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Horizon Net Zero: How the global game
industry participates in extinction
Dr Benjamin Abraham 26th April 2024
About me
• PhD in human/nonhuman philosophy
• Started researching climate impacts of
games ~2015 – Digital Games After
Climate Change (2022)
• Founded AC to advocate and accelerate
climate action in the games industry
• Have worked with Unity, CDPR,
Keywords Aus, KO_OP, Paper House, Die
Gute Fabrik
• Now working with SGA on a standard
calculation method for games
What is causing extinctions?
IUCN Red List
IUCN Red List
Our species is responsible
“…the rapid loss of species we are seeing today is estimated by
experts to be between 1000 and 10,000 times higher than the
“background” or expected natural extinction rate (a highly
conservative estimate). Unlike the mass extinction events of
geological history, the current extinction phenomenon is one for
which a single species - ours - appears to be almost wholly
responsible.” (p.1)
https://www.iucn.org/sites/default/
f
iles/import/downloads/species_extinction_05_2007.pdf
Differentiation of causes & responsibility
Major threats to biodiversity:
• Habitat destruction and degradation
• Over-exploitation (extraction, hunting,
f
ishing etc.)
• Pollution
• Disease
• Invasions of alien species (e.g. cats
and rats on islands)
• Global climate change (changes in
migratory species, coral bleaching)
https://www.iucn.org/sites/default/
f
iles/import/downloads/species_extinction_05_2007.pdf
Where and how do games exacerbate
climate change (and extinctions)?
Two main ways games worsen climate
Greenhouse Gas Emissions Resorce Extraction
The global climate context
• IPCC: we have warmed around 1.1
degrees above the 1850-1900
average
• 2015 Paris Agreement to keep
warming “well below 2ºC…
preferably below 1.5ºC”
• Govts make “nationally
determined contributions” and
choose how to approach
reducing their national emissions
Mills et al. 2019: all US gaming devices account for 2.4% of residential electricity – 24 MT/year CO2
Boehm, S., L. Je
ff
ery, J. Hecke, C. Schumer, J. Jaeger, C. Fyson, K. Levin, A. Nilsson, S. Naimoli, E. Daly, J. Thwaites, K. Lebling, R. Waite, J. Collis, M. Sims, N. Singh, E.
Grier, W. Lamb, S. Castellanos, A. Lee, M. Ge
ff
ray, R. Santo, M. Balehegn, M. Petroni, and M. Masterson. 2023. State of Climate Action 2023. Berlin and Cologne,
Germany, San Francisco, CA, and Washington, DC: Bezos Earth Fund, Climate Action Tracker, Climate Analytics, ClimateWorks Foundation, NewClimate Institute, the
United Nations Climate Change High-Level Champions, and World Resources Institute. https://doi.org/10.46830/wrirpt.23.00010.
Boehm, S., L. Je
ff
ery, J. Hecke, C. Schumer, J. Jaeger, C. Fyson, K. Levin, A. Nilsson, S. Naimoli, E. Daly, J. Thwaites, K. Lebling, R. Waite, J. Collis, M. Sims, N. Singh, E.
Grier, W. Lamb, S. Castellanos, A. Lee, M. Ge
ff
ray, R. Santo, M. Balehegn, M. Petroni, and M. Masterson. 2023. State of Climate Action 2023. Berlin and Cologne,
Germany, San Francisco, CA, and Washington, DC: Bezos Earth Fund, Climate Action Tracker, Climate Analytics, ClimateWorks Foundation, NewClimate Institute, the
United Nations Climate Change High-Level Champions, and World Resources Institute. https://doi.org/10.46830/wrirpt.23.00010.
Climate for business is shifting
• EU’s new CSRD
• California’s new mandatory disclosures
• Australia’s proposed mandatory disclosures
• Investor ESG expectations
• Employee explectations
• Civil society and ‘social license to operate’ expectations
• Corporate early movers (Microsoft, Apple, etc)
Where are the game industry’s emissions?
