Playing Video Games Can Be Bad For The Environment (Yes, Really)

Between plastic packaging and console energy consumption, Video Games can be bad for the environment. This stems largely from the electricity that consoles require, which so often come from fossil fuel power plants which emit carbon dioxide. When considering how gaming impacts the environment, several factors come into play, including the physical waste of game packaging, the power consumption of different gaming consoles, and even the length of different video games when it impacts time spent playing.

Video game companies are becoming increasingly aware of their environment impact and the importance of reducing it. This has been behind decisions such as Ubisoft putting an end to physical instruction manuals as long ago as 2010, and Microsoft‘s commitment to carbon neutrality since 2012. More recently, it’s been the topic of conversation in the United Nation’s new Playing for the Planet initiative.

Related: Next-Gen PlayStation Will Be Incredibly Energy Efficient

Both physical and digital games can leave a surprisingly carbon footprint, according to Console Carbon Footprint research conducted by Slots Online Canada. For physical games, the worst offender is the packaging, including the aluminium poly-carbonate disc, the plastic case, and the paper cover and leaflet inside the case. All of these can end up as trash, especially in the case of annual games such as EA Sports series. According to the Console Carbon Footprint research, if all FIFA 19 players threw away their discs when purchasing FIFA 20, they would generate over 283,000 pounds of landfill waste. Meanwhile, digital games can require additional energy consumption based on download times and the work of internet servers. This means that although digital downloads are becoming more common and are more eco-friendly than physical games, they don’t even come close to eliminating the environment impact of gaming. Check out the video below for more information about the UN’s Playing for the Planet project:

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After installed via disc or download, a game’s impact on the environment is largely a result of energy consumption. In other words, the more time players spend with their consoles turned on and plugged in, the more energy is consumed from power plants that emit CO2. In addition, the advent and increasing popularity of cloud gaming puts extra stress on servers. With this online streaming, data centers often handle graphics processing as well. All of this adds to video games’ carbon footprint.

The good news is that in light of climate change, many video game companies are pledging to greener practices. For instance, though Greenpeace once ranked Nintendo as the least eco-friendly gaming company, Nintendo has since pledged to look into green practices and, in terms of emissions, actually currently produces less CO2 than other companies’ consoles. Notably, both the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One have energy-saving modes, and the upcoming PlayStation 5 console is set to be incredibly energy-efficient. When it comes to physical games, Sega plans to ship all of their PC games in recycled packaging. All of these steps, however big or small, are helping move the Video Game industry toward a more environmentally-friendly future.

Next: Google’s Stadia Is Netflix For Games

Sources: Slots Online Canada, Playing For The Planet

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