Video Game Makers Pledge to Fight Climate Change
Will it make a difference? We found out.
Millions of people around the world demanded a better, livable future at a series of monumental climate strikes last Friday, and the video game industry has, at least nominally, pledged to do something about it.
A group of 21 gaming companies — including Sony Interactive Entertainment, Microsoft, Google Stadia, Rovio, Supercell, Sybo, Ubisoft, and WildWorks — said that by 2030, they will have collectively shrunk their carbon footprint by more than 30 million tons through technology innovation, “green nudges” (such as in-game prompts for players to reset console defaults to consume less power), and emissions offsets.
The formal commitment was announced Monday in tandem with the United Nations Climate Action Summit in New York City, where Greta Thunberg, the teenage Swedish climate activist, condemned world leaders for their negligence and launched a landmark children’s rights lawsuit against carbon-polluting countries with 15 other young people.
In the consumer technology space, activists and labor organizations have begun forcing companies to reckon with their climate culpability. And while the gaming industry has been subject to less scrutiny than, say, Amazon, its carbon load is significant. A recent study by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, which conducts research for the Department of Energy, said gaming is largely overlooked in terms of energy consumption. It determined that in the United States, carbon emissions from the gaming industry equal those of more than 5 million cars when accounting for the environmental impact — emissions produced by the manufacturing and shipping process, for example — of the supply chain. In California alone, gaming represented one-fifth of the state’s total miscellaneous residential energy use (similar to that of washing clothes or watching TV).
“The goals of the UN initiative all seem to be of value and we applaud the effort,” said Evan Mills, a senior scientist at Lawrence Berkeley and co-author of the study. “The initiative seems to focus mostly on the console gaming space, which is meaningful since consoles use much more energy in aggregate than desktop gaming.”