Game production
process (simpli
f
ied) >
• Development
• Hardware
• Publishing/
Distribution
• End use (players)
• Disposal
Johns, Jennifer. "Video games production networks: value capture, power relations and embeddedness." Journal of economic geography 6.2 (2006): 151-180.
One global cloud spend
prediction for 2023: $512.8bn
Global value chain emissions
• Development – 14-80m tCO2e disclosed in 2022 (Greece: 50m tCO2e)
• Hardware – ~50kg CO2e per PS4 x 100m sales = 5m tCO2e (lifetime-ish)
149kg CO2e per XB1X x ~58m sales = 8.6m tCO2e
• Publishing/Distribution – Aslan (2020) estimate of 270g per disc = ~1.75m
tCO2e
• End use (players) – 2019 US gamers: “34 TWh/year (2.4% of residential
electricity nationally)… 24 MT/year CO2” (Mills et al. 2019) Euro PS4
lifetime: 3.6m tCO2e
• Disposal – PS4 discs from 2000-18: 97,301 t of discs, or a stack of discs 9
km tall (5.6 miles), 663,436t of discs+cases
Supercell
CD Projekt RED
Mixi
Roblox
Epic Games
37 Interactive
Playtika
Playrix
Riot Games
NCSoft
Netmarble
Konami
Bandai Namco
Entertainment
Take-Two Interactive
Keywords Studios
Embracer Group
Electronic Arts
Activision Blizzard
NetEase
Ubisoft
Tencent
SEA Limited
Sony
Google
Apple
Microsoft
Nintendo
Square Enix
Perfect World
CyberAgent
Nexon
Aristocrat
Leisure
Unity
SEGA Sammy
WarnerBros
Discovery
Game Companies
Tech
Net Zero Snapshot 2023
NZ Snapshot: Findings
• Total emissions over 81 MILLION tonnes of total CO2 disclosed in 2022 –
cf. 2021 annual emissions of Libya (74.5m tCO2e, pop 7m) and Colombia
(91.7m tCO2e, pop 49m). 7-14m tCO2e, tech excluded.
• NB: disclosed emissions: corp. inventories often incomplete (Klaaßen &
Stoll 2021 found: “corporate reports omit half of the total emissions“)
• 81m tCO2e a year is 0.02% of the 380 Gt carbon budget left (for 1.5º) each
year, or 0.18% of the total amount if we keep emitting at 2022 levels
• The vast majority of disclosures did not include Cat 11 “Use of sold
products” in Scope 3 calcs. (Only ones: Bandai Namco FY22 & CDPR,
Sony, MS, and Apple)
Indie impacts
• For Die Gute Fabrik, produced a
climate report that looked at
emissions from WFH, travel, and
purchases
• Breakdown of emissions by source
• Compared to other indies + larger
AAA studios
Indie scale footprints
• Major sources:
f
lights, heating,
purchases
• All under 0.5t per employee
PER YEAR (Scope 1 & 2)
Producing indie games: how do they compare?
• Favourably
• Indie games are
probably “best” for
the planet
• But all emissions have
to reduce & cease
Do Indies have the power
to reduce their
emissions?
• MS & Epic reduced Fortnite
users energy consumption by
80MWh per day – same output
as Utgrunden Wind farm
(Sweden, 2000-2018)
• Lower FPS & res in menus was
all it too – potential for engine
integration
End user energy ef
f
iciency in focus
Who has the power to reduce emissions?
Employees have some control
but national energy grid, tech
debt, govt policy/support much
more signi
f
icant
Choice of suppliers?
Publishers/
f
inanciers/industry
expectations
around how
business is done
Who has the power to reduce emissions?
• The smallest footprints, and the
least ability to control them
• BUT they have visibility: to set
standards, audience expectations,
demonstrate best practice
• Moral vantage point: “if WE can do
this why can’t you?”
