PowerWash Simulator is an unexpected delight in the shitshow year of 2022. I thought that I knew what I would be playing from the trailers, but I was shocked at the level of detail that went into this cleaning sim. By the time that I found myself crouching into the smallest crannies and optimizing my nozzle shape to clean a fake dinosaur slide, I started wondering: Am I a freak?
PowerWash Simulator is a simulation game where you run a power washing business. Stay with me here. You work odd jobs cleaning muddy houses, playgrounds, and vehicles for a variety of clients. After completing each job, you earn money that can be used to purchase new equipment and cleaning formulas, while receiving text messages from happy clients who consider you a janitor god among men. By far, being complimented for my cleaning prowess was the most satisfying part of PowerWash Simulator.
The fidelity of the game was incredible, and I marveled at how the dirt responded differently to each nozzle size or spraying distance. Soon, I found myself cleaning a digital playground more diligently than I clean my own apartment. I started anticipating where the dirt would be, and I thought about how much happier my mom would have been if I had properly developed this instinct as a child. As I looked around at the dust that gathered around me in real life, I felt immensely ashamed. What was I doing? Why was I power washing a fake golf cart when cleaning my apartment tonight would benefit my life in more substantial ways? I shrugged and went back to indulgently spraying the bumper with my nozzle.
I entertained myself by spraying my name into the muddy ground in Chinese. I manically ran around the garden with my power washing tools, drawing chaotic lines wherever I went. Power washing was work, but it didn’t feel like work. I was having fun with a productive activity, and there wasn’t a manager around to tell me to take my job seriously. By the normal definitions of capitalist productivity, I was power washing the “wrong” way. But in PowerWash Simulator, there wasn’t a wrong way to do anything as long as it got done eventually.
I started off feeling like a sick fuck for gamifying an actual job that was surely in no way supposed to be satisfying. But I walked away thinking: Maybe every job has the potential to be fun. PowerWash doesn’t just sell us on the fantasy of a water pressure gun. It simulates a world where a sanitary worker isn’t alienated from their labor.
Real sanitation work isn’t as rosy as what PowerWash Simulator makes it out to be. There are deadlines and angry clients. But if the circumstances of being a wage-worker weren’t so bleak, then there can be humanity and dignity in cleaning other people’s messes for a living.