I recently lost a whole night to PowerWash Simulator.
I don’t stay up too too late playing games anymore. Yes, I do play until 2 to 3 a.m. with some frequency on game nights, and I get how that sounds late, but I’m 25. My sleep schedule is always out of order, and yet it’s a rarity I exceed that curfew. And then this week, I did the unthinkable…I played PowerWash Simulator entirely by myself until 6 a.m. I “clocked in” to my shift at about 10 p.m. and before I knew it, the birds were all but in my ear chirping, “Go to sleep, you sicko.”
I’ve recently been losing many such blocks of time to PowerWash Simulator. When it came out of early access a few months ago, I watched, completely by accident, a streamer clear out a train station that took her five hours to do by herself. I was just checking on a channel I hadn’t been to in a while and my night disappeared out from under me. I quickly told my friends to download the game and join because I thought after ceaseless months of battle royales and head-to-head competition—the kind of stuff games are practically known for nowadays—we could use something a bit more downbeat and zen. Sometimes we clean together, but more often than I care to admit, I sneak in a clean or two of my own on nights where I’d rather go solo. The one constant is how often the hours just get away from me while I’m playing. I simply open up the game and forget myself. All I am now is a power washer with a pig sty of a town to clean up after. I could not be happier.
I’ve been beginning and ending my days with small cleans, like maybe a car someone clearly let sit in a ditch for months. On occasion, I’ll double back in the middle of the day or early evening and do a larger job, like a fire station, with a friend or entirely by myself. I’ve been introducing one of them to Taylor Swift’s discography while we clean because the game is so laser-focused on power washing that it doesn’t even have any music. It avoids distractions and just fills in periods of quiet determination as we chip away at the job no one is forcing us to do. I’m excitedly buying long barrels for washers, worrying about water pressure, and wondering who the hell I’ve become. The structure my life is temporarily gaining while I fixate on PowerWash Simulator, as well as the incredibly mellow vibes I’m cultivating, are out of this world. I haven’t just needed a game like this; I’ve needed any outlet like this.
The truth is I’m always looking for something to spend time on. Sometimes I feel like the only person who doesn’t have “projects.” I don’t have things to “get off the ground.” Besides, when I’m not working or playing the games I already play, I try to carve out time for relationships and touching grass; you know, put on a concerted effort to be more worldly and shit. Life, I’m learning, is too short to be all work. But absent the domestic joy of the occasional chore, I feel defective or dysfunctional. Like I don’t work the way the people around me do because I can’t tie myself to some goal and accomplish it and get that satisfaction on a daily basis. But the thing is, more than ever, I need that. I have bad nights, periods of isolation, bouts of depression, and times when I’m just straight up floundering in life, and normalcy seems like the most potent medicine I can get at this point. PowerWash Simulator isn’t giving me direction or saving my life, but it certainly is giving me some purpose I don’t currently get in my day-to-day, and illuminating that I need a change.
As I’m growing up, maybe I’m just realizing I need a new life. I’ve been living the same one for a long time now and it could use some harmless upending. Some new goals and routines that’ll let me embody the closeted neat freak that lives in me or just carry out a task. We all know the satisfaction of clearing an objective or quest in a game, but I don’t even want something that momentous. What I want more than anything, especially the further I wade into my tempestuous twenties (this shit is really no joke) is some reprieve. So sell me your domestic fantasies, videogames. I think I’m outgrowing the ones you’ve been peddling me till now.
Moises Taveras is the assistant games editor for Paste Magazine. He was that one kid who was really excited about Google+ and is still sad about how that turned out.