• Indie dev visibility > AAA dev
visibility
Indie cultural leadership
Only possible if they can survive
Beyond CO2: hardware environmental impacts
The integrated CPU/GPU of the Playstation 4
The PS4 APU contained all the circled elements
Magnesite mine in Liaoning province, China
Magnesite mine in Liaoning province, China
Mining in this region can release clouds of
magnesium oxide dust which “react with carbon
dioxide and water in air and soil, changing into
magnesium carbonate (MgCO3) and magnesium
hydroxide (Mg(OH)2), and in turn causing soil pH to
increase” (Wang et al., 2015: 90).
• What actually drives hardware upgrades, and how do we intervene?
• Consumer desire? (What creates those desires?)
• Corporate business imperative? (Sell consoles, or software? Platform
lock-in?)
• Genuine technological advancement? (PS5 Pro raytracing & FPS?)
• Sheer inertia????? Does the games industry know how to sell games
based on something other than “better graphics”?
The Hardware Upgrade Cycle
Graeme Kirkpatrick’s (2012) “Constitutive
Tensions of Gaming’s Field: UK gaming magazines
and the formation of gaming culture 1981-1995”.
The Hardware Upgrade Cycle
“The concept of gameplay marks the point at
which gaming bids for autonomy as a cultural
practice and subsequently it becomes the
philosopher’s stone of game creation…
After 1985… gameplay is opposed to things like
graphics, character, plot and so on.“
Hardware discourse
Hardware discourse
Luo, Yinyi, and Mark Richard Johnson. "How do players
understand video game hardware: Tactility or tech-
speak?." New Media & Society 22.8 (2020): 1462-1483.
Do gamers buy into hardware discourse?
“Gamers rarely understand their gaming
hardware through these marketing and
advertising discourses despite their high
visibility, instead framing the technology they
engage with in intimately tactile, and more
broadly contextual, terms.”
Conclusions
• Halting extinctions involves a
sustainability transition in all industries,
including games
• Indie games, “worse graphics”, etc.
• We need research that maps the political-
economy of hardware upgrades
• “The philosophers have only interpreted
the world, in various ways; the point is to
change it.” (Marx, Theses on Feuerbach)
Stay in touch
• @AfterClimate on Twitter
• Newsletter @ afterclimate.com.au follow the links

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Horizon Net Zero Dawn – keynote slides by Ben Abraham

  • 1. Horizon Net Zero: How the global game industry participates in extinction Dr Benjamin Abraham 26th April 2024
  • 2. About me • PhD in human/nonhuman philosophy • Started researching climate impacts of games ~2015 – Digital Games After Climate Change (2022) • Founded AC to advocate and accelerate climate action in the games industry • Have worked with Unity, CDPR, Keywords Aus, KO_OP, Paper House, Die Gute Fabrik • Now working with SGA on a standard calculation method for games
  • 3. What is causing extinctions?
  • 6. Our species is responsible “…the rapid loss of species we are seeing today is estimated by experts to be between 1000 and 10,000 times higher than the “background” or expected natural extinction rate (a highly conservative estimate). Unlike the mass extinction events of geological history, the current extinction phenomenon is one for which a single species - ours - appears to be almost wholly responsible.” (p.1) https://www.iucn.org/sites/default/ f iles/import/downloads/species_extinction_05_2007.pdf
  • 7. Differentiation of causes & responsibility Major threats to biodiversity: • Habitat destruction and degradation • Over-exploitation (extraction, hunting, f ishing etc.) • Pollution • Disease • Invasions of alien species (e.g. cats and rats on islands) • Global climate change (changes in migratory species, coral bleaching) https://www.iucn.org/sites/default/ f iles/import/downloads/species_extinction_05_2007.pdf
  • 8. Where and how do games exacerbate climate change (and extinctions)?
