How much do video games pollute? CO2 emissions from gaming

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How much do video games pollute? It is a question that if you are reading this article you have probably asked yourself at least once in your life. Well, video games are one of the industries that are still far from being truly sustainable, as emerged from several studies on the matter. Let’s try to go into the merits a little more and understand why video games pollute so much in terms of emissions.

Video games: how many emissions do they produce?

When we approach the issue of pollution in the gaming industry we usually talk about two different aspects: the pollution due to the production of video games and the pollution due to the sustenance of the online ecosystems that revolve around the various software. Let’s start with the first aspect, that relating to the production of video games.

From this point of view, the digital transition has yet to have its effects, given that for the moment it is evolving in parallel with the physical market, without completely supplanting it. Producing a physical copy of a video game creates on average about 0.39 grams of CO2 per piece, a number that, seen in this way, seems rather low, but which if put into perspective with respect to the number of copies produced for each video game on the market becomes colossal.

Suffice it to say that a triple A strengthened by a good communication campaign usually sells more than a million copies to understand the proportion of CO2 that is emitted into the atmosphere at each major videogame release. We take Monster Hunter Rise, which has sold more than 7 million copies worldwide: it is not necessary to make a calculation to discover that the amount of emissions produced by the marketing of this title is incredibly high.

Although we are also led to think that the digital transition could improve things, this belief is not entirely true, given that the production process would still consume some non-renewable energy sources. Of course, the complete switchover to digital would reduce the environmental impact of the industry, but this must be accompanied by an improvement in machines and infrastructures, which in turn involve a large expenditure of energy.

From here we can move on to the second big reason why video games pollute.

Consumption of ecosystems online

One of the most difficult data to keep track of when it comes to the impact of video games on our environment is what it concerns the energy expenditure of online titles. Of course it is very complex to average the consumption of each individual player since, just to give an example, not all PCs have the same energy efficiency and the users themselves have very varied habits.

However, it is clear to consider only the video game industry as the problem (understood as a production process) is at least a limiting vision of the phenomenon, which does not take into account the video game digital cycle 360 degrees. The environmental impact of a video game is in fact also dictated by the use made of it by the single player, which by its very nature is very difficult to evaluate.

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A recent study by Great Bean Bags revealed that the most emission-intensive video game is League of Legends, which produces the beauty of 114,000 tons of CO2 every year. The researchers obtained this data by taking into account the hours watched on Twitch for the title over the past 12 months, also discovering that the entire ecosystem of LoL consumes about 7 billion kilowatt hours per year.

In second place in the ranking of the most polluting video games we find Fortnite, with 94,000 tons of CO2 produced, while in third place it sits GTA V, which instead produces 94,000.

How to reduce the environmental impact of video games?

A solution that is uniquely effective to solve the problem of emissions in video games does not currently exist, and it is difficult to imagine one that is truly effective, except for drastic solutions such as the transition to green energy throughout the planet. A perspective that at the moment is pure fantasy.

But what we can certainly do is try to start changing things starting from our habits, trying to put into practice some useful tricks to reduce our emissions when we are grappling with video games. The most obvious of all these actions is to prefer digital play to physical, given that one digital copy it is significantly greener than a physics one.

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In addition to this, remember to always activate the functions of energy saving, especially if you are a console player, perhaps even disconnecting any peripherals associated with the device, since these are pieces of hardware capable of consuming large amounts of electricity and consequently capable of significantly increasing your carbon footprint.

In the same way it becomes central to keep the consoles updated to the latest update available, given that in some cases the most recent software versions also involve a much lower consumption of electricity. PS4 is an emblematic example of this phenomenon, as with update 2.0 it adapts the flow of energy to the charge level of the controller when the latter is connected to the console.

If you play on PC instead, try to prefer the components that are optimized for good energy consumption, with particular attention to the Graphic card, one of the most energy-consuming components of the entire computer.