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A New Study Targets Gamers as a Major Source of CO2 Emissions

  • Full study published in the Computer Gamers Journal.
  • I break down the gist of it, so you won’t have to go through their paywall.
  • Study conducted as part of a growing movement towards “greener” gaming.

Oh, what will they blame video games for next? General irresponsibilities, addictions, social awkwardness, and in extreme cases, even violence have all been laid at the feet of the gaming community more times than we can count. Now we can add carbon emissions to that, as a study entitled Toward Greener Gaming: Estimating National Energy Use and Energy Efficiency Potential recently published in the Computer Games Journal claimed to believe. Unfortunately, this was a study locked behind a paywall, so I dove into it so you don’t have to. I do it because I love you guys, and because I want to get to the bottom of this.

Through a sea of technical jargon and an incredible amount of graphs, I could finally get to an answer of substance. In a typical year, gamers in the U.S. alone use about 33-34 terawatt-hours of energy. Breaking it down into easier terms for those of us who aren’t electricians, that’s 2.4% of all electricity in residential areas, which makes the CO2 output greater than 5 million cars. Those numbers don’t seem like such a big deal, right? This graph further backs that up that, despite a study aimed at greener gaming, it’s not gaming that’s anywhere near the primary culprit for CO2 emissions. By the Computer Games Journal’s own data “Computer Gaming” and “Computers and related equipment” trail far behind the top eight culprits, most of which are quality of life amenities. Given that I bought a personal copy of this out of pocket, and not a commercial copy, I’m not going to drop the graph here directly from the PDF. HOWEVER, we’re not completely without, as Digital Trends giving their own coverage of the study did share the graph in question. I’m providing a link for reference sake, not as an endorsement of their take on the study.

(Did you know that Disaster Report 4 is actually entirely about the effects of gaming on the environment? Because it isn’t. But this report sure wants you to think gaming’s impact is huge.)

To be fair, the study makes no claim that gaming is the primary culprit. When you’re pushing a piece to pursue ‘greener’ gaming, it does feel at first glance they are laying a lot of blame in the lap of gamers, does it not? The study may not intend it to be the case, but that’s exactly how it reads, no matter what side of any climate stances you may take. It’s another way for a government-funded study (in this case the California Energy Commission) to take another swipe at gamers. You have to give them credit, at least they’re getting more creative and attempting to be less on the nose about it. If you want to see the full study yourself and don’t mind the paywall, you can check it out here. But beyond the data, really all they mention are steps players can take to reduce their carbon footprint. That 2.4% is making a HUGE dent, after all (in case that’s not coming through well in text, that’s heavy sarcasm). 

In all seriousness, what I read in this study has had the opposite effect of anything they were aiming for. It’s another moment where all we can do is just keep on gaming and enjoying ourselves. Different government bodies and social organizations are always going to have it out for the hobby; we just have to take it in stride and shoot it down as we see it. So, after hearing about this study, what will you be playing this weekend, and what kind of setup are you running on? Console or PC? Modern Warfare? Death Stranding? Luigi’s Mansion 3? Or maybe it’s something else entirely? After all, there are plenty of big games out right now, game hard and enjoy.