Many people like to collect video games physically and have them sorted in a library, but others prefer to simply download the games and play them digitally, and apparently the latter would be the definitive method of the future. On the one hand, digital games are easier to get than digital versions (sometimes they are even cheaper) and on the other, it is a move that would help combat climate change.
The video game industry is one of the largest on the planet. But, unsurprisingly, that comes at a substantial cost to the environment. According to a 2018 study titled Console Carbon Footprint, which analyzed the sustainability of game consoles, concluded that there are two damaging factors: the mass production of physical products that are shipped to gamers around the world, and the lack of energy efficiency in the consoles.
A substantial part of the console’s power use is determined by graphics processing, and all game consoles have a graphics processing unit (GPU), which creates the bright, colorful images we see on the screen. Consoles with larger GPUs are less energy efficient, which means that more carbon emissions are generated when gaming regularly.
On the other hand, according to the study, the production of physical copies of games emits more than twenty times the CO2 emissions of digital downloads. So gamers can reduce their carbon footprint by 95.6 percent by choosing to download a game rather than buying a copy out of a box.
This is because a physical game emits 0.39 kg of CO2 equivalent when manufactured, while digital downloads only produce 0.017 kg. The biggest carbon footprint of physical games has to do with the materials used in production, such as the aluminum polycarbonate in the discs, the polypropylene and polyethylene plastics in the box, and the printed glossy paper in the cover and brochure. that goes inside. Also, consider everything that goes into moving these physical items, such as trucks, cargo ships, and airplanes.
In simple words, making a disk and shipping it in its box somewhere in the world creates more greenhouse gas emissions than sending bits through copper wire.
Fortunately, in recent years gamers have been transitioning from physical console games to their online equivalent. And as a result, a huge community has been created where players can play with each other over a remote connection.
In accordance with Euronews, the games industry saw a significant increase in digital downloads in 2019, accounting for 83 per cent of all game sales in 2019. Also, in the UK, physical video game sales fell to just under 20 percent.
Now, digital downloads also use a lot of power during the download process, and then only consume the power of the console once you’re already playing the game. On the other hand, cloud games (cloud gaming) use less power, but power is consumed throughout the game time, which means that emissions can be very high if you play for a long time.
So what is better for the planet, download the games digitally or play them in the cloud? If the game size is small (including patches) and you will play it for a long time, such as Rocket league, it is better to download it digitally. But if the total game file downloads are very large and the game is short, such as a 35GB demo that lasts two hours, the best option is to play it in the cloud.
In short, if we consider that downloading games consumes energy (which produces CO2e), whenever possible, you can avoid downloading a 90GB game only to regret it and delete it from your hard drive before playing it. It’s like avoiding boiling a full kettle just so you don’t use the water afterward.
And what about the video game industry side? According to the recommendations compiled by Eurogamer -Based primarily on Evan Mills, who was behind the study Green Gaming: Energy Efficiency without Performance Compromise— some of the measures that the industry can take to combat climate change are:
- Apply long-term energy policy strategies in the field of video games, “including energy labeling, consumer information and education, voluntary ratings, improved software, and manufacturer research and development.”
- Enable a DIY community that uses web-based design tools like PCPartpicker. This is in order to “help users estimate the energy use of the systems being assembled and recommend more efficient components or designs, helping consumers avoid bottlenecks (for example, bottlenecks that waste energy). energy of certain components) ”.
- “Working with game developers to create titles that require less energy to achieve desired experiences.”
- Where technology allows, make products like demos and beta tests available to stream from the cloud rather than a download. This could greatly reduce waste, as these products only offer a few hours of playtime.
- Finally, a business has been known to sell new hardware every year, be it a graphics card upgrade, a larger monitor, or a slightly upgraded console. But they should question whether those updates are really necessary in the context of climate change, because the manufacturing, shipping and disposal of hardware produces greenhouse gases.
Video game companies have a great responsibility, but individually each one of us can contribute to the care of the planet by questioning the same thing. We can look at our equipment and the energy we use and wonder if, for example, we really need to update a certain piece of the computer every year.
“Nobody believes that their energy use and emissions are important enough to worry,” He says Evan Mills. But they are, “games are important,” concludes the researcher.