  • 9. Two main ways games worsen climate Greenhouse Gas Emissions Resorce Extraction
  • 10. The global climate context • IPCC: we have warmed around 1.1 degrees above the 1850-1900 average • 2015 Paris Agreement to keep warming “well below 2ºC… preferably below 1.5ºC” • Govts make “nationally determined contributions” and choose how to approach reducing their national emissions Mills et al. 2019: all US gaming devices account for 2.4% of residential electricity – 24 MT/year CO2
  • 11. Boehm, S., L. Je ff ery, J. Hecke, C. Schumer, J. Jaeger, C. Fyson, K. Levin, A. Nilsson, S. Naimoli, E. Daly, J. Thwaites, K. Lebling, R. Waite, J. Collis, M. Sims, N. Singh, E. Grier, W. Lamb, S. Castellanos, A. Lee, M. Ge ff ray, R. Santo, M. Balehegn, M. Petroni, and M. Masterson. 2023. State of Climate Action 2023. Berlin and Cologne, Germany, San Francisco, CA, and Washington, DC: Bezos Earth Fund, Climate Action Tracker, Climate Analytics, ClimateWorks Foundation, NewClimate Institute, the United Nations Climate Change High-Level Champions, and World Resources Institute. https://doi.org/10.46830/wrirpt.23.00010.
  • 12. Boehm, S., L. Je ff ery, J. Hecke, C. Schumer, J. Jaeger, C. Fyson, K. Levin, A. Nilsson, S. Naimoli, E. Daly, J. Thwaites, K. Lebling, R. Waite, J. Collis, M. Sims, N. Singh, E. Grier, W. Lamb, S. Castellanos, A. Lee, M. Ge ff ray, R. Santo, M. Balehegn, M. Petroni, and M. Masterson. 2023. State of Climate Action 2023. Berlin and Cologne, Germany, San Francisco, CA, and Washington, DC: Bezos Earth Fund, Climate Action Tracker, Climate Analytics, ClimateWorks Foundation, NewClimate Institute, the United Nations Climate Change High-Level Champions, and World Resources Institute. https://doi.org/10.46830/wrirpt.23.00010.
  • 13. Climate for business is shifting • EU’s new CSRD • California’s new mandatory disclosures • Australia’s proposed mandatory disclosures • Investor ESG expectations • Employee explectations • Civil society and ‘social license to operate’ expectations • Corporate early movers (Microsoft, Apple, etc)
  • 14. Where are the game industry’s emissions? Game production process (simpli f ied) > • Development • Hardware • Publishing/ Distribution • End use (players) • Disposal Johns, Jennifer. "Video games production networks: value capture, power relations and embeddedness." Journal of economic geography 6.2 (2006): 151-180.
  • 15. One global cloud spend prediction for 2023: $512.8bn
  • 16. Global value chain emissions • Development – 14-80m tCO2e disclosed in 2022 (Greece: 50m tCO2e) • Hardware – ~50kg CO2e per PS4 x 100m sales = 5m tCO2e (lifetime-ish) 149kg CO2e per XB1X x ~58m sales = 8.6m tCO2e • Publishing/Distribution – Aslan (2020) estimate of 270g per disc = ~1.75m tCO2e • End use (players) – 2019 US gamers: “34 TWh/year (2.4% of residential electricity nationally)… 24 MT/year CO2” (Mills et al. 2019) Euro PS4 lifetime: 3.6m tCO2e • Disposal – PS4 discs from 2000-18: 97,301 t of discs, or a stack of discs 9 km tall (5.6 miles), 663,436t of discs+cases
  • 17. Supercell CD Projekt RED Mixi Roblox Epic Games 37 Interactive Playtika Playrix Riot Games NCSoft Netmarble Konami Bandai Namco Entertainment Take-Two Interactive Keywords Studios Embracer Group Electronic Arts Activision Blizzard NetEase Ubisoft Tencent SEA Limited Sony Google Apple Microsoft Nintendo Square Enix Perfect World CyberAgent Nexon Aristocrat Leisure Unity SEGA Sammy WarnerBros Discovery Game Companies Tech Net Zero Snapshot 2023
  • 18. NZ Snapshot: Findings • Total emissions over 81 MILLION tonnes of total CO2 disclosed in 2022 – cf. 2021 annual emissions of Libya (74.5m tCO2e, pop 7m) and Colombia (91.7m tCO2e, pop 49m). 7-14m tCO2e, tech excluded. • NB: disclosed emissions: corp. inventories often incomplete (Klaaßen & Stoll 2021 found: “corporate reports omit half of the total emissions“) • 81m tCO2e a year is 0.02% of the 380 Gt carbon budget left (for 1.5º) each year, or 0.18% of the total amount if we keep emitting at 2022 levels • The vast majority of disclosures did not include Cat 11 “Use of sold products” in Scope 3 calcs. (Only ones: Bandai Namco FY22 & CDPR, Sony, MS, and Apple)
  • 19. Indie impacts • For Die Gute Fabrik, produced a climate report that looked at emissions from WFH, travel, and purchases • Breakdown of emissions by source • Compared to other indies + larger AAA studios
  • 20. Indie scale footprints • Major sources: f lights, heating, purchases • All under 0.5t per employee PER YEAR (Scope 1 & 2)
  • 21. Producing indie games: how do they compare? • Favourably • Indie games are probably “best” for the planet • But all emissions have to reduce & cease Do Indies have the power to reduce their emissions?
