Climate change, involving changes in the earth’s temperature and weather patterns, is one of the most important issues of the day. While changes in our climate can be natural, since the 19th Century humanity has been responsible for almost all global heating.
Humanity, for example, is burning fossil fuels, cutting down forests and so releasing carbon dioxide and engaging in certain environmentally damaging agricultural practices. The implications of climate change include droughts, water shortages, intense fires, flooding, storms and diminishing biodiversity.
Reducing carbon emissions, addressing climate change and encouraging sustainable practices are therefore critically important for all businesses, including video games. Additionally, with gamers becoming increasingly aware and supportive of environmental issues, promoting sustainability aligns with both player expectations and broader societal values.
TIGA aims to promote best practice in environmental sustainability, enabling studios to counterbalance the environmental impact of their operations. Moreover, through promoting sustainable practices with other stakeholders, we want to help guide the industry towards reducing its ecological footprint, driving innovation, and improving the long-term social and economic health of the sector.
As such, we hope this short guide to sustainability will be a useful resource for studios of all sizes, whether you have policies and actions in place, or if you’re just starting out on a sustainability journey.
Why Sustainability is important in game development
Game development studios are in a unique position to create experiences that not only entertain, but also educate and inspire millions of people globally. Increasingly, the concept of sustainability – essentially the responsible management of resources for the long term – is a crucial aspect of how we operate. With our digital and physical environments consuming real-world energy, it’s more important than ever that we consider the environmental footprint of our work.
Sustainability in game development can extend beyond energy-efficient coding and server use. It potentially encompasses a range of practices, including creating games that educate players about environmental issues, and even developing games using sustainable hardware. These practices are not only ethically sound, but they also serve to enhance the studio’s reputation, encourage innovation, and access new audiences.
Incorporating sustainability into the game development process also means thinking about the lifecycle of our games. This includes the impact of electronic waste from obsolete hardware, as well as the virtual waste generated when digital games are no longer in use. By taking steps to reduce waste and extend the lifespan of your games, studios can help to ensure the sustainability of the industry.
It’s essential that game developers, publishers, and stakeholders work together towards these goals. Through collaboration and innovation, the games industry can become a powerful force for change, creating virtual worlds that reflect our shared commitment to a sustainable real world. This journey towards sustainability can be challenging, but the rewards – a thriving, resilient industry that contributes positively to our planet – are significant.
How your studio can begin its sustainability journey
Here are some practical strategies studios can implement to make operations more sustainable and environmentally friendly. Note that we have highlighted some organisations who can help and advise on these strategies at the end of this article:-
Optimise Code and Adopt Energy-Efficient Practices: The development process itself can be a significant source of energy consumption. Optimised code translates to less CPU usage, which in turn reduces power consumption. Similarly, using energy-efficient hardware, employing server-side optimisation techniques, and selecting green web hosting providers for your servers can significantly decrease a studio’s carbon emissions.
Minimise Digital Waste: It might sound odd, but virtual waste is becoming an increasingly relevant issue. When a game is discarded or discontinued, it continues to occupy server space, leading to energy wastage. By maintaining backwards compatibility, offering cloud-based games, and providing regular updates, studios can extend the lifecycle of their games, thereby reducing digital waste.
Green Physical Production: If your game has physical components, consider how they’re made. Using recycled or biodegradable materials for game packaging is an effective way to reduce your environmental impact.
Educate Through Gameplay: Games can serve as powerful educational tools. We can design games that teach players about environmental conservation or incorporate sustainability challenges within gameplay. This doesn’t necessarily mean you need to focus on climate change as part of a narrative, but even subtle in-game messages can inspire players to consider their environmental impact.
Choose Green Partnerships: Games studios can extend sustainability efforts beyond their own operations by choosing eco-friendly suppliers and partners. Conduct an audit of your supply chain and opt for partners that uphold your commitment to sustainability.
Transparency and Communication: Regularly communicate your sustainability goals, progress, and challenges to your audience and partners. This openness can help to foster trust, engage your player base, and encourage other game studios to adopt similar practices.
Carbon Offsetting: Even with the best intentions and practices, some carbon emissions may be unavoidable. In such instances, studios can invest in carbon offsetting initiatives which fund projects aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Remote Work Policies: Promote remote work where possible to reduce carbon emissions associated with commuting. Not only is this an environmentally friendly practice, but it can also contribute to an improved work-life balance for employees.
Renewable Energy Use: Whenever possible, use renewable energy sources for your operations. This could mean installing solar panels at your office, or choosing an energy provider that uses renewable sources.
Implement Efficient Software Development Methods: Practices such as agile development can reduce waste by making the development process more efficient, thereby reducing the resources (and energy) required.
Equipment Lifespan Extension: Extend the life of your hardware through regular maintenance, reducing the demand for new equipment manufacturing and the associated carbon emissions.
Source Sustainable/Efficient New Equipment: Of course, in a technology-driven industry like game development there will be occasions when it makes sense to invest in new equipment if it’s more efficient and more environmentally friendly than maintaining existing hardware.
By integrating sustainability into core operations and culture, studios can create engaging and entertaining experiences, while also contributing to a healthier planet and society.
Links to helpful resources
Ready to take some positive action? Here is a list of resources and organisations that can help in your sustainability journey.
BCorp: B Corporation, or B Corp, is a certification for businesses that meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose.
The Carbon Trust: This organisation offers certification, carbon footprinting, and other services to help businesses lower their carbon emissions and improve their sustainability.
BAFTA Albert: Part of the British Academy of Film and Television Arts, Albert provides resources and tools to help the entertainment industry reduce its environmental impact. It offers a carbon calculator that game studios can use to estimate their carbon footprint.
Playing for the Planet: This alliance, supported by the United Nations Environment Programme, assists the video game industry in reducing CO2 emissions, among other sustainability goals.
Green Game Jam: This annual event encourages game developers to create games (or add features to existing games) that raise awareness about environmental issues.
We want to hear from you!
As we work to build out TIGA’s Guide to Environmental Sustainability in Game Development we’d love to hear about and showcase your own studio’s initiatives in the area.
Send details of your story in 300 words to our team at email@example.com, and we’ll be in back touch with you asap.