbers into a computer, every Monday trawling the paper for a job that was never going to be advertised. I bought a PlayStation and some second hand games in an effort to give up other vices. One of those games was Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 because I used to skate badly when I was a teenager and it was cheap.
I’ve written a lot about THPS2 and I don’t need an excuse to do it again. It’s my number one game of all time. The thing that grabbed me immediately wasn’t the gameplay but the soundtrack. I wanted to be a music journalist see, and all these hiphop and punk bands I was writing about were in the game. The High & Mighty, Fu Manchu, Dubpistols, Lagwagon, Naughty By Nature, Styles of Beyond – this was the stuff I’d been burning to CDs and dubbing to tapes, the music I’d been blagging and writing about for Big Cheese magazine – in a video game.
I know by the time THPS2 was released licensed soundtracks were nothing new in games. But I didn’t own a PSone up until that point, and had only played Tomb Raider, WipeOut and Tekken on a friend’s console. I’d owned a lot of games machines up until the Mega CD, but I was late to the PlayStation because it was expensive and I was a broke-ass student.
“The guys at Neversoft understood exactly what they were working on down to the tiniest detail and it showed through their work.”
Here were all the bands I was rocking out to on a video game soundtrack, reaching more ears than they ever managed to do with their music releases. It blew my mind. The gameplay itself was baffling to begin with, but it didn’t take long to learn the controls and from there appreciate the skill that had gone into building the levels. Chaining tricks around entire levels, bouncing off and using every available lip, rail and ramp to hit massive scores kept me enthralled for months. I’m still shit-hot at it.
I liked video games again and they became almost as important to me as music. I bought the first Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater and hammered that too. And being an ex-comic book nerd (again, I gave up collecting because it got so damn expensive), I bought Neversoft’s Spider-Man game. It did it again. Holy shit, it was a fans dream – it even included Uatu The Watcher in the What If? mode. The guys at Neversoft understood exactly what they were working on down to the tiniest detail and it showed through their work.
Anyway, while I was failing to make a living as a music journalist, I saw an advert for a staff writer on a PlayStation 2 magazine. I wrote an obnoxious covering letter and a CV and amazingly got an interview (I had to submit a mock review, but I chose Tenchu: Stealth Assassin’s instead of THPS2. I don’t remember why).
A few days later I actually got the job, which put me in shock. I didn’t realise it at the time but it was the start of an actual career that’s been incredibly good to me.
“I met Tony Hawk a couple of years ago and that’s cool but honestly, I was a bit disappointed I didn’t meet Joel Jewett, one of the founders of Neversoft.”
I interviewed Neversoft once for a PlayStation 2 magazine you’ve never heard off (I’m not saying that to be a hipster, I’m saying it because we barely had any distribution). It was one of those clunky email Q&As that we don’t do any more. I don’t even know if the answers were from the genuine development team at Neversoft or just a PR intern but that didn’t really matter. I’d reached out to them and got some sort of reply. It meant a lot to me as a fan, I didn’t do it for the good of the magazine. I met Tony Hawk a couple of years ago and that’s cool but honestly, I was a bit disappointed I didn’t meet Joel Jewett, one of the founders of Neversoft. That would have been a lot cooler.
Now the studio has closed and officially sucked into the Activision hive mind. It’s one less team with an identity. There are plenty of studios out there that make great games but I rarely think of a game and the studio as one. We all have connections to different games and creators and Neversoft feels – felt – like something special to me.
I know it’s partly nostalgia that has me thinking this way, but Neversoft gave me great games and kind-of got me started in a career that has miraculously lasted well into double-digit years. I felt the need to acknowledge that here and give Neversoft my own little salute.
Thanks Neversoft. You rocked like a motherfucker.