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Skate City brings the streets of Tokyo to Apple Arcade just in time for the Olympics

With skateboarding becoming a new Olympic sport, now is the perfect time to kick-flip at the home of the Summer Games.

Shelby Brown Editor II
Shelby Brown (she/her/hers) is an editor for CNET's services team. She covers tips and tricks for apps, operating systems and devices, as well as mobile gaming and Apple Arcade news. Shelby also oversees Tech Tips coverage. Before joining CNET, she covered app news for Download.com and served as a freelancer for Louisville.com.
  • She received the Renau Writing Scholarship in 2016 from the University of Louisville's communication department.
Shelby Brown
4 min read

The Tokyo Olympics have finally arrived. To celebrate the Olympic recognition of the once-stigmatized sport of skateboarding, Skate City -- an atmospheric, lo-fi skateboarding game on Apple Arcade from developer Snowman (Where Cards Fall, Alto's Odyssey: The Lost City) -- is bringing the streets of Tokyo to players in a new game level.

Tokyo is Skate City's biggest update yet, loaded with new neighborhoods, backstreets, parks and famous skate spots, as well as over 50 new challenges to complete in Free Skate and Challenge mode. Skate City Tokyo also adds updated decks, clothes and gear to the Skate Shop, along with new music for the soundtrack.

Snowman co-founder Ryan Cash and senior producer Andrew Schimmel talked to CNET ahead of the update's release about why skateboarding in the Olympics is a major cultural milestone, and how Skate City lets anyone virtually try it out. 

"Skateboarding"was very much like a sport for the troubled youth and that's how people saw it," Cash said of the sport. "But now, it's for all ages, backgrounds, races [and] every country in the world."

Breaking the stigmas

Since skateboarding's beginnings in California, professional skaters like Tony Hawk and video game franchises have popularized the sport, but also perpetuated the notion that only a certain type of person skateboards. Over the decades, skateboarding has come to influence fashion, music and advertising, as a symbol of youth and counterculture moving into the mainstream. 


Schimmel noted that skateboarding's growing acceptance in popular culture almost mirrors the journey video games took over the years -- from a perceived waste of time to an appreciated platform for storytellers and artists. 

Cash and Schimmel, who drew inspiration from the sport itself, also found influences for Skate City in classic Tony Hawk Pro Skater games and films. In 2012, Cash's discovery of Tiny Wings, an iOS game from Andreas Illiger, changed how he'd been taught to view video games and also planted the inspiration for the Alto game series. 

Before encountering Tiny Wings, Cash said that he viewed video games like candy -- enjoyable, but not very nourishing. The iOS game changed his perspective. "That was the first time for me that I realized video games could be art and they could be relaxing and soothing," Cash said. "Video games take so many different shapes and forms just like food." 

Some games might be candy, but others are robust meals.

Creating an accessible skateboarding experience 

When Apple Arcade launched Skate City in 2019, my own preconceptions about skateboarding and esports games had me scrolling past the title. But Skate City isn't what you'd expect. The development team wove the stylistic DNA of Snowman games in to create an atmospheric mood where players can either seek out challenges or just enjoy the environment in Endless Skate mode. 


And while traditionally the grunge style and punk music have a large place  in skate culture, Skate City offers a different, more relaxed ambience.

"That's why we did a lo-fi soundtrack and wanted it to feel moody and dreamlike," Schimmel said. "That's sort of the flow state you enter when you're skateboarding around a neighborhood by yourself. You're just chasing the progression of trying to accomplish something and finally landing on that trick." 

Schimmel also advocates that the dedication a skater needs to improve can translate across any desired skill. Skateboarding games have taken a more juvenile approach in the past, Schimmel says, but Snowman wanted to make something that feels more mature but still appealing to players of any age. 

Passing the digital torch (or longboard) 

While Skate City brings something new to esports, it fits perfectly into Snowman's library alongside non-sports games like Alto's Adventure, Alto's Odyssey and Where Cards Fall. 


This diversity of games mirrors the fact that a person is allowed to be more than one thing, and to like multiple things at once. The culture has come a long way from stereotyping skaters and gamers, Schimmel said. 

In the past, you might've been frowned upon for skateboarding to work, but now skateboarding is grabbing the spotlight in this year's Olympics. Cash and Schimmel think the future is full of that kind of change and opportunity.

"Kids are gonna be looking at [the future] that way, and I think probably getting started on making things when they're younger," Cash said. "If [the game] can inspire people to create, it's going to be really interesting. I think it's great to see more diversity in gaming and for us to be a small part of that is kind of cool." 

You can download Skate City and play the new Tokyo City level on Apple Arcade now. 

Check out the trailer for the new level here:

About Apple Arcade 

Apple Arcade -- Apple's $5-a-month gaming service for your Apple devices -- now includes a collection of nearly 200 games, with more than 30 new games released in recent months. Apple Arcade gained the long-awaited title Fantasian from Mistwalker and Final Fantasy creator Hironobu Sakaguchi, as well as NBA 2K21 Arcade Edition, one of the biggest titles to hit the service to date. You can also play remastered App Store classics like Angry Birds: Reloaded and Alto's Odyssey: The Lost City. And there are more still to come.

If you're interested in trying Apple Arcade, you can get a three-month free trial of Apple Arcade with the purchase of a new device, or one month for free if you're signing up for the first time. Open the App Store and tap the little joystick icon at the bottom of the screen to launch the service. 

Another option is the Apple One subscription bundle which launched last year. Apple One makes it easier and more affordable to get up to six Apple subscription services, Apple Arcade included, for one price. Most recently, the service teamed up with Verizon to offer a free year-long subscription with unlimited plans.

For more, check out Apple Arcade: Almost 200 games you can play on iPhone, iPad, Mac and Apple TV and 8 games coming soon to Apple Arcade

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