The COVID-19 pandemic has turned schools into a very different place, with numerous countries closing schools or adding new safety measures and rules for children and teachers. These changes are a part of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2’s reimagined School level.
The new Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater game, out tomorrow, takes all the levels from the first two games in the popular franchise and reimagines them visually, adding new details, textures, and more. One of these remade levels, School, was first seen in the original THPS1. Back then, it had a large video screen next to a large, empty pool. The video screen played random FMV clips of music videos. Later versions removed the video clips and replaced them with game studio logos.
This video screen is still present in the new remake of School, and it was the first place I headed to when I booted up the level. I wanted to see what would play on it now. Instead of music videos or skaters, the screen showed messages about how the school was dealing with the pandemic.
“We wish you and your families good health and safety during this difficult time. With help from our community, we will be working towards a new normal in the fall,” one message reads. Another one mentions certain days parents can come by to pick up their child’s belongings.
Another message talks about a “reverse parade” to show support for the staff. “Families can drive by and say thank you and goodbye to your teachers before summer break.”
It also appears that in the THPS1+2 universe, just like in our world, many kids are attending school online while staying safe at home. “Thank you all for your hard work and patience this year as we faced the challenges with learning from home!”
None of the messages seen on the screen in School actually say COVID-19 or coronavirus, but it seems very clear what they are referencing, using language that many schools and businesses have been using to talk about the pandemic. Kotaku has reached out to Activision about the signs.
The other school level in the game, School 2 from THPS 2, doesn’t contain any obvious references to COVID-19.
While COVID-19 has caused many delays or problems for various games, the pandemic itself has remained mostly absent from newly released video games, outside of in-game messages from developers apologizing for delayed updates. This is the first time I’ve directly encountered a video game including the current state of the world in its own digital world. It was a strange thing to roll up to, and the image of a lone Tony Hawk, standing in an empty school, staring at a big screen referencing a global pandemic while “Superman” by Goldfinger blared in the background is haunting and bizarre. 2020 continues to be weird.