Shaun White Gets Snowed
Sometimes, to understand a game, you need to know more about the person who inspired it -- especially if that person is an Olympic gold medalist. Sure, in this wide-ranging and candid interview, Shaun White talks about his new Shaun White Snowboarding: World Stage, the follow-up to the 20th-bestselling game in the U.S. last year. But he also goes deep about his life, the upcoming Olympic Games in Vancouver and the injury that almost broke his spirit.
Crispy Gamer: What are you doing to prepare for the Olympics?
Shaun White: A lot of the stuff is just getting out there and riding to keep strong and kinda focused that way. But this season, I had some injuries. So I kind of decided to take off from my skate season.
Crispy Gamer: What was injured? Is it better now?
White: Yeah, it's better now. I actually went riding up in Mt. Hood and did some sessions to practice there recently. But I had chipped a bone in my ankle and then I had torn a ligament in my thumb. You take it for granted when everything's working properly. Then all of a sudden you've got this pain in your ankle and it's not healing properly because you're standing on it every day. [Laughs]
Crispy Gamer: I broke my thumb a couple of months ago in Madrid. So I hear you.
White: Yeah, I had to go in and they reattached the tendon that I tore off. They put two pins through the joint to lock it so that I wouldn't re-tear it. A lot of the annoying part came after that, because when they took the pins out, I couldn't move my thumb. I had to do a lot of physical therapy for my thumb.
Crispy Gamer: So is that the toughest part in preparing -- the unknown sneaking up on you?
White: The injuries are just part of the game. I was really fortunate in that in years and years of riding, I hadn't had too many injuries. So I think it was just catching up for a little bit of lost time there. You just have to deal with it when it decides to bite you. After the thumb, three days after surgery I was riding again. But with the ankle, that put me out.
Crispy Gamer: It's better now.
White: Oh, much better. I was fortunate enough to go home [and rest]. But I wanted to ride so badly that when I finally got back on snow, the tricks were just coming back to me out of nowhere like I hadn't even left.
Crispy Gamer: The need to ride built up.
White: It was cool to see because [the injury] almost broke my spirit. I had to get a scope on my meniscus. After the surgery, the muscle that was there was now gone because it had atrophied. It was a total bummer. I didn't know that I'd have to go into the gym. I'd never touched the gym in my life at that point.
Crispy Gamer: It's been a good life so far. You were named after a pro surfer.
White: My dad was way into surfing. I love surfing now. But, you know, my dad pushed me into it when I was younger, about seven or eight. And I remember it was cold and I ended up getting washed under the water and when I popped up, the board hit me in the face. And I'm like, Ahhhhh! I was so upset with my dad, and so upset in general, that I kind of shied away from surfing until I was about 13.
Crispy Gamer: What was your first experience with snowboarding?
White: We would take like these random family trips. When snowboarding became popular, my brother was always kind of the one I looked to see what was new and cool. He started snowboarding and I begged my parents to put me on a board. And my parents thought, "We'll put him on a board and he'll be fallin' all the time. So it'll be easy for us to keep up with him. We won't have to worry about him getting lost in the trees and stuff." It actually was the opposite, and I took off riding.
Crispy Gamer: What exactly do you recall?
White: I just remember being up on June Mountain, and rented a snowboard and went for it. I did all right. I had just started skateboarding at that point. I had balance from skateboarding and I surfed my boogie board when I was younger. So with snowboarding, it didn't feel awkward. I thought, I can get the hang of this. It seemed simple. By brother would go, "Grab your board right here when you're in the air." And I would. Then he'd say, "Now try to spin." And I would. Sure enough, by the time I was seven, I started competing.
Crispy Gamer: But at the age of five, who in the world had a snowboard the right size?
White: My parents started calling up Burton Snowboards and saying, "Hey, we got a son and he's getting ready to compete." They ended up making me a snowboard a kid could ride. That was really all the inspiration I needed. It was on, at that point.
Crispy Gamer: Can you talk about the stance you use on the board?
White: Well, there are only two stances. There's regular and there's goofy. Regular basically means it's your left foot forward. And goofy means it's your right foot forward. You can tell pretty easily. If you're standing at home right now and you lean forward, the first foot that would go out is your lead foot.
When I was younger, my mother sort of forced my brother and me to ride with the right foot forward to slow us down. That's because my sister started riding and she wasn't so good. So it was the opposite of what I'd want to do. It's like swinging a baseball bat leftie if you're right-handed. By the time my sister got better, I had gotten really good at riding switch. I could hit jumps and land in switch.
