PowerWash Simulator – Research Study with Oxford Internet Institute

Thank you for your interest in our research study of PowerWash Simulator and its players! We’re excited to offer an exciting opportunity to take part in a unique collaboration between FuturLab and independent researchers from the Oxford Internet Institute. 

This is a one-of-a-kind anonymous research study centred around the wellbeing of PowerWash Simulator’s players and is a great chance to contribute to scientific research. We even have some unique in-game rewards planned for participants – we think you’ll like them! 

The researchers have experience with such collaborations, having worked with publishers and developers in the past. Their guiding principle is absolute independence: the results of the study will not be influenced by the game sector and are therefore completely independent of FuturLab. This level of independence is necessary as the project aims to deliver insights into the larger discourse of gaming and mental health. 

Academic Gnome

Research Edition

The study is taking place on a separate build of the game, which we’re calling our “Research Edition”. This version of the game will include the same content as the main game with a few changes. 

The most significant difference from the main game is that both Multiplayer and Non-English language support have been disabled in the Research Edition. 

A new ‘character’ has been introduced in the Research Edition which allows our researchers to contact you, the player, as if they exist in the game’s universe. They will get in touch throughout the study and occasionally ask questions about your experience. These questions are extremely short (they’ll take you less than a couple of seconds to answer) so shouldn’t disrupt your game experience. 

The study questions will not be asked in challenge mode, as they would be disruptive to this mode’s gameplay. 

Rewards will be available later, but the system to unlock them has been put into place so progress will be counted towards them. You’ll see this progression reflected in the ‘Rewards’ pop-up in the game. 

Please note that campaign progress will not be carried over between the Research Edition and the main game. This means that opted-in players will need to start from the beginning of the game and any progress in the Research Edition will not be shared with the main game – you will however keep progression on both versions when swapping between them. This is to ensure the study can be delivered in the most consistent way possible while also avoiding potential issues with saved progress on the main game. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: I have PowerWash Simulator on a platform other than Steam, can I still participate?

A: The Research Edition is only available for owners of the game on Steam.

Q: How do I opt in or Out?

A: See the Opting In and Opting Out sections below! 

Q: Can I have the Research Edition installed as well as the main version? 

A: Unfortunately, no. Due to the nature of Steam’s beta branches, you can currently only have one version installed at a time. Switching to the Research Edition (or back) will trigger a download and re-install of (most of) the game. This should be around 3 to 5GB.  It’s also worth noting that switching between versions will not clear any campaign progression.

Q: Why should I get involved? 

A: Because it’ll support extremely important research on video games! This is a first-of-its-kind research study which will be important in understanding the effects videogames can have on their players. We also have a few rewards planned for participants, which will arrive at a later date! 

Q: How long will the Research Edition be available?

A: While we don’t have a solid end date in mind yet, the branch will be available for at least three months from launch (which was 18th August 2022).

Q: Is there an age limit?

A: Unfortunately due to data protection and handling laws, participants must be aged 18 or older.

Q: Will I lose any progress on the main game for opting in to the Research Edition?

A: No, all campaign progress on the main version of PowerWash Simulator will be retained as the Research Edition uses a separate ‘save file’. All progress from both branches will be kept when swapping between branches on Steam.

Q: How do the participation rewards work?

A: During gameplay, the researchers will periodically get in touch with the player via an in-game character. These will usually be followed by a popup with a question about the player’s experience and wellbeing. These questions are always optional, but answering them will yield progress towards unlocking the next reward.

The rewards will be released at a later date. In order to claim and use them once they go live, you will have to launch the Research Edition and use the in-game rewards popup to claim any you have unlocked. Once these have been claimed, you will be able to equip them on both the Research Edition and the main version of the game on Steam only. Equipped cosmetics will be visible to all players during cross-platform multiplayer.

Q: I have an issue with the Research Edition, how can I report it? 

A: Please use this thread on the Steam discussion boards. 

Q: I would like to ask the researchers a question, how can I do this? 

A: Please get in touch via their dedicated email address

Q: Will the Research Edition be available in my language?

A: At this current time the Research Edition is only available in English. 

Q: Can I play the Research Edition offline?

A: While the core gameplay will still be functional when offline, the data from the study can only be sent to the researchers while you have an active internet connection so we do encourage trying to retain online connectivity whilst playing on the Research Edition as much as possible. 

