When we start analyzing sustainability and environmental issues, gaming is not exactly one of the first topics that pop up in anyone’s mind. But let’s not so easily disregard this kind of entertainment yet. With its estimated market value of $ 151.55 billion and expected growth to $ 256.97 billion by 2025, the gaming industry is forced to be reckoned with. What’s even more important to the subject is that game consoles alone (research excludes PCs, cell phones, handhelds, etc.) consume about 16 billion kilowatt hours of energy each year, which is an amount that can easily serve an average-sized American city. So the space to make the gaming world more sustainable is more than ample. But is there anything called “sustainable play?” And if so, where is this movement headed? Let’s try to figure it out.
Definition of sustainable play
Although the term “Green Gaming” has been hovering more and more on the net in recent times, it’s still very difficult to say whether we’m simply talking about the cool-sounding minted phrase or a serious motion with a clear agenda driving it forward.
At the moment, it looks more like the first example. Of course, this does not mean that the concrete actions that use this umbrella term are missed. For example, back in 2008 Walmart started a Green Gaming Summit with representatives of three major console manufacturers (Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo), where the parties discussed packing the consoles with low power consumption or standby mode to reduce the amount of power consumption.
But since then, similar efforts to create a comprehensive, all-encompassing strategy to make the gaming industry more sustainable as a whole have been few and far between. So when we use the term sustainable gaming, we usually use it to describe individual efforts to solve specific sustainability issues related to gaming.
These efforts can be broadly rounded up into three major groups.
We refer here to all industries that are related to games, but not directly involved in the production of games or game hardware. Take, for example, energy -notropic beverages, which have become very popular with professional players in the last few years. The company uses lightweight cans to ship the beverages, thus reducing the resources used. The beverages also use all-natural ingredients and vitamins, so they are considered completely safe to use.
Some of the more obvious examples can be found in Steam, a video game distribution launched by Valve in 2003, which has now become a platform for small third-party publishers. Offering their users the ability to purchase digital copies of their favorite games, services like Steam reduce the number of physical copies floating around and reduce the consumption of materials like plastic.
Manufacturers and publishers
The most significant effort to make the gaming industry is, of course, made on behalf of hardware manufacturers and game publishers. As we have already stated, these efforts are usually individual and sporadic, but they indicate that the whole industry is moving in the right direction.
For example, PS4 finally introduced the energy-saving mode that has been discussed with Wall-Mart ten years ago, Microsoft claims that the latest iteration of their Xbox One is as much as 90% more energy efficient than the first release of the product, while Hewlett -Packard seems fully committed to making each new release of their gaming laptops smaller and better optimized (HP FireBird runs on only 350 watts of power).
Similar trends can be observed even when we scale down to the components themselves. In particular, Nvidia has sprouted a number of highly skilled graphics cards that have achieved a consumption of 75 watts or lower.
Last but not least, we would like to point out the efforts of game publishers. Juggernaut titles like World of Warcraft and PUBG are constantly receiving updates that make the games more energy efficient.
Education through games
The third group of efforts at what we like to call green gaming is educating young users through gaming content. Now, popular games like the Fallout series and Bioshock have always leaned into the topics of environmental issues, albeit in a very gloomy and dystopian way.
However, some of the newer titles allow users to take a more proactive role in the whole matter and participate in the development of their own ecosystems. The popular Sims franchise has received an expansion pack called Eco Lifestyle, which puts players in a position where they have a direct impact on the environment in which they live.
Similarly, Eco, developed by Strange Loop Games, allows players to build their own civilizations with limited resources and protect their newly created ecosystem through rational consumption. And there’s the hugely popular Minecraft that teaches kids all the essentials for sustainability from an early age.
As we can see, although these efforts are a bit inconsistent, the gaming industry is certainly becoming aware of the environmental issues and taking steps in the right direction to mitigate them. This should be enough until we get a comprehensive agreed green agenda that will guide the industry in the following decades.