Crispy Gamer: How important was winning gold in the Olympics to you, mentally and career-wise?
White: It was wild. It was one of those crazy moments. I had been successful in the sport, slowly making my way into the mainstream in the X Games and stuff. I kind of didn't think it was that big of a deal. I was just really focused on my riding. I remember the last time when I was 15, I missed out by three-tenths of a point. I remember all those guys went to the Olympics, but not me. It was kind of a big deal at that point.
But when I won the gold, it was really cool to perform on such a massive stage. Not only were snowboard fans watching, but the general population. I would go to Chile and the people down there would be freakin' out because they all recognized me.
Crispy Gamer: Do you have any advice for people starting out?
White: If you're told to push your limits, do it with what feels right for you. Don't let somebody else convince you to do something. Also, I've always worn a helmet, not only because I've hit my head many times by falling. I've also been hit by other snowboarders. I swear I wouldn't be here if I didn't have my helmet on. Mainly, just have fun at it. Whenever I go to the mountain, I force myself to train and do these tricks; it doesn't work. I have to wait until I'm in the right mood.
Crispy Gamer: Can you be more specific?
White: I was up on Oregon, trying to do these new tricks I'm working on. And I'm sitting there beating myself over the head with this trick that I couldn't do. Then my friend made a joke and dropped in the half-pipe in front of me and totally distracted me. I started laughing finally, and that next ride, I nailed it because I stopped thinking about it so hard.
Crispy Gamer: What's the new trick?
White: It was a frontside 1260. But there's some other big stuff I'm trying to work on. But I can't really talk about it. I don't want to like say it and then not do it. [Laughs]
Crispy Gamer: Last year's Road Trip videogame ended up being pretty cool. It ended up being the 20th-most-popular game of the year. What did you like most about that?
White: It was definitely a feat for me and my brother to work on. We didn't know exactly what we were going to do. I'm like, "I don't know what I'm doing here." But we slowly learned what was possible and not possible. You'd assume, "OK, it's game world. We can do whatever we want." And they're like, "If you really want it to snow in the game, it's gonna take like six months of programming to get it right."
Crispy Gamer: There were some problems with the first game, right?
White: I'm so excited about the new game, because all of those issues that were in the first game have now been worked out. The game's really flawless. It's really nice. I don't know. I'm pickier than anyone. No one would play the game and see what I would pick out, or even care.
Crispy Gamer: So what exactly did you pick out?
White: There weren't as many characters as I wanted; and I wanted more levels, more competitions and more events to get things that you win. Just from being a game player, I kept thinking, "I want this, and I want that and I want more to do." We definitely have the spirit of the Olympics in this one. It's called the World Stage. You get to go from country to country to compete. And it's a game where I can have fun. I don't want it to be so realistic that you can only pull off the tricks that I can do in real life. I want you to be able to pull off more tricks to do your turns, your hopping, your airs.
Crispy Gamer: Technology-wise, what do you like about the game?
White: The first time I got on the [Balance] Board, I naturally leaned forward to go faster. You get a blur effect. It's a really exciting thing that makes it feel more real. And the Wii MotionPlus amplifies every motion that you do. So what we did is build the game so you can make your own tricks, invent your own moves. We're always thinking, "What's the greatest way for you to feel part of the game?"
Crispy Gamer: How to you make your own tricks?
White: So you go into this special level that you unlock. You take this first jump and you spin the Remote on the table or flick it, and every single movement that you do will happen on the screen. Then you do your second jump and you add grabs or something else to stylize your trick. And then you save it, and it's really cool because you can save up to eight different tricks. The super-funny thing is watching people try to pull of tricks in real life, spinning around, waving the Remote, looking goofy.
Crispy Gamer: Can you customize your characters this time as well?
White: There's a bit of customization. I know that you win certain prizes and boards. I'm still working with them on trying to get more customization involved.
Crispy Gamer: Are you going to work on another 360 or PS3 console version, which weren't as well-reviewed as the Wii version last year?
White: We've been taking our time to perfect the Wii game. Even if you have a friend that doesn't know snowboarding, he can come over and pick it up right away.
Crispy Gamer: But you're definitely thinking of working on a 360 or PS3 version with more exciting stuff in it than the first Shaun White Snowboarding?
White: For sure. That's what's been nice. The same thing we've been doing to get the Wii version right, we'll be going in and doing to the 360 and PS3. We're compiling the things that I want to do with that game right now.
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