In recent years, the green gaming business has boomed, with the worldwide market predicted to exceed $159 billion by 2023. However, as the sector continues to grow, so does energy consumption. Is the game business worsening climate change’s effects?

Electricity is required for both the manufacturing and consumption of video games. Large-scale climate mitigations might be too expensive for a small game development firm. Small game production studios, like many other businesses, are beginning to recognize the need to offset their carbon emissions as well as the emissions of its players in order to prevent climate change. As a result, many studios resort to tree planting as a remedy.

Tree planting is sometimes lauded as a strategy to help reduce the consequences of climate change, which is exacerbated in no little part by the green gaming industry. Most games, especially those played online, need extensive data use and contribute to the 3.7% of world gas emissions attributed to data centers. While it is true that trees absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, reducing the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, there are other aspects to consider when evaluating the success of tree planting as a climate change solution.

An infographic of how carbon released from factories is absorbed by trees and converted to oxygen. My Infinity Games

In this article, We will examine the facts of tree planting as a climate change solution, as well as the benefits and drawbacks of planting trees through games and as a means to offset daily emissions. We’ll also discuss some low-cost strategies that Chaos Theory has taken in its everyday operations to assist minimize our carbon footprint. Finally, we’ll discuss the future of the green gaming business and how we might make it more sustainable.

Is the game industry sustainable?

We all know that manufacturing and distributing video games and gaming devices has a huge carbon impact. Casting and moulding plastic components, for example, are energy-intensive techniques used in the manufacture of game consoles and personal computers. Emissions are also increased by the delivery of these items to shops and consumers.

Furthermore, the energy usage of gaming gadgets might have a substantial environmental impact. In the United States, gaming consoles account for more than 2.4% of domestic energy usage, the equivalent of operating 5 million vehicles each year. Despite the fact that these consoles have been upgraded with energy-saving capabilities, many players do not utilize them. In comparison, the Nintendo Switch foregoes high-definition visuals in favor of a portable form factor with the added bonus of a massive increase in energy efficiency.

Two people playing games, on a Nintendo Switch which is an energy efficient game console reducing the environmental impact of gaming. My Infinity Games

As a result, the answer to the suggested question is now No. However, as an industry, we can collaborate to enhance our processes and counteract whatever remains. If you want to learn more about the worldwide green gaming industry’s emissions, We recommend Dr. Benjamin Abraham’s book, Digital Games After Climate Change.

On a more positive side, here are a few ways that we as an industry can assist to lessen our effect, or perhaps be a net positive contributor to conservation efforts:

  • Creating and marketing games that teach players about environmental concerns and motivate them to take action in the real world.
  • Using sustainable energy sources to build and distribute games.
  • Carbon emissions from the manufacture and distribution of hardware and software are compensated by investment in carbon offset programs.
  • Encouraging game creators and publishers to use sustainable techniques.
  • Allowing players to plant trees directly through gaming may be a terrific method to engage the user and create awareness about game emissions.
  • Alternatively, through investing in and collaborating with firms that provide solutions (such as tree planting).

    When contemplating tree planting as a solution to reduce emissions and climate change, it is crucial to remember that it might take time to ensure that the trees planted will survive.

What are the benefits and drawbacks of tree planting as a climate change mitigation strategy?

Tree planting has several advantages as a climate change solution:

  1. Carbon sequestration: Trees absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and store it in their biomass, helping to reduce the number of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. The average tree can sink 10 kgs of carbon dioxide per year for the first 20 years!
  2. Biodiversity: Trees provide habitats for various plant and animal species, helping promote biodiversity.
  3. Erosion control: Trees can help prevent erosion by holding the soil in place with their roots. With severe deforestation in many places, there is a higher risk of extreme flooding due to rains.
  4. Air quality may be improved by trees by absorbing ozone and particulate matter pollution.
  5. Tangible: One of the most evident goals for individuals to strive toward is tree planting. For example, having in-game awards or milestones that result in real trees being planted conveys a better message than an abstract message about KGs of carbon offset.
    However, as a climate change solution, tree planting has certain limitations:
  6. Limited scalability: While tree planting can have a major influence on a local level, it may not be sufficient to solve climate change on a global scale. Even if everyone planted one tree each year, resulting in 8 billion new trees (assuming they live to maturity), it would only offset 3% to 20% of carbon dioxide emissions. This would also necessitate the planting and protection of nearly 32,000 square kilometers of land (almost the size of Belgium) per year!
  7. Many trees require constant maintenance, such as watering and trimming, to be healthy and absorb carbon dioxide properly.
  8. Pests and invasive species: When trees are planted in a monoculture, especially if the species is not native to the region, pests and invasive species can invade and disrupt local ecosystems.
  9. Trees can only be planted on land that is not being used for another purpose, such as agriculture or urban development.
  10. Tree longevity: Not all trees will survive, and some places may see major die-offs. Forest fires may completely destroy an area, illnesses and pests can kill trees, or trees can be felled for wood. All of these consequences have the potential to prohibit a forest from sequestering carbon.

