Our little blue planet is important. If David Attenborough documentaries haven’t taught you that already, remember that it’s here and only here (to humanity’s knowledge at least) that video games exist. We’d like to see that sort of thing continue, so it’s only fair that we do our bit to look after Earth as best we can. To that end, we’ve put together some simple tips that can help you live your life as an eco-friendly gamer, so that humanity can continue to enjoy our favorite hobby for as long as, well, humanly possible.
How to be an eco-friendly gamer
Switch your PC and consoles off properly
The more powerful our gaming machines get, the more electronic juice they guzzle. While we’re not saying you should give up gaming for good, you can make a noticeable difference to your power consumption by ensuring you properly power down your PC or consoles each time you finish playing.
These days it’s very common for consoles to enter what’s called a “low-power” or “standby” state when you shut them down. This feature is exceptionally handy as it allows the console to download updates or preload content while you aren’t using it. However, it also means a lot of time spent consuming power while ultimately doing very little. Thankfully, you can pick and choose when to use it. The PS4, for example, will let you pick between shutting down fully or entering a standby state if you hold the central button and select the power options.
If you know you’ve got a big Warzone update on the way, or are preloading a title for imminent release, then by all means make use of it. Otherwise, power down your devices properly to not only make your gaming setups more energy efficient, but save your house some money in the process. For Windows 10 users, you can force your machine to do a proper shutdown by holding shift when you click the power button. This will result in a slightly longer load time the next time you boot it up, but if you’re wrapping up for the night, a small delay the next morning won’t matter much.
A straightforward way to lessen the impact of our favorite hobby is to buy digitally more often. Picking up games from online services like Steam or PlayStation Store reduces the need for plastic boxes to be churned out by the dozen. Gaming has already been shifting this way for some time, but if you can consciously make a difference, by checking digital availability for any titles you’re interested in.
We know plenty of folks love their physical collections, and we’re not judging! If you’re someone who likes to maintain a pristine shelf, try only picking up the physical versions of truly classic titles. After all, no one is going to be all that impressed by Knack hogging a spot in your collection.
The digital future really ought to have resulted in games being a tad cheaper, thanks to the cutting out of middlemen retailers and the need to produce all those cases. Sadly, that hasn’t really come to fruition, but online stores (especially on PC) do regularly run sales which discount recent and older titles you might be after. Have patience, and you’ll be rewarded.
Recycle your game boxes and machine parts where possible
But what about all those 360 games (or the aforementioned copy of Knack) you don’t want any more? Well, that’s where things get a little trickier. Most game boxes and manuals can be recycled, but whether that’s true in your local area is a much trickier question. Just look at People Make Games’ Chris Bratt attempting to recycle a box in the UK, where standards are ostensibly pretty good. The same is true for PC parts. Almost all computer components contain valuable parts for recycling, but finding the right place can be tricky.
Your best bet is to check your state or local council’s website to see what they suggest. In the UK, there’s a generalized website that can point you in the right direction. In the US, it’ll really depend on how seriously your state takes recycling. There are independent recycling centers out there, and finding them can be as simple as googling recycling and the name of your city, state, or local area. Make the effort, and you can make a difference.
Don’t buy unnecessary extras
The video games market is staggering in worth, and it only continues to grow, year on year. And where there's money, there are always going to be companies attempting to convince you to open up that wallet or purse to throw some coins their way.
Gamer products – whether it’s chairs, glasses, controller holders, or energy drinks – have become big business in recent years. There are all kinds of items out there now desperate to sell you on how exclusive they are, or how much they’ll boost your performance in-game. Any time you see something advertised – and yes, that includes sponsorships for your favourite influencer – pause and ask yourself whether you really need it in your life, or if you’re likely to be lobbing it in the bin within a month or two’s time.
Give it at least a day to mull over the purchase, and even figure out whether you could fit it in your house. The same is true for figures like Funko Pops or collector's editions . There’s nothing wrong with picking out your favorite characters, but do you really need to own a Funko Pop of a meme that could be outdated in a year or two? And let’s not forget that horrendous shark-bitten torso Dead Island attempted to make people pay for. Reduce your purchases and you can minimize plastic waste while also relieving the load on your bank account.
Upgrade only when necessary
If you’re a PC gamer, it can be easy to get caught up in the idea that you’re constantly falling behind the latest technology. PC gaming is touted at the pinnacle of performance, offering the best graphics and the highest framerates. While it certainly can be that, it won’t be for everyone. So long as you can overcome that initial hurdle of dropping the graphics on some titles, a good PC can last you 5-10 years before you even think of upgrading. Hardware parts such as graphics cards and CPUs tend to drop in price fairly quickly, meaning waiting before you upgrade can pay dividends as well.
Hopefully the tips above will help you live your life as a more eco-friendly gamer. It may seem like obvious stuff, but part of making your life more environmentally friendly is taking the time each day to consider the small changes you can make. The more of us that do it, the bigger the impact we can have. Plus, we’d really like the planet to hold together long enough for at least one more Super Smash Bros. game.