  • 22. • MS & Epic reduced Fortnite users energy consumption by 80MWh per day – same output as Utgrunden Wind farm (Sweden, 2000-2018) • Lower FPS & res in menus was all it too – potential for engine integration End user energy ef f iciency in focus
  • 23. Who has the power to reduce emissions? Employees have some control but national energy grid, tech debt, govt policy/support much more signi f icant Choice of suppliers? Publishers/ f inanciers/industry expectations around how business is done
  • 24. Who has the power to reduce emissions?
  • 25. • The smallest footprints, and the least ability to control them • BUT they have visibility: to set standards, audience expectations, demonstrate best practice • Moral vantage point: “if WE can do this why can’t you?” • Indie dev visibility > AAA dev visibility Indie cultural leadership Only possible if they can survive
  • 26. Beyond CO2: hardware environmental impacts The integrated CPU/GPU of the Playstation 4
  • 27. The PS4 APU contained all the circled elements
  • 28. Magnesite mine in Liaoning province, China
  • 29. Magnesite mine in Liaoning province, China Mining in this region can release clouds of magnesium oxide dust which “react with carbon dioxide and water in air and soil, changing into magnesium carbonate (MgCO3) and magnesium hydroxide (Mg(OH)2), and in turn causing soil pH to increase” (Wang et al., 2015: 90).
  • 30. • What actually drives hardware upgrades, and how do we intervene? • Consumer desire? (What creates those desires?) • Corporate business imperative? (Sell consoles, or software? Platform lock-in?) • Genuine technological advancement? (PS5 Pro raytracing & FPS?) • Sheer inertia????? Does the games industry know how to sell games based on something other than “better graphics”? The Hardware Upgrade Cycle
  • 31. Graeme Kirkpatrick’s (2012) “Constitutive Tensions of Gaming’s Field: UK gaming magazines and the formation of gaming culture 1981-1995”. The Hardware Upgrade Cycle “The concept of gameplay marks the point at which gaming bids for autonomy as a cultural practice and subsequently it becomes the philosopher’s stone of game creation… After 1985… gameplay is opposed to things like graphics, character, plot and so on.“
  • 34. Luo, Yinyi, and Mark Richard Johnson. "How do players understand video game hardware: Tactility or tech- speak?." New Media & Society 22.8 (2020): 1462-1483. Do gamers buy into hardware discourse? “Gamers rarely understand their gaming hardware through these marketing and advertising discourses despite their high visibility, instead framing the technology they engage with in intimately tactile, and more broadly contextual, terms.”
  • 35. Conclusions • Halting extinctions involves a sustainability transition in all industries, including games • Indie games, “worse graphics”, etc. • We need research that maps the political- economy of hardware upgrades • “The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point is to change it.” (Marx, Theses on Feuerbach)
  • 36. Stay in touch • @AfterClimate on Twitter • Newsletter @ afterclimate.com.au follow the links