'PowerWash Simulator' players can now aid mental health research

Help researchers study the link between gaming and wellbeing as you blast muck away from a playground.


PowerWash Simulator players can now take part in a research project that looks at the links between gaming and mental health. Developer FuturLab has teamed up with independent researchers from the Oxford Internet Institute for what it calls a "a one-of-a-kind anonymous research study centered around the wellbeing of PowerWash Simulator’s players."

FuturLab says it's working on in-game rewards for participants. If you'd like to take part, you'll need a copy of the game on Steam. You'll also need to download a separate build of PowerWash Simulator. From the Betas menu under Properties, select the "research-edition – Research Edition 2022" option.

As Eurogamer points out, this build will provide two types of anonymized data to the researchers. They'll receive information on players' progress, item purchases and other activities as part of a "base telemetry" dataset.

The second type of data is obtained through questions that the researchers will be able to ask players about their experience. These will seemingly only take players a couple of seconds to answer. Players will also be able to provide feedback to researchers through a "Tell us how you feel" button in the menu. FuturLab won't have access to these responses.

Your game progress won't carry over between the regular game and the Research Edition (though taking part in the study will earn you cosmetic rewards in the main game). This is to help make sure study data is consistent and to avoid issues with save data. In addition, the Research Edition won't have a multiplayer mode and it will only have English-language support. FuturLab added that the Research Edition will be available for at least three months.

PowerWash Simulator, at least from my experience, is a relaxing game. It's just you, a power washer, perhaps a friend or two, maybe some soap and a whole lot of virtual gunk to blast away. It's not hard to see why many folks might find it soothing.

A number of studies into the benefits of gaming on mental health and wellbeing have been conducted over the years with mixed results. One suggested that playing Animal Crossing: New Horizons and Plants vs Zombies: Battle for Neighborville, both of which have sturdy social gaming features, may be good for you (the study was conducted in the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic). However, a recently published study, which looked at the gameplay habits of nearly 40,000 people, found that gaming had no significant impact on wellbeing.