How VTubers gave me a new appreciation for mundanity in gaming

Those VTubers are costing me money, you know. Not because I’m simping, mind — the only money I’ve flung at VTubers to date is a five quid farewell Super Chat at Kiryu Coco during her graduation stream and a couple of those freebie Twitch subscriptions you get with Amazon Prime tossed in Nyanners’ direction — but rather because they keep playing games that I find interesting.

Actually, “interesting” might not be quite the right word, because the games in question are all deliberately “boring” on paper. But through the VTubers’ enthusiasm for them — and sometimes their entertaining incompetence — I found myself thinking “huh, I think I might enjoy that”. So I bought them. And you know what, I’ve enjoyed every one of them. So I thought I’d share some of the best with you now.

Vtubers and simulations

PowerWash Simulator

PowerWash Simulator was released through Square Enix’s “Collective” initiative, which helps independent game developers get their game published while allowing them to retain full creative control. It’s developed by FuturLab, a British developer best known for its excellent Velocity series of “puzzle shoot ’em ups”, seen on a variety of platforms to date, and is the company’s first experiment with Early Access.

I first became aware of this game through VShojo’s VTuber Nyanners, who has found it to be both a delightfully relaxing game that is perfect for talking nonsense over, and a great “summer game” that helps you feel like you’re cooling yourself off by virtue of its very aesthetics.

PowerWash Simulator is exactly what it sounds like. You have a power washer, and you’re not afraid to use it. Presented with a series of dirty vehicles and environments, it’s your job to track down every last bit of dirt and spray your fluid all over it until it glistens and gleams with pleasing moisture and cleanliness.

The game unfolds from a first-person perspective and allows you to make use of several power washers, attachments and nozzles. You earn money through cleaning the various stages, which can be used to upgrade your equipment as well as purchase consumable items such as soap bottles. There’s a “story” of sorts that primarily unfolds through text messages you receive while you’re on the job, but the main attraction is the sheer satisfaction of blasting through dirt and grime with a thing that looks like a gun.

Despite being in Early Access, PowerWash Simulator already has plenty of stages and equipment to enjoy, and FuturLab is experimenting with alternative ways to play. At present, this includes a Challenge Mode where you’re tasked with cleaning a van in as little time or using as little water as possible; over time, this will expand to include other levels from throughout the game. I expect we’ll see more VTubers playing this over time.

BeamNG.drive

This is another one I blame no-one other than Nyanners for, because she’s the only VTuber I’ve seen play it. It’s absolutely perfect for her, though, as BeamNG.drive’s potential for causing delightfully unstructured vehicular chaos is unparalleled by any other game out there. And Nyanners is nothing if not a force of chaos.

For the unfamiliar, BeamNG.drive is a game that has been in active development (and Early Access) since 2013. It was built as a means of experimenting with a soft-body physics model, which would allow for realistic car crashes — the engine allows cars to crumple, fold, tear, break, squash and all manner of other things. And not just through you driving them into things — the software also allows you to grab the various “nodes” that power this physics engine and fling your car around or smash it into things, play with gravity, and generally make a real mess.

Over time, BeamNG.drive expanded to incorporate a variety of ways to play. It’s still not “complete” by any means, but there are enough ways to enjoy it to call it a full-on game rather than just a tech demo at this point. There are several short “campaigns” to play which feature objectives to complete; there are a large number of one-shot “scenarios” that challenge you to accomplish a particular mission; there’s a time trial mode with a wide variety of tracks in various environments; and there’s a free roam mode where you can drop yourself into any of the maps, optionally summon AI traffic (and adjust its behaviour) and just enjoy driving and/or crashing.

It’s an enormously relaxing game because you really can play it how you want. In Nyanners’ stream, she simply hits up the Free Roam mode and drives around while chatting, occasionally stopping to fling things around and see what happens. It strikes a perfect balance between being a serious simulation where you can pretend to be driving a variety of interesting vehicles, and a toybox that your five year old self would love grabbing things from and just scattering chaotically around the room. I’d love to see more VTubers playing this — I can think of a number it’d be a great fit for.

