pointing at a video game genre and waving vaguely

today I am stoned and thinking about the time-honored video game genre of “you are a blue-collar worker trying to perform your job despite whatever weird cartoon bullshit the world is throwing your way”


bristles (first star software, atari/c64/apple/arcade?: you are a house painter, you must pass through every room in a house, leaving a trail of painted walls, while avoiding various things that hurt you and/or fuck up your paint – sort of a faster q*bert without the goofy perspective)

poster paster (taskset, c64/spectrum: you are going around town putting up posters, you must climb up your ladder and put multi-part images together correctly while avoiding weird little gremlins that you are presumably hallucinating)

bozo’s night out (taskset, c64: you are walking home from the pub, not falling into open manholes or bumping into easy-to-avoid pedestrians; every night your character is more prone to moving in random directions on their own because they are increasingly drunk)

tapper (bally, arcade: you are the sole bartender at a series of increasingly-woefully-understaffed bars who must beat back the happy horde with the one tool at your disposal: serving them a tall frosty glass of beer)

timber (bally, arcade: you are a lumberjack and chop down trees by yanking the right joystick around while avoiding beehives thrown by bees)

Not examples:

donkey kong (nintendo, arcade: you are certainly at a workplace and you are certainly a blue collar worker, but your goal is what the fuck is going on where did that giant monkey come from and why has it climbed up this building I’m working on with a woman in its hand holy shit I gotta save her rather than I do not care about the fact that my workplace is swarming with mischevious monkeys, I am going to get this drywall hung and finish my shift)

mario bros (nintendo, arcade: you certainly a blue collar worker at work, but your goal is kill all these critters running around the sewers rather than I do not care about these sewers being full of aquatic life, I’m just here to get the pipes reconnected and if that means we get turtles coming out of the city’s toilets then someone else can deal with that)

More modern examples exist but this genre has become almost entirely part of a corner of the market I don’t engage with and I wonder why this is? Maybe because the kind of challenge they represent just isn’t one I want to put the work in to experience any more; my sudden urge to play Bristles yesterday morning didn’t survive past me failing to work out the controls of a jittery web emulation, then failing to find a Mac version of MAME that runs on my machine.

I finally got an Atari 800 emulator up and running and the answer is: wow, these games get real annoying real fast, and I have better things to do with my life than stare at a bunch of brightly colored pixels with happy music playing. Dang. Okay back to doing slightly more adult things with my life.

  1. Another classic example: Hard Hat Mack, on C64 and Atari 400/800 (and possibly others). The premise is you’re a construction worker just trying to get your I-beams bolted in correctly, and meanwhile there’s vandals and OSHA representatives trying to undermine you at every turn, and coworkers just like randomly throwing tools around for no reason.

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