I cracked under the pressure of PowerWash Simulator – seriously, I have nerve damage

PowerWash Simulator broke me in ways I couldn’t have predicted. This supposedly “tranquil” game features a control scheme so painfully repetitive and demanding that it brought back an old wound of mine. My first sessions went well, but by my fifth and sixth hour, I couldn’t take it anymore. Even after trying to work around these issues via alternate controllers and increased mouse sensitivity, I couldn’t find a way to avoid the pain.

Video games are an escape for many of us; a delightful medium that takes us to new worlds and allows us to experience sensations that no other art form can (like powerwashing). So you can imagine my frustration when a pc game it’s supposed to be cold instead created a major real-life inconvenience for me.

The story of my injury

Sometimes the way we interact with video games can hurt us, and not everyone comes out unscathed. This most often happens in the professional arena, where the demands of a quick response time, divine aim, or frequent practice wears down certain parts of the body. Gamers can also suffer from the adverse effects of gaming for too long, especially as poor posture or the overwhelming brightness of their screen degrades eyesight.

There are myriad ways players can get injured and admittedly my story is a bit silly. When I was a kid, my friend and I were returning from a trip to Coney Island, an amusement park that borders the North Atlantic Ocean in New York. When we got to our block, we agreed to get home as soon as possible. He and I had always been competitive about it, as we were keen to measure our top speeds through those friendly sprints.

Coney Island Beach

Coney Island Beach (Image credit: future)

In the middle of our run home, we tripped over each other and fell against the concrete. It was summer, so we weren’t wearing diapers that could have mitigated the weight of our falls. My right elbow brushed against the pavement and ripped off most of my skin, which sat hanging for a few months. In elementary school, I vividly remember being approached by a teacher I didn’t know, who asked me to “put this away” because it disgusted her and the other children.

It took a long time for it to fully heal, but when it did, my elbow would lock up and sometimes require me to twist my arm to unlock it. It created an unpleasant squealing sound, and while it didn’t necessarily hurt, I knew something was wrong. As a stupid kid who didn’t want to cause trouble, I never told anyone. This remained the case for many years, through middle school and high school. But one day, when I started college, it just stopped happening.

I foolishly assumed that I was free of my arm problems. But everything changed when God of War (2018) was released. I was at the start of my game on the “Give Me God of War” difficulty, which is still the hardest game i have ever played. It was late that year, and I remember being frustrated with the Yeti boss. I shifted slightly in bed, palm against the soft mattress I was sitting on, when I felt a sharp pain shoot through my wrist and up to my elbow.

God of the war

(Image credit: Santa Monica Studio)

I panicked and brought my wrist into a neutral position, but every time I tried to move it I felt an uncomfortable, sharp pain-like sensation shoot up my elbow. It also happened every time I tried to move my arm, so I accepted my fate and moved on. A few years of wearing an elbow pad later, and it was finally back to normal around 2020.

But even then, my right arm was still weak. When I train I have to wear a band around my elbow for support. I also wear it for extra support when playing osu, which is a rhythm game that requires constant mouse movement. I even have trouble fully extending my fingers, which can cause me a lot of trouble when I have to wrap my palm around something to grab it.

To be honest, I haven’t worn my elbow brace in a while. I don’t train much anymore and left osu years ago. It’s been smooth sailing since then, apart from a few random events, but last week that changed.

How PowerWash Simulator broke me

I started up PowerWash Simulator, a soothing game that features an entertaining but insane objective: washing away dirt, mold, rust, mud, and anything else that occupies a range of places, be it homes, cars, skate parks, playgrounds or even a fire station. It seemed like a decent way to pass the time while chatting, so I asked a friend if he wanted to play.

At first it was fun! I enjoyed the game’s satisfying simplicity, as there’s an inexplicable joy to be had in power washing. Even in real life, it feels good to turn on a hose and watch the dirt seep out of whatever you’re cleaning. But from my second session, I started noticing an uncomfortable tightness in my wrist. Playing this game for an hour would physically tire me out, although I’m able to play other games for ten hours straight with no problem.

PowerWash Simulator

(Image credit: Square Enix)

The problem with PowerWash Simulator, especially compared to other first-person games, is that the controls are repetitive. The player constantly moves their mouse in recurring motions when completing a job. First-person shooter controls are more dynamic, often allowing you to not move the mouse at all, and when you need to, it will be in a completely different direction than before.

PowerWash Simulator is the most demanding mouse game I’ve played. Even osu offered frequent pauses when selecting songs or searching for new songs to download. But in PowerWash Simulator, jobs get bigger and bigger, which means you can work in one place for an hour straight. It’s up to the user to take breaks at this time, but if I did, I’d have to stop every minute to do so. My friend also shared that he felt tense, noting that he needed to take breaks from time to time because he felt his arm getting sore.

I realized I couldn’t take it anymore on my third day of play. I felt a sharp jolt rise from my elbow to my wrist every time I placed it against my armrest, which made it obvious that my wound resurfaced. There was no reason to hurt myself physically just for playing something I didn’t like, so I decided to give up the game.

PowerWash Simulator

(Image credit: Square Enix)

But the next morning, I concocted a few plans: the first was to switch to a controller, and if that didn’t work, the second plan was to set my mouse sensitivity so high that I wouldn’t need to move mouse a lot. Unfortunately, neither worked. The old plan ended up messing with my thumb. As I mentioned before, I struggle to fully extend my fingers on my right hand, so continuing these monotonous motions non-stop with a joystick puts pressure on my fingers.

Turning up the sensitivity could have made things worse, as I needed to grip the mouse much harder to clean it accurately. It put extra pressure on my wrist and didn’t allow me to relax while moving the mouse. It became clear that there was no way out, so I decided to abandon PowerWash Simulator altogether.

At the end of the line

First of all, I’m fine. I quit playing PowerWash Simulator before I needed to wear an elbow pad again. My wrist has been a little tight for a few days, but it usually goes away after a little rest.

I don’t blame the developers of PowerWash Simulator either, as it’s hard to imagine how a game like this could have been designed differently. The subject matter happens to be demanding, where the player is constantly waving their mouse around to clean every object in sight. It’s an unfortunate situation that this seemingly relaxing match ended up being one of the few to rekindle an old injury.

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