There’s something extremely satisfying about cleaning. Perhaps by taking something dirty and making it sparkle again, we gain rare control over a situation when life itself is often unpredictable. It’s certainly how I feel as I cleanse a dinosaur slide in PowerWash Simulator. As I run a narrow nozzle over the stubborn dirt that has gathered upon my prehistoric friend, I feel overwhelming zen. The muck gives way to polished purple skin and pride swells in my chest. I’m in control of this situation. I am making it sparkle.
It’s not quite the feeling I had just half an hour before. Instead, I was spiraling, an upsetting incident triggering a part of my psyche that I often try to keep a handle on. My thoughts were blurs, my emotions running the show, and I was past the point that I could mentalize the situation. I simply needed to self-soothe, to distract myself, and focus on one thing wholeheartedly until the distress passed. Fortunately, I had just downloaded PowerWash Simulator from Xbox Game Pass.
If anyone had told me that the – on the surface, monotonous – act of virtual jet washing would have brought me a sense of peace, I probably wouldn’t have believed them. But PowerWash Simulator proves that mundanity is needed at times and, occasionally, it can be the therapy you need.
Live laugh lava
The premise of PowerWash Simulator might be straightforward, but the tasks at hand are far from simple. You’re the owner of a small power washing business (read: someone who happens to have a power washer) who has their work cut out when the neighborhood is made filthy by a local volcano explosion. Look, if you believe a power washer wouldn’t decimate a truck’s paint, as during your first task, then you can believe the volcano thing too.
Armed with your trusty washer, you visit locations in the neighborhood that have been coated in soot and spray them down, making them spotless once more. The volcano hasn’t been kind and its soot has crept its way into every crevice, meaning you need to spray down motorbike engines, lawnmower handles, and even the inside of bins to clear it up.
I’m very aware that it sounds like I’m very excited about something very mundane. But hear me out. You know that immediate feeling of dread you get when you see a pile of dishes in the sink? PowerWash Simulator initially feels a bit like that. You look at the mess before you, a blackened garden or play park, and think the task is impossible. Yet once you break it down into chunks, tackling each dish one at a time, you eventually see that the pile is done and you have a sense of pride (and relief). That’s the satisfaction PowerWash Simulator captures, but with one key difference: a lack of pressure.
Some of the best games let us carry out jobs that would otherwise be monotonous in real life. What makes them different? That they’re not real life. You can flip houses in House Flipper without the financial stress of doing so, mow the grass until your heart’s content in Lawn Simulator without your hay fever going wild and, in PowerWash Simulator, hose down a garden without decimating your gnomes. There are no real-life boundaries to the simple pleasure of the task itself.
And, let’s be honest, power washing is work. Hard work. If someone asked you to go power wash your driveway in real life, you would be reluctant at best. But without those fears of things going wrong, physical challenges, or the weight of having to do something, the task itself is cathartic.
I spent hours hosing down items in that play park, rhythmically going back and forward with my various nozzle heads and cleaning sprays, watching the dirt fall away. Nothing else mattered but cleaning each item and I could do it in my own sweet time. If I didn’t finish, I could simply come back another day without consequence. It instilled in me a sense of flow, that perfect moment when you’re presented with enough of a challenge to feel like you’re achieving something but without too much pressure to do it.
In a world where we never quite have control, games like PowerWash Simulator are important. They allow us to take some time out for ourselves; to remember that it’s possible to do low-pressure, mundane tasks and actually enjoy them. A reminder that it’s OK to take a breath.
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Vic is TechRadar Gaming's Associate Editor. An award-winning games journalist, Vic brings experience from IGN, Eurogamer and more to the TechRadar table. You may have even heard her on the radio or speaking on a panel. Not only is Vic passionate about games, but she's also an avid mental health advocate who has appeared on both panels and podcasts to discuss mental health awareness. Make sure to follow her on Twitter for more.