It’s difficult to imagine a more perfect podcast game than PowerWash Simulator. After leaving early access last week, FuturLab’s new recreational recreation of a mundane activity does exactly what it says on the tin, and with remarkable fidelity. It’s so faithful, in fact, that playing it for long almost feels like taking on a part time job. That’s kind of what I like about it.
This sudsy sim offers players a range of nozzles and soap with which to spray the grime off a variety of surfaces. There are also standing, crouching, and prone stances, bringing sniper-like seriousness to the process of negotiating the complex objects you may be required to clean. The first level has you spraying down your work van, as an in-game checklist alerts you when you’ve completed cleaning each area, along with a dollar amount for how much, say, a shiny hubcap is worth. While you can speedily make it through this kind of vehicle-cleaning gig, you quickly unlock new jobs that take significantly longer to complete.
As it stands, I’ve only completed two of these gigs, despite putting in about six hours with the game. That’s because each gig feels like a pretty close approximation of its real-world alternative. In the first two major levels, you clean a suburban backyard — complete with a table, umbrella, grill, and dried-up artificial pond — and a playground, stocked with monkey bars, a slide, a merry-go-round, and a sprawling rubber mat. All of these objects are compartmentalized and listed in a checklist in the menu, along with the percentage of gunk you’ve successfully hosed off. Cleaning something as small as a jungle gym’s climbing pole can take surprisingly long — you need to crouch to spray the undersides of each step, climb onto the jungle gym to spray the middle of the pole, move around the sides to eradicate grime from every angle. As in the similarly named Lawn Mowing Simulator, the last few percentage points of a job can take a while to shave off, as you’ll be hunting for the final specks of grime clinging to a backyard pond lining like sneaky barnacles.
While this takes patience, it doesn’t take much brain power. Playing PowerWash Simulator feels a lot like doing the dishes; a menial, but not unenjoyable task, faithfully presented in video game form. So, it’s fitting then that while playing PowerWash Simulator I’m multitasking with the same activity that I turn to during my daily chore: listening to podcasts. This isn’t new for me. I often throw an episode of Blank Check with Griffin and David on while I play Downwell on my phone, or throw a Noah Caldwell-Gervais video essay on while I play Minecraft on Switch. But, no game has ever worked quite as well as a podcast companion as PowerWash Simulator.
Like a lot of people, I find that my brain is most attentive when I have an activity to do which occupies my body. If I’m having trouble finishing an article, going for a bike ride or a quick walk to the library near my house often helps bring things into focus. If I put a podcast on while I’m doing the dishes or driving, I tend to get more out of it than I would if I was, say, relaxing in a hammock. At the moment, I’m currently preparing to shoot a short film next month. It’s the second one that I’ve written and directed, but the scale is a bit bigger than my last project. As a result, I’ve been listening to informative podcasts and watching technical videos constantly, attempting to wring a film school education out of the diffuse sponge of the Internet. While playing PowerWash Simulator, I’ve thrown on Team Deakins, a podcast by renowned cinematographer, Roger Deakins, and his wife and creative collaborator, James Deakins. I also took time to listen to the debut episode of Quentin Tarantino and Roger Avery’s The Video Archives Podcast, in which the Pulp Fiction collaborators talked about John Carpenter’s debut feature, Dark Star, and a drug-deal-gone-wrong flick called Cocaine Cowboys .
I don’t know how useful any of this will be next month. But, there’s something soothing about keeping my hands occupied with a simple, satisfying task while reams of information wash over me. PowerWash Simulator gamifies the removal of dirt and stuck-on grime to reveal a gleaming surface underneath. Somehow, that cleansing process seems to reveal a perfect foundation for creative work. While I tend to think of creating art as building something up, PowerWash Simulator seems to show that it can be, instead, about breaking down whatever stands in between the beauty and the eye of the beholder.
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