There's been something missing from the gaming landscape. Something that's been bugging me, though I haven't been able to put my finger on it. It was Spelunky, bizarrely, that knocked loose the mental blocks and made me realise what I was pining for. Though that game's nameless hero owes most of his DNA to rock-hard NES classic Spelunker, there's also a dash of Manic Miner in there. And that, I realised, is what I miss: working class heroes.
Admittedly, Miner Willy didn't spend any time at the coalface, nor have we ever seen Mario up to his elbows in a blocked U-bend despite his plumbing credentials, but both hark back to a time when the popular template for video game characters was a salt-of-the-earth working stiff, facing insurmountable odds, rather than an invincible superhuman warrior.
Even more fascinating is the fact that a great many games back then actually used these working class backgrounds as the basis for their gameplay. Perhaps it was simply that we were so enchanted with the ability to control a little man on the screen, that it didn't matter if the tasks ahead of him were utterly mundane. Most people wouldn't see life as a barman in a dingy drinking hole as a fantasy life worth simulating, but Tapper managed to become a hit all the same. Most kids saw a paper round as a means to an end, or a cruel introduction to the pain of early mornings, yet Paperboy gobbled up coins in arcades on both sides of the Atlantic.