Q: Will the researchers know who I am if I participate? 

A: No, the data being collected are being de-identified so that no one at either FuturLab or Oxford Internet Institute will be able to re-identify you as a participant.  

Q: What will you do with my data? 

A: In the Research Edition all of the data is anonymous and will be de-identified. There are two types of data being collected –

The first is the ‘base’ telemetry – metrics for player progression, shop purchases, general gameplay activities etc. This will be both kept by FuturLab and provided to the researchers for analysis in the study. 

The second type of data is made up of the responses from the Research Edition-specific popups (aka the questions that the researchers will ask you). Any question that you respond to from the researchers will not go to FuturLab, and will be sent securely from the game client to the researchers’ own database. No-one except the researchers will have read access to this sensitive information – and like your telemetry, these data will be de-identified. 

Q: What is the difference between the Research Edition and the main version? 

A: The Research Edition has the same content as the main game except for the following: 

– Multiplayer has been disabled 
– Non-English language support has been disabled 
– A new launch sequence will allow first-time players to opt-in if they agree to the terms 
– A new Opt Out button on the main menu provides players with instructions on how to transition back to the main game and remove their progression (and sensitive data) if desired 
– A new Tell us how you feel button in the menu allows players to optionally give the researchers feedback about their experience once every 30 minutes 
– A new Rewards option in the menu allows players to track their progress towards unlocking the new cosmetic reward for participation. Though these aren’t yet available for claiming, progression will be tracked and saved – don’t worry, you’ll be able to claim them when they release
– Throughout gameplay, a new character will periodically contact the player with communication about the study, often closely followed with a question about their experience 

Opting In

It’s easy to start participating in the study. The Research Edition of the game is available to any existing owners on Steam through a publicly accessible beta branch.  Opting into the Research Edition will not overwrite your campaign progression on the main version, you will keep any progress and be able to return whenever you like (see Opting Out).

All you need to do is follow these simple steps to get started: 

1. Navigate to your Steam library 

2. Find PowerWash Simulator and right click on it (if you can’t see it, ensure you don’t have any filters set which might be hiding it) 

3. Select ‘Properties…’ from the right click context menu

4. Select ‘BETAS’ from the left hand menu

5. Click the dropdown, and select ‘research-edition – Research Edition 2022’

6. Steam should now start downloading the new branch

7. Once the download is complete, simply launch it in your usual way, you should see the Research Edition logo on the intro title screen

Please note that due to the nature of Steam’s ‘beta’ system, you can only have either the Research Edition or the main version of the game installed. Swapping between them is simple but will require a download each time. 

Opting Out

Once you have opted into the Research Edition, Steam will have automatically downloaded that version of the game and you will be able to run it from the Steam listing of the game in your library. 

To return to the main game, you will need to follow the same process to get to the beta branch selection dropdown, then select None

This should trigger/queue a download in Steam for the main version of the game, to replace the Research Edition. 

Clearing Progress

When returning to the game by swapping back to the main game via Steam’s branch selection, your campaign progression on the Research Edition will be saved and kept on your Steam Cloud (if enabled).  

If you would like instead to clear this campaign progression before returning to the main game, there is an option to do this from inside the Research Edition. Please note that this will only clear the campaign progress specific to the Research Edition. Any campaign progression on the main branch will remain unaffected. 

During the in-game opting out process, you can also request a deletion of the collected anonymous research data from your participation. 

To clear your progress in the build, please follow these steps: 

1. Navigate to the main menu in the Research Edition

2. Locate and press the Opt Out button in the bottom right

3. A pop-up will show with some more information about opting out, please ensure you read it fully, and press Opt Out in the middle if you are happy to go ahead 

4. Another pop-up will show, this time outlining what will be deleted and kept, again please ensure you read this and fully understand before pressing Opt Out for the final time. If you would like to delete your anonymous research data, please check the box before clicking the button. 

Please note that once you click Opt Out on this final pop-up (pictured above), any campaign progression you had on the Research Edition will be lost.  

Any rewards you will have unlocked however will not be lost and will be retained, if they are unclaimed, you will need to return to the Research Edition in order to claim and use them. 

Thank you for your interest! We hope you will consider joining us in the Research Edition of PowerWash Simulator.