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The year 2001 was a good year to be Jonny Moseley. A gold medal in men’s moguls at the most recent Winter Olympics, in Japan in 1998; silver at the Winter X-Games’ Big Air the next year; film segments with heavyweights like Warren Miller and Teton Gravity Research; guest slots on David Letterman—it all added up to make Moseley the most bankable star in skiing.
It made perfect sense, then, for Moseley to jump into the world of gaming. On December 26, 2001, Moseley and developer 3DO released “Jonny Moseley Mad Trix” on the PlayStation 2 and Game Boy Advance. The premise of Mad Trix was simple enough: Gamers could control any one of a number of playable characters—a roster that included pros like Moseley, Tanner Hall, and Evan Raps—to complete trick-filled runs in far-flung locales such as Alaska, Mt. Kilimanjaro, and … San Francisco, all while bopping along to the sweet sounds of nu-metal and rap-rock. Oh, and the game features an intro skit that depicts a house party during which someone breakdances and a woman exposes herself to Moseley.
Despite the weird (and dated) opening skit and the noxious soundtrack, it’s not hard to fathom why the folks at 3DO were betting Mad Trix would deliver. Games like Tony Hawk and SSX had taken the industry by storm. And now, they reasoned, it was time for skiing to get its moment in the 64-bit sun.
Unfortunately for Moseley and 3DO, that never happened. Critics thought Mad Trix was a dud, with Gamespot calling it “a complete mess,” and IGN saying it was “light years behind the best, or even the most average extreme-sports games.” Just two years after its release, 3DO went bankrupt, and the ski gaming market has yet to take off. (Don’t feel too bad for Moseley though: He further cemented his legacy with his innovative new trick called the “Dinner Roll” at the 2002 Olympics, and had a decade-long run hosting reality shows for MTV.)
But somewhere along the way, the game experienced a second life. Maybe people were nostalgic for the arcade-like gameplay, or the simpler early days of freeskiing, or Evan Raps—whatever the case, Mad Trix has earned a bit of a cult following in recent years. A 2005 article in Gamestop—the same publication that once trashed Moseley’s namesake game—admitted that Mad Trix had become a “must-have among game collectors.”
In honor of the game’s 20-year anniversary, SKI spoke with Moseley about the development of Mad Trix, and why it did more for freeskiing than you might think.
SKI: Tell me a little bit about the genesis of Mad Trix.
Moseley: I met this guy, Trip Hawkins, right around 2000. He was really into skiing and had started a company called 3DO. He wanted to do a ski game, and he pitched it to me right there. And I was like “Heck yeah, that’d be awesome.” It seemed like a natural time to do it: Tony Hawk had been successful; SSX was out, and that was a good game.
How involved were you with the game’s development?
I was talking to them on the phone a lot. We were doing motion capture in the studio on the trampoline. A lot of it was asking, ‘What do we want the game to look like? What tricks?’ And my manager, Cooper Shell, was helping connect 3DO to the young kids that were also part of that whole crew, like Tanner [Hall] and Evan Raps. Then those guys started working with [game director] Kudo [Tsunoda] directly.
Once Mad Trix was released, did you get the sense that people were into the game?
Yes and no. The reviews were mixed. I think skiers kind of liked it, and I think gamers were less into it. What made Tony Hawk work was that it didn’t matter if you were into skateboarding or not, it was just a fun game. From a gaming perspective—and I’m not a big gamer—I’m not sure Mad Trix really hit the mark.
I felt kind of bad because it sort of wasn’t commercially super successful, which I think killed the prospect of doing more games around skiing. I don’t know if I could have controlled that; I don’t know how to make video games. I felt like maybe they could have spent a little more time developing it from the gaming aspect.
In particular, that intro skit was a bit divisive.
You know, [the 3DO folks] were like, “We got to shoot the opening for this video game. You’re going to be in Whistler, so you need to show up at this cabin that we’ve rented.” So I get off the hill and show up at this cabin, and they’re like, “Do this, that, and the other thing.” And it’s a party environment; all of us freeskiers are there and we’re like, “This is awesome!”
But people were like, “Oh, dude, so lame.” I did plenty of stupid stuff that I can look back on, but people really reacted negatively to that one. I’ve never been super hip; when I look back on all the stuff I did in my 20s, I don’t know if I would have had the wherewithal to be like “Wait a minute, this is going to make me look cocky.”
Yet the game seems to have developed a cult following. Why do you think that is?
It seems to have taken on a little bit more of a life years later as kind of a novelty. It’s funny, as time goes on, I hear more positive stuff about it. Certainly, I think it was part of the fabric that made freeskiing where it is now and legitimized it as a legit faction of skiing. If you put all the pieces together, you had JF [Cusson], JP [Auclair], and Vinny [Dorian] starting it off, and the Olympics and the 360 mute grab bringing it mainstream. Then the X-Games and then a video game—every little piece sort of built the fabric.
It’s too bad it wasn’t commercially successful. If it was, they could have made more [games]. You might say the game was a little bit early. Freeskiing wasn’t as prevalent as it is now. Why so few people have tried it again is an interesting question.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.