[-empyre-] Welcome to Week 1: Is green gaming an oxymoron?

Chang, Edmond change at ohio.edu
Mon Mar 9 05:37:38 AEDT 2020

Greetings, all!  Thanks to Alenda and contributors for organizing and working through these provocations and ideas.  I am a little late to Week One, but since the initial posts, I have been trying to think about ways to respond.  I am reminded of a commercial I saw recently from Apple claiming their phones are assembled in zero waste facilities--those commercials are no longer available online (but have been lambasted quite a bit, i.e. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MXWxS8LqnJc).  I also am reminded of a recent Verge article on the PlayStation: "The Environmental Impact of a PlayStation 4": https://www.theverge.com/2019/12/5/20985330/ps4-sony-playstation-environmental-impact-carbon-footprint-manufacturing-25-anniversary.  The greenwashing of technology, particularly digital technology, dovetails with the techno-utopianist (even -libertarian) ideologies of power, control, connection, immersion, self-fashioning, and mobility.  These ideals then get translated and ported to projects like Games for Change (http://www.gamesforchange.org/) or (local to Seattle) Games for Our Future (https://medium.com/seattleindies/games-for-our-future-expands-in-2020-e5fd4ef71beb).  How these hopes, desires, and fantasies butt up against the material, labor, and environmental costs of the very technologies that want to "do good" or "make a difference" is perhaps not answerable or solvable.  I guess given the double-bind, I think it important that developers, organizations, conferences, and players address how "change" or "good" must take into account the above problems (much in the same way games of color or queer games or accessible games have addressed other issue like race, gender, disability).  And as we move into the next week on analog games, how might we think of the oxymoron of green gaming in terms of board games, tabletop RPGs, ARGs, and LARP and their costs and affordances.

Thanks for reading,

From: empyre-bounces at lists.artdesign.unsw.edu.au <empyre-bounces at lists.artdesign.unsw.edu.au> on behalf of Jeff Watson <remotedevice at gmail.com>
Sent: Tuesday, March 3, 2020 1:09 AM
To: Alenda Chang <achang at filmandmedia.ucsb.edu>
Cc: empyre at lists.artdesign.unsw.edu.au <empyre at lists.artdesign.unsw.edu.au>
Subject: Re: [-empyre-] Welcome to Week 1: Is green gaming an oxymoron?

----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
All of this computer-mediated playtime is not without its costs.
Individual data centers in the early 2020s, for example, can consume
over a million gallons of chilled water a day just to keep their
servers cool. “Cloud gaming,” crucial to the next wave of
mega-population gaming strategies, has been shown to increase the
total electricity used to play an individual videogame by up to 260
percent. Surveillance capitalism isn't just bad for civil society:
it's also poison to labor and the environment. E-waste workers live in
notoriously squalid conditions and live shortened lives. Tin for
iPhones comes from a mine so dangerous locals call it "the mountain
that eats men" (see Merchant, Brian. “Everything That’s Inside Your
IPhone.” Motherboard (blog), August 15, 2017.
According to a 2019 report commissioned by the Governor of California,
videogames burn the equivalent of 1.5 million tons of CO2 per year in
California alone (see Mills, Evan, Norman Bourassa, Leo Rainer, Jimmy
Mai, Ian Vaino, Claire Curtin, Arman Shehabi, Louis-Benoit Desroches,
and Nathaniel Mills. “A Plug-Loads Game Changer: Computer Gaming
Energy Efficiency without Performance Compromise.” California Energy
Commission, 2019). The same report notes that a powerful gaming
computer uses as much wattage as a full sized refrigerator. The report
concludes that the biggest impact on energy usage in videogames is
behavior--which is precisely what such systems organize and leverage
for profit.

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