Donate your gaming time to science with PowerWash Simulator

FuturLab and Square Enix’s PowerWash Simulator has always had something of a reputation as being a relaxing, chilled-out game — and now that is being put to the test with an independent study by the Oxford Internet Institute.

By downloading a special “Research Edition” of PowerWash Simulator from Steam, players can participate in an online study that focuses on the mental wellbeing of PowerWash Simulator’s players, with in-game rewards on offer for those who take part.

PowerWash Simulator

While the members of the Oxford Internet Institute carrying out the study have partnered with FuturLab to make use of PowerWash Simulator as the vehicle for their study, FuturLab has no input on how the study will be carried out. The aim is to more broadly deliver insights into the ongoing discussions surrounding mental health and gaming’s potential benefits in that regard. Games that are commonly regarded as “therapeutic” to a certain degree, such as PowerWash Simulator, clearly form an important part of that research.

The Research Edition of PowerWash Simulator features the same content as the main game, with the exception of the multiplayer modes and support for non-English languages. The key difference is that as you play the game, you will be contacted by a new in-game “character” who will ask you questions about your experience; your responses will be passed on to the researchers.

The system has been designed to be as unobtrusive as possible; responding to the questions will supposedly take a matter of seconds, and it will not interrupt the gameplay of the Challenge modes, which task you with completing a washing job as quickly or efficiently as possible. Instead, these questions will be posed to those playing the laid-back Career, Special and Free modes, which have no time constraints or “challenge” factors.

PowerWash Simulator

Two types of data will be collected from the Research Edition of PowerWash Simulator. All of it will have identifying information removed, so neither FuturLab nor the Oxford Internet Institute will know specifically who the data came from.

Firstly, the game will provide base telemetry to both FuturLab and the researchers; this includes players’ progression through the game and their general activity in the game. The second type of data consists of your responses to the research questions in the game, and FuturLab will have no access to this. Your responses will be sent securely directly to the researchers, and they will have read-only access, meaning that there’s minimal risk of your responses being changed or manipulated.

It’s worth noting that despite including the same game content, the Research Edition of PowerWash Simulator is not cross-compatible with the regular version, meaning that if you want to participate in the study, you’ll have to start the game from the beginning. You also can’t have both the Research Edition and the regular edition installed at the same time, as the Research Edition is distributed via Steam’s beta testing system. Your progress from the regular edition will be stored in Steam Cloud, so you can restore it when switching back to the regular version.

PowerWash Simulator

If you have second thoughts about participating in the study during play, you can opt out directly from within the game client itself, and optionally delete the anonymous data you have already sent up until that point. You can also opt back in again if you change your mind — and regardless of whether you’re currently participating in the study or not, you get to keep the unlockable in-game rewards.

If you’d like to find out more about PowerWash Simulator’s Research Edition and participate in the study yourself, check out the official website for instructions on how to get started. And enjoy washing for a good cause!

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Pete Davison
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