When it comes to boundless, all-seeing, omnipotent beings, I more or less tend to embrace agnosticism. Despite my best efforts, there are many things in life that I either don’t know or don’t understand, so who the heck am I to outright deny the existence of someone/something just because the existence of said person/thing seems borderline absurd? Our universe is quite a large place, after all, and you really do never know what might or might not be waiting for you out there in the infinitely-expanding ether. My universe got just a little bit smaller, though, one particular Christmas morning, when I received irrefutable proof that Santa Claus was, in fact, not real.
December 25, 2000 began as most previous Christmases had begun. I excitedly hopped out of bed far too early in the morning and immediately ran to wake up my parents and older brother. Once I ensured that they were all begrudgingly making their way out of bed, I ran out to the living room, where an unopened pile of presents sat waiting for the four of us. Among other gifts, I opened two PlayStation games that morning: Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater and Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2, from my dad and Santa, respectively. I had just gotten into rollerblading a while back, so I was already quite the extreme sports enthusiast, meaning I could hardly contain my excitement. We finished up opening the rest of the presents and I joyfully ran back to my room to play my new games.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, I found myself gravitating towards Pro Skater 2. The game’s more robust feature set and superior levels made it much more enticing than the original, and the addition of the manual meant that I could link tricks together for high-scoring combos. My dad had gotten me the first game, though, and I felt so bad that he had been bested by Santa Claus that I decided to make him feel better by exclusively playing the original game. As I continued to play that morning, my brother walked in to see the game.
“Why are you playing that one?” he asked me, clearly wondering why I would subject myself to the inferior game of the two.
“Dad got us this one,” I replied. “I don’t want him to think I like Santa’s gift more than his.”
“What? No, dad bought us both of them!” responded my brother, and walked out.
I wish I could tell you that I sat there stunned, mouth agape, as the in-game timer slowly ticked down to signal the end of my run, or that I was so distraught over learning the truth about Santa Claus that I went crying to my parents, but nothing so eventful happened. In truth, nothing really happened. I remember being mostly unsurprised, and excited that I could play Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 guilt-free for the rest of that day.
Years later, a similar fate would befall me and officially confirm my disbelief. One cold morning, as everyone was getting ready for school/work, my mom asked me to toss something in the trunk of her car. Popping open the trunk, a couple of Target bags tucked into the corner immediately caught my attention. Typically not one to spoil surprises, I did my best to avert my gaze, but one bag in particular inevitably caught my eye. Through the bag itself, I could vaguely make out the cover of Tony Hawk’s Underground, having spent plenty of time prior checking it out at pretty much any store we went to. Needless to say, I was stoked.
That day at school, I recall excitedly telling my friends that my mom had bought me the newest Tony Hawk game for Christmas. Jumping ahead to Christmas morning, my brother handed me a PlayStation 2-shaped present from “Santa.” I enthusiastically tore it open, only to see Tony Hawk’s Underground staring back at me.
“Yep, that makes sense!” I thought to myself. I spent the entire day playing that game and not thinking about Santa Claus once.
In retrospect, I think I realized even before that first fateful Christmas morning that Santa Claus probably wasn’t real. Growing up, I had plenty of friends who didn’t believe in him, and I always figured there had to be a reason for that. Still, I sought to keep an open mind. Even I had to relent, though, when faced with concrete, undeniable proof. The Tony Hawk games were an incredibly large part of my childhood and gave me more good memories than I can possibly count, but they also inevitably took something with them. In short, I grew up with those games both literally and figuratively, and while their introduction into my life ultimately robbed me of something, the following years spent comboing, collecting skate letters, and punching Eric Sparrow in his stupid face more than made up for it.
And I mean, let’s be real: it was my damn brother’s fault.
Merry Christmas, OK Beast!