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My JRPG fantasy is fighting for a clean environment

Cloud and the generic PowerWash Sim character are both heroes in my heart

Cloud and Barrett look shocked in a screenshot from Final Fantasy 7 Remake Image: Square Enix

I think my sick video game fantasy is undoing environmental harm. There is something both appealing and perhaps naive about imagining that we can actually undo the harm of large-scale ecological disasters. And even if the current outlook in real life might be bleak, I have games like Final Fantasy 7 Remake and PowerWash Simulator to help me imagine other worlds.

While the two games don’t appear to share much other than their publisher, each is about improving the world and the environment around you, in some sense. In PowerWash Simulator you clean gunk up with a pressurized jet of water. And in Final Fantasy 7 Remake you team up with a band of friends to oppose an evil energy corporation and its ongoing mission to exploit the earth for its resources. Luckily for me — a Final Fantasy 7 and PowerWash Sim freak — PowerWash Simulator is getting a special Final Fantasy 7 Remake DLC that will allow you to clean up various set-pieces from the game.

The collaboration is likely to help promote PowerWash Simulator to the audience of Final Fantasy 7 Remake, and vice versa. But the DLC also feels weirdly appropriate, given the way the two games play off of each other.

Final Fantasy 7 Remake is set in Midgar, a city run by an energy corporation called Shinra Electric Power Company that exploits the environment for its resources. This extraction hurts some inhabitants of Midgar more than others. As video essayist Jacob Geller so eloquently argues in “The Politics of Final Fantasy 7’s Architecture,” the class dynamics in the city are underlined by its physical architecture. The wealthier professional class literally lives on a giant metal plate that hangs over the slums, leaving the slums to suffer the brunt of the environmental consequences of the massive energy industry.

Playing through the PowerWash Simulator DLC will allow us to mitigate some of that harm. The DLC will allow players to take jobs from Shinra as well as from members of the rebel group Cloud Strife is a part of, Avalanche. As they clean, players will have to scrub special dirt like “bio-residue” off machines, which I can only imagine is the result of the energy company’s wrongdoings.

The DLC is very tongue-in-cheek, but I don’t know, all of it just feels a bit too real right now. As I write this, an ongoing environmental disaster is developing in Ohio, where a train carrying toxic chemicals was derailed. The prospect of cleaning up, and using sick magic powers and summons to fight against corporate entities, feels like the stuff of fantasy.

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