I’m not a fan of pain, so I don’t skate. Sometimes I wish I did—or that I forced myself to when I was prime skating age, which almost overlapped with its major boom period in the ‘80s, when it first penetrated the cultural consciousness. I had a skateboard, because every kid had a skateboard, but it was a hand-me-down from the ‘70s, a small, plastic oval on four cracking wheels that barely still rolled. No, I didn’t skate: I was a scooter kid. I kicked that scooter up and down the mean streets of suburban Sarasota, from one end of Biltmore Drive to another, all the way up to the Kwik Stop on Tamiami Trail. I was a god-damned nerd.
People I know who do skate talk about it in a way that doesn’t really match how skating is presented by the media. Despite its speed, despite its danger, despite its integral connection to punk, hardcore, and other aggressive forms of underground music, skaters often talk about skating in the Zen-like way surfers do surfing. It’s calming. It’s soothing. There’s a serenity that comes over you when you truly connect with your board and its motion and the immutable physical properties of whatever surface you’re skating on, over, or through. The risk of personal harm is extreme, but in the moment skating isn’t X Games bombast or Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater score-chasing. It’s about existing in an elevated state, briefly, until you fall on your ass, and then start over again.
The Ramp, a new skating game by Hyperparadise, is the rare skateboard game that even tries to capture that elusive high. No disrespect to Tony Hawk, which beautifully turns skating into a manic arcade sprint, or the Skate series, which nicely captures the physicality of skating, but The Ramp gives me a sense of what my friends talk about when they talk about skating. The Ramp is peaceful, at least when my skater isn’t crashing down right on top of her head.
The Ramp doesn’t have missions. It doesn’t keep score. You don’t collect things. You just skate. You build up speed by holding down or letting go of the A button to build up speed at specific spots on the half-pipe or empty pool, angling for ample airtime to pull off a cool trick. And then you do it again, and again—or maybe you just glide back and forth, enjoying the breeze on your face. The Ramp doesn’t ask you to do anything other than skate, for however long you like, with whatever level of exertion you like. The stakes are about as low as you’ll ever find in a game, and that’s partially why The Ramp is so refreshing. You can just kind of bliss out to it.
I’d love to see more minimalist sports games like this. Obviously surfing or snowboarding would be a perfect fit for this exact type of game, but somebody give me a lo-fi, arty batting cage sim where I just try to rip line drives again and again, or a game purely about making shots on the court. As a purely personal endeavor, skating obviously makes more sense in this context than a team sport, but every sport can be reduced to its most fundamental, individual essence. Throw a strike, make the kick, hit your target chest-high from 50 yards: I’d pay five bucks for any game that let me repeat those simple actions, endlessly, with no greater goal or concerns. The Ramp understands the power and tranquility of keeping things simple, tapping into something deeper about both skating and sports in general than usually seen with videogames.
Senior editor Garrett Martin writes about videogames, comedy, travel, theme parks, wrestling, and anything else that gets in his way. He’s also on Twitter @grmartin.