Jun 4, 2021 - Technology

New "PowerWash Simulator" game captures the catharsis of cleaning


"PowerWash Simulator." Photo: FuturLab

"PowerWash Simulator," (exactly what it sounds like) is the latest example of life's mundane tasks becoming sensational when turned into a video game.

Why it matters: Gaming is as broad an art form as there is, so those who only think they involve shooting, jumping, driving or matching gems are missing out.

"PowerWash Simulator" comes from FuturLab, a quirky U.K. studio that wanted to tap into the lucrative first-person gaming format, but didn't quite have the resources to make their own "Call of Duty" or "Fortnite."

  • In 2019, inspired by footage on a subreddit called r/powerwashingporn, the studio began building a first-person game in which you spray and wash dirty things.
  • A playful public demo was a hit and has blossomed into an early access PC game that can be purchased and played as the developers flesh it out.

In the game, players use a variety of nozzles to spray down dirty motorbikes, cars, and even a Mars rover. (Watch the trailer.)

  • It eschews standard gaming tropes like enemies or obstacles, making it a sort of "anti-game," lead designer Dan Chequer told Axios.
  • "This is purely about the zen experience of washing."
"Power wash simulator"

Between the lines: Part of a game designer's job is to turn real or fantastical things into systems, creating algorithms to simulate the spread of religion in "Civilization," for example.

  • For the "PowerWash" people, they needed a dirt system.
  • Their answer: seven types of dirt, any three of which can be applied to the filthy things players must clean.
  • Game design, alas, is about working within constraints: "We had more dirts that we wanted to use," Chequer said.

The big picture: “Simulator” games are a remarkable subgenre that range from the serious to the absurd in both topic and execution.

  • Games such as “Surgeon Simulator” are parody, while “Farming Simulator” harvests it straight.
  • “My scale goes from ‘Goat’ to ‘Train,’ Futurlab’s Toby Adam-Smith said, citing two other simulator games that bookend the seriousness scale.
  • For this one, on a 10-point scale, the developers are aiming for a six: realistic equipment types, fantastical levels of cleaning power.

What's next: The developers want to add multiplayer competitive and cooperative cleaning and expand the game’s story mode.

  • They’re also investigating the ability to include some very famous dirty things in the game.
  • "That would be a wonderful thing to have six people running around cleaning the Millennium Falcon together," producer Adam-Smith said, stressing no such deal has actually been made. "It would be a dream."
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