Bus Simulator 18

I remember back when I first played Sega’s Crazy Taxi I found myself thinking “I’d actually play a game where you were a public transport operator, but in a more serious context”. This feeling only intensified when I found myself enjoying a lot of the more “mundane” optional activities in the Grand Theft Auto games more than the violent crime thriller that was supposedly the centrepiece of the experience.

Well, out of curiosity I watched Hololive EN VTuber Amelia Watson play Bus Simulator 18 the other day, just to see if the experience matched up to the vague idea I’d had in my mind for all these years.

While the most prominent thought in my mind after watching was “I’m never, ever getting on a bus if I see Smol Ame in the driver’s seat”, I also thought the game looked like a lot of fun — so I decided to give it a go.

Despite being a bit buggy — a lot of sims on PC are notoriously janky due to the complexity of what they have going on under the hood — I discovered a game that is highly enjoyable, and which strikes an excellent balance between a number of different game elements.

The actual bus driving is straightforward enough to have an almost “arcadey” feel to it at times — particularly with things like the rewards for accurately pulling into bus stops, using your indicators correctly and not mowing down pedestrians — but there’s enough “sim” in there to make it feel a cut above something like the aforementioned Grand Theft Auto. Having to do things like operate the ticket machine, open the doors and lower the ramp for passengers in wheelchairs really adds to the whole “I’m a bus driver!” fantasy — particularly as you can do all these things by actually clicking on switches in the cockpit rather than having to remember keystrokes.

On top of that, there’s an element of lightweight management sim in there, too. As you progress through the game’s introductory missions, you’ll unlock access to various other parts of the city as well as the ability to purchase more buses, hire drivers and develop your own routes. There’s no real end goal other than “make as much money as possible”, but it’s immensely satisfying to see more and more of the map covered by the bus routes you’ve set up yourself — and to see the money rolling in not just from your own driving efforts, but from the drivers you’ve painstakingly hired based on whether or not they like superhero movies or fancy your manager.

Euro Truck Simulator 2

I’d actually owned this one for quite some time — given how frequently it’s less than a fiver in Steam sales, I suspect many people own this, even if they’ve never played it — but I’m often reminded of how enjoyable it is when I see VTubers playing it.

There are a lot of VTubers who have taken on the challenge of truckin’ across Europe, particularly in recent months, it seems, but I will always associate it with crab VTuber Kani Kanizawa more than anyone else, since she’s played it and its American trucking counterpart a great deal over the seven months since her debut. She likes “games for dads”, and is not ashamed of that fact whatsoever. Well, maybe a little bit. But she ain’t changing for no-one!

Kani finds Euro Truck Simulator 2 appealing for much the same reasons as the other games we’ve seen today — it’s mundane, at times mindless and seemingly boring, which all makes it an excellent choice for a “background game” for a VTuber to play while talking to the audience. You don’t have to think about it too much while playing — but at the same time it provides some unexpected entertainment value if and when things go horribly wrong!

Like Bus Simulator 18, Euro Truck Simulator 2 strikes an excellent balance between simple, arcadey accessibility and more complex simulation elements. It’s completely playable with a gamepad — or even mouse and keyboard if you so desire — but it also features comprehensive options for those who have fancy expensive wheel-and-pedals setups.

On top of that, and again like Bus Simulator 18, there’s an in-depth metagame you can get yourself involved with where you run your own trucking company. You can buy new trucks, upgrade them, expand your headquarters, hire new drivers and gradually take over all of Europe with the awesome power of logistics. There’s also an online mode where you can play as part of a persistent “World of Trucks”, and the developers are in the process of adding a synchronous multiplayer mode where people can drive in convoy together. That sounds like a great backdrop to hanging out with friends online, when you feel like playing something together but want the experience to be more about chatting than anything else.


Doubtless some of you have had fun with the more “mundane” side of gaming, whether or not you became aware of these games as a result of VTubers showcasing them! Why not let us know about your experiences in the comments? Or if you have a bit more to say, pen us a letter for the Rice Digital Friday Letters Page!

Keep on truckin’!

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Pete Davison
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