Halloween is quickly sneaking around the corner. The history behind the haunting holiday is one that has been warped over the years. All Hallow’s Eve was not always a night for children to roam the streets dressed as superheroes. What’s evolved into candy corn celebration initially started as a night of directing spirits of the recently deceased to the afterlife. The Kohlrabi was able to get an interview with one of those very spirits. Before my investigation, I posted these questions on the /r/ElectronicArts subreddit (with no response): “how many bathrooms should I install before inviting The Sims to my Halloween party?”, “What dastardly secret might video game giant EA be hiding?”, “And where have all the skateboarders gone?”. I had hoped a skateboarder could help me solve these riddles, but there were none to be found at the town’s skatepark. In the mid 1990’s at the height of the skater craze one could not go outside without seeing a “NO SKATING” sign and a group of skateboarders kickflipping off of it. Even inside one’s own home the fad was inescapable. A video game system could not be found without a skateboarding game accompanying it. And yet, today you would be hard pressed to find Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater on a PlayStation collector’s shelf. So what happened? Like any good story, our mystery starts at the beginning.
As skate culture gained popularity, money and marketing followed. There were sponsorships, clothing lines, and ubiquitous merchandise—as much as one might try to forget, Tech Deck fingerboards were socially acceptable and commonplace at the time. It was the mid 1980’s that marked the first attempt to immortalize skateboarding in video game form. Two Atari employees, John Salwitz and Dave “Doc” Ralston, created the arcade hit 720°. Electronic Arts; being the savvy business they were, capitalized on this craze by mimicking 720° and building upon it. EA eliminated the competition by hiring the pair of 720° game designers. However, this backfired when Doc Ralston & Mr. Salwitz discovered the secret behind EA’s Skate or Die! What they found was that the skateboards being sold to EA’s Stunt Boarders were being made with the cheapest materials imaginable. The skateboards being produced were well below safety code in the U.S. To make matters worse Skate or Die! led impressionable youths to think skating with helmets and safety pads was uncool.
“We tried to warn the public subtly,” said Salwitz. “In 1992 we began development of a game about thwarting the evil executive of the big bad ‘Artistic Electrons’ game company by linking him to the company making the faulty boards. Sadly, before we could finish development our game tester, an avid skateboarder, had an accident and died! Nothing was ever proven, and the evidence was conveniently absent from the wipeout site.” I looked at the death certificate for an official cause of death. Newtonian forces applied in a downward direction on the subject’s head, and applied upward on the pavement, led to the subject’s brain exiting the skull in a fatal manner.
“The day he died we noticed something strange about the game,” Doc Ralston stated. “Our games title screen became Haunting Starring Polterguy. The object was still to take down the head of Artistic Electrons, but something had changed…our game tester who was taken before his time, he was now stuck in the game! No matter how many times we rewrote the source code our game tester, “Polterguy” kept coming back to spook the skateboard slayer into submission.”
“We really wanted to get his message out there,” Salwitz spouted defensively, “it’s just, well…we got a whopping 16 Meg cart, but I filled it up with extra scare animations. Four hundred of them, can you believe it? It was a personal best! In the end, there was no room for the story to fit on the cart. Polterguy’s message was not heard.”
“People dismissed Polterguy as just another punk skater,” Salwitz stated.
I needed to get answers from Polterguy. I arranged five Starbucks pumpkin spice latte cups into a pentagram, inserted the cartridge into the Genesis, and chanted these words 13 times: “E, A, Spirit. It’s in the game.” Polterguy spoke!, “Dude–death sucks. I had a lot of things I wanted to do, and becoming a ghost was not, like, real high on the list. And I didn’t even do anything wrong to get this way. It’s Vito Sardini’s fault. And I’m not the only one he screwed up, him and his junked-out skateboards. He set up an overseas skateboard factory. He was too cheap to hire qualified workers[…]and he used the cheapest parts he could in his boards. Sardini’s lawyers used all kinds of tricks to hide his ownership of the skateboard factory. He made a lot of money from skaters getting wasted, but he never paid the price for it.”
I asked Polterguy if he knew any information that could link Sardini to EA. He replied, “is it just me, or is it totally wicked how close Trip Hawkins and Tony Hawk are? Like, too close for comfort brah.” In recent years, Polterguy has been taking extended breaks from haunting Sardini. He spends most of his spare time as an extra in horror movies. While it’s not enough to make a decent living, it distracts him from being dead. Last year was a good year for him as he landed the lead role in the Paranormal Activity spin-off, Paranormal, As If? Totally! (a 1980’s period piece). “The director said he like, totally liked my diction. Dude, it was beyond rad!”
The next day I questioned Sardini about the overseas skateboard factory, and he refused to comment. I pressed him further, if there was something weird in his house, if anything did not look good, he turned pale and picked up his phone. I asked him, who he was going to call; to which he replied “my attorney!” Not understanding my quirky reference, he quickly rushed me out. Sardini left the skateboard industry with his golden parachute and landed at a cushy consulting firm. In the time that has passed since Polterguy’s demise he has done consulting for carpet wholesale, waste management, and is currently enjoying a long relationship with The Kirby Vacuum Company.
I was unable to reach Trip Hawkins or Tony Hawk for comment.
Without concrete evidence, the authorities have not been able to launch an investigation on EA or Sardini. What really ended the era of cool boarders and their culture? Were they simply too extreme? We may never know.