This is why, when considering tree planting as a solution, engaging with recognized providers is critical. You may collaborate with a variety of recognized worldwide organizations, including The Arbor Foundation, One Tree Planted, and Trees for the Future. One Trillion Trees, a global endeavor established by the World Economic Forum, is an example of a successful tree-planting program. Its goal is to maintain and restore natural biodiversity via reforestation initiatives by governments, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), businesses, and people. Currently, 34 corporations and 60 governments have agreed to plant 3.6 billion trees throughout the world. The Black Lion Tamarin Reforestation Programme was another successful reforestation project run by the Institute for Ecological Research. The initiative successfully restored 1,000 hectares of Atlantic Forest and restocked more than 1,800 black Tamarin species. It also collaborated with and educated local populations to guarantee long-term success.

With a greater emphasis on games and tree planting, companies like as Confident Games are collaborating with Trees for the Future to plant trees for each game or game extension purchased by gamers. Even larger corporations, like as Sony, have added a trophy in their popular title Horizon Forbidden West that, when unlocked, allows the player to plant a tree.  They contributed 20% of the game’s proceeds to Carbon Neutral’s ‘Plant a Tree Program,’ and users may now purchase a tree from within the game.

examples of games and game companies that are planting trees as a solution to climate change. My Infinity Games

There are, however, undertakings with noble intentions that fail owing to inadequate planning for every successful endeavor. Turkey’s Breath of the Future project, for example, succeeded in its drive to plant 11 million trees in 2019, with certain towns breaking global records. However, the endeavor was mostly a failure because most seedlings died off in less than a year. This occurred due to a lack of rain, which was required for these seedlings to survive. You could also look into whether local businesses provide basic tree-planting projects.

When considering tree planting efforts, make sure they adhere to the ten golden criteria of reforestation.
The ten rules of reforestation as published in The Global Change Biology Review. My Infinity Games
Source: Ten golden rules for reforestation to optimize carbon sequestration, biodiversity recovery and livelihood benefits

What does the gaming industry’s future hold?

The green gaming industry’s future will most likely feature an emphasis on sustainable practices, such as the use of renewable energy sources, energy-efficient hardware and software, and waste reduction.

There will be certain obstacles to overcome, such as higher energy usage from virtual reality and other immersive gaming technology. VR headsets use a lot more energy than other types of gaming equipment. The Metaverse (a single shared online digital environment) is also expected to require far more energy than the existing internet, maybe 1,000 times more!

While the Metaverse may require far more energy, there may be significant benefits to substituting digital activities for physical ones. International business meetings and other forms of training simulations are examples of this.

As technology advances, it will be feasible to produce more energy-efficient gear that is made and delivered entirely on renewable energy, significantly reducing gaming’s environmental effect. In terms of business, digital distribution and a trend toward subscription-based services will minimize waste from physical media and packaging. The green gaming business should also engage in studying and producing more sustainable materials for its goods and packaging (because, after all, who doesn’t enjoy a tangible collectors edition?).

Companies like as SI have already begun to transition to recyclable materials in their packaging. Their title ‘Football Manager’ comes in a 100% recyclable box, lowering the overall price of the game. Sega Europe, its parent business, followed suit for all of their PC releases. Fans and gamers may see this as an incentive to lobby for more firms to use recyclable packaging materials.

Some gaming firms are taking measures to reduce their carbon footprint. For example, Microsoft (the parent company of Xbox) has vowed to be carbon negative by 2030, removing more carbon from the environment than it emits. The corporation has also committed to using only renewable energy by 2025. It has also upgraded its current Xbox consoles to offer considerably enhanced energy efficient options like ‘Carbon Aware,’ in which the system will retrieve data from neighboring power sources and may advise the user when the console can operate on the cleanest energy possible.

There are various non-profit organizations that work in collaboration with the UN, such as the Playing for the Planet Alliance. Many game studios and organizations have joined the alliance to commit to a worldwide environmental agenda. As part of the partnership, the corporations must undertake efforts to be carbon-negative and climate-positive, and share their results with the public. This increases openness and encourages advocacy for environmental change among current audiences.

A loop on how the game industry can be achieve sustainable production practices. My Infinity Games
Source: The Playing for the Planet Alliance Impact Report 2019

Another step forward for green gaming is the introduction and promotion of eco-friendly games. The studio UsTwo just released the title ‘Alba: A Wildlife Adventure,’ which contains significant environmental and ecological messages. However, the studio went a step further by collaborating with Count Us In, a 16-step program that encourages individuals to take action in their daily lives to protect the environment. The firm is also considered to have one of the most successful tree-planting projects, planting one tree for every copy of the game sold — which has already surpassed one million!


The future of gaming is sustainable

Overall, tree planting is one of several strategies for mitigating the consequences of climate change. By increasing awareness and motivating players and staff to take action, an indie game production firm may make a difference. We outlined several methods for mitigating carbon emissions. We also discussed the potential of the green gaming sector to attain a zero carbon footprint, as well as some of the projects supported by the gaming industry as a whole.

A game controller cut out filled with different types of leaves and plants. My Infinity Games

It is critical to remember that tree planting is not a panacea and must be part of a bigger strategy that focuses on decreasing emissions, maintaining biodiversity, and boosting ecosystem resilience. While it is not the solution, it is a big participant in the battle against climate change, has a number of additional advantages, and is one of the few options that many firms are now offering.

Every solution, whether pushing for mass change or simply investing in tree planting, takes us closer to a brighter future!