US Gaming Carbon Footprint Is Huge as Platforms Target Greener Consoles

  • A study from researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory finds that U.S. gamers emit more carbon dioxide than Sri Lanka.
  • Gaming’s carbon footprint may increase with the rise of cloud-based streaming services.
  • The video game industry is actively working to make consoles and devices greener.

Gaming is expensive, and in more ways than one. According to a study published in The Computer Games Journal, video gamers in the United States produce as much as 24 megatonnes (24 million metric tons) of carbon dioxide per year. This makes U.S. gaming more costly to our environment than the entire activity of countries like Sri Lanka, Estonia, and Lebanon.

Worse still, the study’s authors found that newer forms of gaming – such as cloud-based streaming and VR – are much hungrier for energy. So the situation may get worse in the future as gamers increasingly migrate to online gaming and streaming platforms, at least according to lead author Evan Mills.

I think a likely future scenario is that mobile gamers, who expect a ‘play anywhere’ experience, would be more likely to move over to cloud-gaming services and so would end up with a higher energy footprint than regular mobile gaming because of associated energy usage of data centres and networking infrastructure.

Small Sample of Gamers

Luckily, the situation isn’t as dire as certain media reports would have you believe. To begin with, the study was fairly small. The research team at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory worked with only 20 testers playing a variety of 26 different video game systems. This included all consoles released by Nintendo, Microsoft, and Sony over the past decade and a half.

The researchers then extrapolated the results of their tests to all 134 million gaming systems in the U.S. and to all 50 states, which use a varying makeup of energy sources.

In other words, it’s possible that total carbon emissions may be less than 24 megatonnes per year. That said, even if it…

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