Investigating the link between video games and the environment
We (Christian & Damian) have been interested in video games for a long time and love playing them. When we were studying climate change intensively at school, we asked ourselves how harmful video games really are for the environment. Therefore we decided to explore this topic further. We reached out to three students from India who also love playing video games to gain their perspective on the relationship between video games and the environment. We conducted an experiment to measure the electricity consumption of different devices while playing various video games with different graphics settings. The results of our experiment showed that playing video games can have a significant impact on energy consumption and, consequently, the environment.
The importance of energy-efficient devices
As passionate gamers, we were curious about the impact of video games on the environment and how we could reduce this impact. Before conducting the experiment, we had limited knowledge about the energy consumption of different devices while playing video games. However, through our research and experiment, we gained a new treasure of experience that helped us understand the importance of energy-efficient devices and the need to reduce our electricity consumption. Our mindset has shifted towards a more sustainable approach to gaming, and we hope to inspire others to do the same.
Gaming in India vs. Switzerland
Through our teacher we have made contact with three students from India, Advaith, Manas and a third student who does not want his name published. They also love to play various video games, so we thought it would be a good opportunity to get their perspective on the connection between video games and the environment. They told us that computer games are very common in India, but many Indians only play on their smartphones or laptops. Very few students in India own a desktop PC. This is because gaming hardware is disproportionately expensive in India. This in turn is due to high import taxes and strong currency fluctuations. Students told us that they use their electronic devices until they break or they get their parents’ old devices. Some of them only buy a new smartphone every 10 years. That is a big difference to Switzerland, where there is more of a throwaway culture and people buy a new mobile phone every three years on average. We should take this as an example because it is less harmful for the environment if you use your electronic devices as long as possible.
Experimenting with the energy consumption of video games
We were aware from the beginning that some of the electricity they use to play games comes from unsustainable energy sources, such as coal-fired power plants, but they can’t accurately assess how environmentally damaging their computer games actually are. That’s why we conducted an experiment together with our Indian friends to find out exactly that.
We played different games on different devices and measured the power consumption when we set different graphics settings. That means we played each game once with high graphics settings and once with low ones. We put all this on a list. (The results are shown below) First we all agreed together which games we would play. Then we all individually played each game for a while and measured the power consumption. On the desktop PCs and laptops, the whole thing was relatively simple, but on the smartphone, the whole thing was more complicated and we had to calculate with reference values from the Internet.
Results: The impact of graphics settings on energy consumption
We recorded the electricity consumption of each device while playing various video games with high and low graphics settings. Our results showed that playing games on high graphics settings consumed significantly more electricity than playing on low settings, highlighting the importance of energy-efficient devices and responsible gaming. We included a graphic that shows the energy consumption of different video games on devices with various graphics settings.
Graphic with our results
Takeaways: Sustainable gaming practices
Through our experiment and interviews with our Indian friends, we gained a new understanding of the impact of video games on the environment and the need for sustainable gaming practices. We realized that we can reduce our electricity consumption by using energy-efficient devices and playing games on low graphics settings. We also learned about the importance of extending the lifespan of our electronic devices, as our Indian friends do, rather than engaging in a throwaway culture.
Conclusion: Mindful enjoyment and future recommendations
Our experience has taught us that we can enjoy playing video games while also being mindful of their environmental impact. We recommend using energy-efficient devices, playing games on low graphics settings, and extending the lifespan of electronic devices. We also suggest conducting similar experiments to raise awareness of the impact of video games on the environment and promote sustainable gaming practices. Finally, we encourage game developers to consider the environmental impact of their games and strive to create more energy-efficient games.
Participants of the project