Environmental Practices for the Games Industry
Published: 20 Nov 2023
A games company like any other business has an obligation to its customers and by extension to the environment, to prmote their flourishing... that is to say: we've all got to play our part. Being the world's foremost entertainment medium, games companies are primed to not only help by reducing energy usage, but by promoting pro environmental media. To turn heads and to put into practise digital practises that are applicable across many other industries that use I.T. technologies.
Many of the recommendations below are a combination of the articles linked below, the UKIE Green Games Guide, and my own knowledge and experience.
So what should we be doing..?
I've split my list of thoughts and recommendations into 3 sections: Client side, Distribution and marketing, and Business operations.
Hardware for playing games, like the PS5, Switch, Xbox X/S and gaming PCs, all have several environmental attack vectors (to borrow terminology from CyberSecurity). They consume electricity, they can by created from rare natural materials, they require industrial processes to construct, are hard to recycle and have a built in obsolescence, and are designed to promote a certain way of using the system e.g. stand by modes can sit and consume energy instead of being turned off.
- Materials / Construction
- Trends / obsolescence
- Human Computer Interface (HCI)
Some what more nebulous, the idea of "good" game performance can be seen as good for the gamer's experience, their electricity use, and their console purchasing budget. Better game performance can open the door up to helping with the console hype cycle by allowing games to be more readily ported to more systems which prevents more and more systems from be purchased and produced... This, however, is a fly in the ointment for the hardware manufacturers who can often wish to sell hardware in cycles to promote their brand, lock people into their devices/services or chase higher game resolutions and visual effects. Though with the move to online stores and subscription services it does seem like the hardware cycles are getting longer and therefore we're all benefitting from more time to developer games for a specific hardware system.
- Game performance / GPU - Id Software and the game Doom are the canonical poster child for performant game code. Doom has now been ported to all systems under the sun: watches, calculators, pregnacy tests. Though most of us aren't John Carmack, we all have the opportunity to create robust, performant code where we can in order to help our games run as well as possible. This also has the added side effect of needing less cutting edge CPU's and GPUs helping cut down on hardware cycles, using less electricity and producing less eWaste.
Habits / Culture / education
Games are a cultural medium. Like other mediums (e.g. film, theatre, music, books...) their content can be abstract, reflective, educational, shocking and everything inbetween. I'm often emotionally touched by games, as well as have that just one more time feeling. Game designs can harness theses attributes of the medium to promote a pro-environmental agenda (sounds a bit earnest doesn't it!). Many games are already nudging behaviour, educating, and entertaining players with their content which includes ecological topics. Off the top of my head, a game that does this explicitly recently was Terra Nil.
- Green patterns / behavior
Internet usage is also extremely relevant to the business section. The are two main issues with client side internet usage: the increase of individual traffic pushes the combined network peak traffic which in turn signals to networks to increase load capacity which basically equalls more hardware; using wired or WIFI networks is much less enegery hungry than using teh cellular network.
- Amount of usage - where possible files should be small, segmented / modular, and requests should be as infrequent as possible to avoid files being repeatedly downloaded (reduce excessive use of bandwidth).
- Mobile (cellular) VS wired network - users should consider doing large downloads, streaming, and uploading of larger files on wifi or wired networks. Companies should educate and encourage this type of usage and application design pattern.
Distribution / marketing
website hosting / green hosting? website bandwidth
- Website hosting
- Social media
- Bandwidth / file size
- Store fronts
- Physical product
- Contracts / procurement
- Data / bandwidth
- Development computers
- Digital habits
- Travel / flights / cars
- Offices / utilities
- electricity, water, gas
- food - Vegetarian / Vegan
- Employee culture
- Promotion of green values internally and externally
- Charity donations
- https://www.gamesindustry.biz/why-the-games-industry-must-play-its-part-in-the-battle-- against-climate-change-opinion