How one powerful idea turned a mundane chore into a gaming phenomenon: Kirsty Rigden, Co-CEO of FuturLab and the mind behind PowerWash Simulator, talks about ideas, ingenuity, and creativity.
PowerWash Simulator is an extraordinary example of a game that takes a feeling – relaxation, satisfaction – and champions it above all else. It’s a tale of success from an indie development team with a singular vision, all working within their disciplines to illicit that feeling. From the mechanics to the art, to the writing, PowerWash Simulator is a joyful, relaxing experience.
As a team we stretched, shaped and structured the original idea of PowerWash Simulator until it became the polished product we all know. But before millions of players got their hands on it, PowerWash Simulator lived in the mind of one woman – FuturLab’s Co-CEO, Kirsty Rigden.
The theme for this World Intellectual Property Day is Women and IP: Accelerating innovation and creativity. So, we thought we’d share some insight from the woman behind the original idea for PowerWash Simulator.
How did the idea for PowerWash Simulator come about?
It was a culmination of a few things. I bought a power washer to clean our patio, and I found the actual cleaning process super fun, but all the set-up and mess quickly took away from that. I was making small talk with a recruiter one day and telling them all about my new-found love for power washing, and they said, ‘you know there’s a subreddit for that, right?’
I found myself browsing this subreddit all the time, it was exactly the type of oddly-satisfying content that scratched the itch in my brain.
I had also noticed that simulation games in general seemed to be doing well, consistently making the top ranks of Steam. During that time, we had a strategy day, where we were trying to think of a game we would be able to make with our (then) pretty small team, and the idea just came to me: PowerWash Simulator!
What is it like seeing other people interpret your idea?
I took maternity leave early on in the project, so I had to step-back through a lot of the development process – but I knew I was leaving it in very capable hands. Incredibly, when I returned, the game was looking exactly as I imagined it.
Did you face any challenges trying to convince people that PowerWash Simulator had potential?
Oh God, yes! In the early days of pitching the idea, the main criticism is ‘where is the game?!’ We still get that from time-to-time. For some people, they don’t get the appeal, and to those people I say: but have you tried it?
Which aspects of PowerWash Simulator show the most creativity and ingenuity?
Many programmers and designers I have met have warned me to stay away from water in games. But the water physics in PowerWash Simulator are something I’m extremely proud of. The way our programmers have been able to strike a balance between realistic and satisfying is at the very core of what makes the game great.
Speaking of satisfaction, the now iconic ‘DING’ noise was originally intended as a placeholder, to let us know when something had been fully completed. Once we recognised the almost Pavlovian dopamine rush it provided, there was no turning back. The ultimately satisfying distribution of DINGs is something that is now foundational in the design of every new job.
Something that came as a pleasant surprise to me as well as most players, was the amazing story that’s embedded in the game. Our design team have done an incredible job of bringing the world of PowerWash Simulator to life with the addition of environmental storytelling, lore and dialogue. This was something I hadn’t originally considered, envisioning it to be a more basic simulator, but it has really brought something new to both the game and the genre.
What’s your best advice for thinking up original ideas?
Beyond not just re-hashing others’ ideas, try where possible to come up with ideas that intrigue you, rather than guessing what a certain audience might like. Think kind of selfishly: the success of PowerWash originated from that one golden idea that came from quite a niche interest of mine at the time – it was something that I really wanted to play.
With video games specifically, I think it’s important to live life outside of games and draw inspiration from your other interests and experiences.
Lastly, despite some nay-sayers, I truly believed in PowerWash Simulator from the beginning. Have courage in your convictions – if you don’t believe in your own ideas, no one else will either.
What are your all-time favourite IPs?
Pikmin and My Neighbour Totoro are definitely up there. But, if we’re talking ALL-TIME, it has to be Discworld – that would be my ultimate dream crossover for PowerWash Simulator.
And, of course, we’d be remiss not to mention the incredible IP’s we’ve worked with so far – allowing players to clean some of gaming’s most iconic locations: Croft Manor and the city of Midgar. Check out our Special Packs here.