Researchers at Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford, are collaborating with game developer FuturLab, makers of the game PowerWash Simulator, to study the effects of playing video games on the mental health of players.
PowerWash Simulator allows players to clean a multitude of areas, objects and vehicles in the fictional town of Muckingham, unlocking upgrades that help to clean more efficiently and building up their power washing business as they go. Originally built as an improvised self-care tool, the simple gameplay focuses on relaxation and satisfaction. The game officially released on July 14th 2022.
Shortly, players will be invited to sign up for a research edition of the game, where they report their well-being to the researchers at the Oxford Internet Institute. FuturLab then shares play data (e.g., when a player cleaned an object) with the researchers. This combination of subjective reports and objective play data allows the researchers to test important research questions about the effects of video game play.
The project is a one-of-a-kind collaboration between independent researchers and partners from the games sector. The researchers from the Oxford Internet Institute work closely together with dedicated personnel at FuturLab, whilst maintaining financial and organizational independence. The researchers have experience with such collaboration, having worked with other publishers in the past. The guiding principle for these collaborations, including the current one, is absolute independence; the results will not be influenced by the game sector. This level of independence is necessary as the project aims to deliver insights into the larger discourse of gaming and mental health.
This project is currently underway and the Oxford Internet Institute is not taking press inquiries until the results are released. Researchers anticipate releasing the full results early 2024. Limited project updates will be posted here during the research phase.