We Need Gamers to Support Green ICT

We are constantly on the lookout for ICT-intensive communities who appear under-engaged in global Green ICT awareness. More active participation from these communities could do much to advance ICT sustainability. We identified American higher education and global ICT4D advocates as two communities where more effective embrace of Green ICT has significant potential. Console gamers comprise another such community. This is important because research firm IHS has marked game consoles for production growth in 2014.

I first became aware of this when I saw how console manufacturers where either absent from or performed poorly on various Green ICT rankings. Nintendo, for example, scored dead last in a 2012 conflict minerals ranking of ICT hardware companies. (Ninetendo had a score of 0, compared to Sony at 27 and Microsoft at 38. Top-ranked Intel came in at 60.)

Gaming consoles are powerful computers, so it is not surprising that Hardcoreware.com discovered that they can consume as much electricity as a PC. Add to that the consumption of a large HDTV display, which can double or triple the energy consumption, and you have a serious carbon footprint.

Political jurisdictions and their e-waste laws are also part of the problem. Less than 20% of American states mandate the recycling of game consoles.

There are voluntary efforts within the consumer electronics industry to address e-waste, but console manufacturers have not done a good job in the past. The Electronics Takeback Coalition (ETC) 2010 Manufacturers Recycling Report Card gave each of the three console manufacturers a D or D-. (Top-ranked Dell received a B.) ETC may issue a new report card later in 2014; we'll check back on console manufacturers' progress if it does.

Finally, more and more console gaming is connected to the cloud. The cloud's massive data centers add to console gaming's sustainability challenges, with issues ranging from carbon footprints to water consumption.

There is clearly an opportunity to improve Green ICT awareness and engagement in the console gaming community. A 2010 petition at Change.org to "Tell Nintendo To Take Care of Its E-Waste Problem" garnered only 223 signatures. A current conflict minerals petition at Walk Free - Enough Games Nintendo - is doing better with ~62K signatures. Still, the gamer community can do even better.

Even this relatively minor outcry may be having and impact. Nintendo's Corporate Social Responsibility Report now states, "We have an unequivocal policy banning the use of conflict minerals in any of our products and expect our production partners to do the same." We'll see how Nintendo and other gaming companies perform in some of the new independent assessment due out this year.