About a month ago, I decided I was finally going to learn how to skateboard. I had a skateboard as a kid, but I never learned how to use it. The most I did was use it as a luge down the hill near my house. Now, I’m learning how to use my board properly. Mostly, that entails falling a lot, scraping my knees and arms, and generally looking awkward. 

One of my friends found out I was trying to learn and shot me a message: “Skate r’ die dude!” As I approach middle age, I have to admit that I’m not quite that hardcore. Unfortunately, “Skate or Binge Watch Netflix On The Couch” doesn’t really make a great sticker. That said, it made me think of a video game. 

No, it wasn’t EA’s 1987 title “Skate or Die!” Instead, I thought of the game 720, released by Atari the year before. 720 was named for the “ultimate” trick at the time (which involved two complete rotations). EA borrowed the phrase “Skate or Die” from the Atari game.

In 720, you could perform tricks on the streets, or use a ticket to buy your way into a skate park. Performing tricks helped you gain points, which could in turn get you more tickets to access skate parks. A timer on screen ticked down when you weren’t at a skate park, and when it hit zero, a swarm of killer bees appeared. The phrase “Skate or Die!” appeared on-screen. The bees would then chase you, gaining speed until you either reached a park or were stung to death. 

Earning money helped you upgrade your equipment, with upgrades available for your boards, pads, helmet, and shoes. Each level had four different challenges: ramp, downhill, slalom, and jump. In its own way, the game was an early example of the open world concept, allowing you to skate around wherever you wanted until the timer forced you to race to a new park. In that way, it foreshadowed games like the Tony Hawk series or the Dave Mirra BMX games.  

And that, dear reader, is today’s entry in the Cabinet of Curiosities.

Until next time, I remain…

Just Another Geek in the Geek Kingdom

Shaun Jex Shaun Jex (0 Posts)

Shaun Jex is a lifelong gamer, a journalist, and pop culture historian.His love of video games began with a Commodore 64 he played growing up, late night sessions on his NES, Game Boy and Sega Genesis, and frequent trips to the local Tilt arcade. He edits the Citizens' Advocate newspaper in Coppell, Texas and writes about Disney and Walt Disney World history for Celebrations Magazine and the Celebrations Magazine blog. He runs a weekly vlog called "The MCP" dedicated to retro video games, and a channel with his wife Kara called "The Marceline Depot," dedicated to Disney, amusement parks, and travel.