When it comes to dirt racing, Jeremy McGrath has been there, done that, got the jersey.
The seven-time Supercross champion – between 1993 and 2000, plus one AMA Motocross title to boot – is not just the most lauded rider of his generation, besting the like of Kevin Windham, Ezra Lusk and Larry Ward, but of all time.
With the plaudits and the championships comes status, and that status can be leveraged to grow the sport – even after retirement.
One such way is through video games, something McGrath is no stranger to, having had four eponymous games across bikes and cars (plus a fifth co-titled with Travis Pastrana) to date, something the former BMX rider reflects upon fondly.
“Racing motocross when I was a little kid, I used to play Excitebike a lot,” said McGrath to Traxion.GG.
“That was the original game, and me and my buddies would get on there for hours and just play that.
“So, it was a natural progression to try and stick with the times. You were no longer in the blocks and the little jumps. Then the tracks and the graphics changed and got so much better.
“I was winning in this sport, so it just made sense. I think back in the day, it was Acclaim that came out first game – we had a good time.”
McGrath retired from Supercross competition at the end of the 2002 season, still at the peak of his powers, finishing third in the championship that year.
“I don’t know if it was on my own terms, [Ricky] Carmichael started beating me pretty bad,” chuckles McGrath in an approachable, endearing, fashion.
Since then, he’s been focused on his family and working in ambassadorial roles tied to the sport.
You can just tell though that the originator of the Nac Nac freestyle move continues to have a tremendous passion for the sport today.
“I think Supercross is in a really good state right now,” explained McGrath.
“I think the guys that have been battling each week have been really fun to watch. Some years it can be not so fun, but this year seems to be really competitive.
“There’s a lot of guys out there going really fast and they’re all making mistakes, which is kind of unheard of really. They don’t really make mistakes a lot, but this year has been full of them.
“[I hope they] just keep doing what they’re doing, because we’re having a good time watching it.”
That’s where McGrath’s appearance within Monster Energy Supercross 6 ties in. The official video game of the real-world sport, recently totalling over 2.3 million franchise sales so far.
As you play through the career, it’s McGrath’s voice that guides you through the various options and tutorials and at certain points, he’s even modelled within the virtual world.
“It’s a skinnier version, so that’s good,” jokes McGrath about his facsimile.
“In the past, I’ve had games and also been the rider of choice. In this case, it’s a unique position.
“In the real-world, I’m an ambassador and a coach, players can now lean on that.
“I was in a voice studio, we went over some lines and four or five hours later we had some pretty cool stuff.
“It’s so flattering just being in the game, so I’m stoked about that.”
It’s a feeling that is reciprocated by the game’s development team.
“Jeremy was very helpful and was immediately interested in working with us,” said Luca Pellizzer, Monster Energy Supercross 6 Game Designer to Traxion.GG.
“Having the opportunity to work with a Supercross legend and get feedback from him was something really amazing.”
The Supercross 6 game is an accessible way for fans of the sport to relive the 2022 season, including the official tracks, riders, teams and bikes. But, it can also help the wider Supercross scene gain new fans.
The career mode offers a tantalising mix of ‘side quests’ within the open-world Supercross Park, earning experience points, unlocking enhanced abilities and fighting for championships.
“The most complex part of developing Supercross 6 was to make the title as accessible as possible while still maintaining its competitive soul,” explained Pellizzer.
“We have worked hard to get gameplay that allows more experienced players to feel all the adrenaline of the sports – for instance by making it essential to find the correct flow to win races.
“At the same time, we tried to recreate a simplified simulation for those players approaching the game for the first time, with a rider aid package that allows anyone to compete and win.”
It’s this instant accessibility that leads to a platform that can be enjoyed by all.
“People that aren’t riding dirt bikes, or don’t even have access to bikes, get to experience a little bit of what we’ve got going on,” explained McGrath about the importance of an official video game.
“If it gets someone to watch a little bit of Supercross on TV, then we’ve accomplished what we’re going for.
“I think we’re all trying to grow the sport of Supercross for the greater good.”
In a way, that’s Supercross 6’s role in life. Existing fans get to replicate last season, but those who just enjoy video games can pick away at the career or try the Rhythm Attack mode in split screen. If they happen to learn about Eli Tomac or Cooper Webb, then it’s a win-win.
Even the King of Supercross approves…
You can listen to the full Jeremy McGrath interview on the latest episode of the Traxion.GG Podcast.