The game industry is finding its footing in the fight against climate change

Foto: Screenshot fra Youtube.

The gaming industry has only recently begun to unite the industry in an attempt to battle climate change. But the industry is moving fast, and the focus is not only on what the game studios themselves can do but also on how they can nudge the players to make sustainable choices.

The gaming industry is still at level 1 when it comes to sustainability. Because while we know how many tonnes of CO2 the clothing industry and the aviation industry emit each year, the gaming industry’s total emissions are still unknown.

“We do not yet know the carbon footprint of the gaming industry, but we know that there are many sections of the gaming industry that can be made more sustainable. Game studios, distributors, event organizers, and end-users can do their part to adapt to a more sustainable everyday life,” says Susanne Hodges, Office & Project Manager at Nordisk Games.

Hodges is also Project Lead on the Nordisk Games initiative PlayCreateGreen, an online handbook that through advice and examples from the industry, guides gaming companies to more sustainable initiatives.

“Whether you are a small company working on your first game, or a large company, with many game productions, the question is often: Where do we start if we want to be more sustainable?” Hodges says, and highlights some examples from the handbook:

Companies can, for example, furnish the office with recycled furniture, make sure to turn off all electronics when the work day is over, and switch to electricity from renewable energy sources. The companies can also try to influence their end-users in a more sustainable direction by, for example, incorporating an ‘eco-mode’ in the game that is less energy-intensive, or nudging the players to turn off their computer or console after use.

Sybo surfs on trees

The UN’s environmental initiative Playing for the Planet Alliance is also advocating for a greater focus on sustainability. When the alliance was founded in 2019, one of the big goals was to bring the gaming industry together to reduce its carbon footprint, and ensure that companies have the right tools to measure progress.

Today, the alliance includes 30 gaming companies and seven trade associations, of which 60 percent of them have committed to being carbon neutral or negative by 2030. One of the gaming studios that helped launch Playing for the Planet Alliance is Danish Sybo.

“We are a company with a strong purpose: We really want to entertain, but we also want to do something good with the platform we have. This means that since the founding of the company, we have invested money into impact projects and, for example, have donated money to build wells. We have a big impact because we have such a large reach,” says Mathias Gredal Nørvig, CEO of Sybo.

100 million people play Sybo’s hyper-popular mobile game Subway Surfers every month, and if the company can move them in a greener direction through the game, they actually have the opportunity to move far, far more, than by becoming CO2-neutral themselves – which they are also working towards.

Sustainability at Sybo

  • Sybo has implemented a number of green initiatives within the company, for example, the game studio has solar cells on the roof, organic food in the canteen, while Sybo also compensates for the CO2 the company emits.
  • “All companies can do something. But there are also things that are more difficult for us to influence, for example where in the world our servers are located,” says Mathias Gredal Nørvig, CEO of Sybo.

Nørvig elaborates that Sybo is very aware of how the company communicates the green agenda to its users. Sybo risks scaring everyone away if they simply tell users that they are doing everything wrong, and have to turn their everyday lives upside down in order to become greener. Instead, it’s about involving people in the journey through games.

In November 2021, SYBO invited all players to participate in the Subway Surfers Play 2
Plant event, released as part of the World Tour Vancouver update. Players traveled from leafy Vancouver to a faded version of World Tour New York to transform the surrounding tracks and buildings into a green and grassy environment by surfing through the streets on their selected hoverboards.

“The point is that you can influence the world in a greener direction because it is undeniably nicer to run in a place that is green and lush than grey and dying. At the same time, we show that it is possible to influence the players in a more sustainable direction without it becoming moralizing,” Nørvig says.

The Play 2 Plant event was created in collaboration with Ecology, which creates carbon reduction projects. Therefore, trees were not only planted in Subway Surfers. In total, more than 200,000 trees were planted in connection with the Play 2 Plant event.

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