Release the Pressure with PowerWash Simulator! Wash away your worries with the soothing sounds of high-pressure water. Fire up your power washer and blast away every speck of dirt and grime you can find, all with the simple satisfaction of power-washing to a sparkling finish.
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I'm really not sure what the hype was around this as the pinnacle of 'relaxing games'. I'm a neat freak and cleaning is one of my escapes, but what good does doing so in a virtual world do?
When I play a video game, I want to enjoy something. That's not to mean that these kind of menial, laid-back tasks are utterly pointless. But couldn't you be putting that energy into achieving something? Even getting a colouring book, or one of those colour the dot games is at the very least aesthetically fulfilling. Slowly cleaning specks of dirt off virtual cars is not.
Clean your house and then play your video games, don't clean your house in the video game you absolute weapon.
Now, this is not a statement about the basic conceit of the game or how well that conceit is adapted into gameplay, but this (and I assume other) simulation of menial labour without any purpose makes me enter a very troublesome state of mind.
The basic gameplay loop of having to clean several giant buildings and vehicles with a basic toolset that barely changes is neither a fun not otherwise satisfying undertaking for me, but that alone doesn’t really trigger negative thoughts, it’s just kind of boring to me. The worst part about it is that despite its very apparent repetetiveness and simplicity it is highly addicting, because the game gives you a neat checklist and small visual and auditory rewards for cleaning every single surface. Every time you clean a surface to an amount the game deems “good enough to be done” (usually a very reasonable estimate by the game devs) a small reward sound plays and the surface in question blinks white, as to suggest that it’s now clean and polished. The game is also not entirely without merits in regards to moment-to-moment decision-making, you can use different nozzles and cleaning agents - not to mention navigating the space to reach the more elusive spots. If you wanted to challenge yourself by speedrunning this game I assume it’d be fun in weird way.
This level of engagement to my reptile brain is just enough to keep going despite not getting any actual fulfillment from it. The problem is obvious: This game traps me. I play this game for 2 hours to clean a carousel and while I do get a momentary dopamine hit for each surface cleaned, this is not an intrinsic reward for me, and it doesn’t even elicit a genuine feeling of accomplishment. It’s just the game telling me: “You’ve done a good job! Here, have a treat.” There is no emotional arc here, there is no relaxation from a real-life work day, and this game just feels like unpaid and unsatisfying labour. In the real world, I could very likely feel a sense of purpose for this work, simply because I’d be materially helping people and restoring real properties to their former beauty, but I do not derive any enjoyment from menial tasks done for the sake of themselves. When you clean a property in this game, it will just stay cleaned in the transient digital void, for no one (not even yourself) to ever appreciate that work again.
I do not believe the makers of this game are incompetent, quite the opposite actually - They tried to build a game for people to relax, give some people a little reward here and their, and if these extrinsic pats on the back actually do it for you and make your day better, I am genuinely happy for you. But I also can’t deny what this game does me. It makes me feel like I wasted hours of my life doing nothing of value. Just the thought of booting it up again makes me feel anxious, because I don’t want to get caught in this loop again. The only thing of value I could extract from this game is that I learned something about myself: I should listen to the warning signs of a mental treadmill like this sooner. That nagging feeling that I’m not actually having fun and just going through the motions is probably right.