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Gaming studios are playing their part for climate, conservation

According to a recent report, more than 32 games studios have joined the Playing for the Planet Alliance, engaging millions of gamers on themes around environment

A Microsoft's Xbox One video game controller. The UN Environment Programme (UNEP)-facilitated ‘Playing for the Planet Alliance’ was launched in 2019.
A Microsoft's Xbox One video game controller. The UN Environment Programme (UNEP)-facilitated ‘Playing for the Planet Alliance’ was launched in 2019. (Bloomberg)

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When the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)-facilitated ‘Playing for the Planet Alliance’ was launched in 2019 during the climate summit at UN Headquarters in New York, the idea was to get gaming studios to join the alliance and make commitments to support the global environmental agenda. 

These included integrating ‘green activations’ in games, reducing their emissions and other initiatives ranging from planting millions of trees to reducing plastic in their products. Approximately 300 million metric tons of plastic are produced every year, 50 percent of which is used just one time. And, half of this plastic waste comes from packaging.

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Three years later, the programme has more than 30 game studios on board, planting over one million trees and engaging 130 million gamers on themes relating to the environment, according to the recently released Playing for the Planet: Annual Report 2021.

What are green activations?

These are essentially new features and messaging implemented by the participating gaming companies, which highlight environmental themes such as conservation and restoration. This can include in and out-of-game features such as new modes, maps, themed events, storylines and messaging, a UNEP press release explains.

What is the Green Game Jam?

The Green Game Jam brings together the biggest names in video games across PC, mobile and console to educate and empower millions of players to act for nature. In 2021, the Green Game Jam tripled in size, leading to 266,000 trees being planted in real life and raised $800,000 for environmental causes.

Some 130 million players were engaged on ocean and forest issues in support of UNREDD (the flagship UN knowledge and advisory partnership on forests and climate to reduce forest emissions and enhance forest carbon stocks) and the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration. According to the report, 80% of the players and gamers responded positively to these themes. The theme for the Green Game Jam in 2022 will be on “Forests, Food, and the Future.”

Progress on decarbonisation

According to the report, 60% of the Alliance members have committed to become net zero or carbon negative by 2030. Further work on targets have been set for 2022. The likes of Sony, Microsoft, and Unity have conducted research in regard to the decarbonization of the gaming industry. Sony, for instance, created a carbon foot-print tool on the carbon impacts of the gaming sector and is looking at adapting the tool to be consistent with the science-based targets initiative framework.

What does the alliance look like now?

The Playing for the Planet Alliance now has 32 gaming companies and seven associate members, including studios from China, often referred to as the gaming industry capital of the world. By the end of 2021, Playing for the Planet initiatives reached over 200 million gamers worldwide.

What comes next in 2022?

In 2022, the Alliance is aiming to create a standard template for decarbonisation for onboarding members, including a commitment to at least 50% net zero by 2030. Other plans include a new white paper that will outline guidance for the gaming industry on how to reduce its emissions. The alliance will also explore how gaming can support real-world challenges on key environmental themes through citizen science. The alliance also aims to set a new plastic protocol with new members, around the use of plastic that could be scaled across the gaming industry.

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