Greener video games are possible

Ecological cost of very high parts, race for graphic performance, unrestrained energy consumption… The video game industry is not eco-responsible. It will reject every year the equivalent of 37 million tons Co2according to researcher Frédéric Bordages. What causes environmental impacts is the renewal of the gamer’s equipment »pointed out the creator of the think tank Green IT, such as giant screens for 4K resolutions or new console generations. This observation is unavoidable. Although niche, responsible digital is entering the video game industry.

If the studios that make rated games AAA » — the blockbusters of the sector — will not have their effect is unknown with few exceptions » according to Frédéric Bordages, reflections on independent actors develop. Our awareness of the environment has grown a lot in recent years, we talk a lot about it between independent developers », assured Geoffroy Vincens, co-founder of Bordeaux studio Nova-box. The game itself will be released in a few months End of the Linesagainst the backdrop of the consequences of climate change. Video games can help raise awareness among the general public through the themes they addresshe pointed out. We want to put our voice in the service of this cause. »

He wasn’t the only one thinking. Along with other French video game developers, screenwriters and graphic designers, Nova-box signed a forum in September in favor of reducing their carbon footprint.

the game “ End of the Lines is in the form of a graphic novel and deals with the consequences of climate change. © Novabox

First step to reduce environmental impacts ? Need to work on equipment », replied Frédéric Bordages. The less you prepare yourself for gaming, the longer your equipment will last, the better the bill will be on the environment, the researcher says: If to improve your computer, you’re only going to change one component, for example the graphics card, that’s a good move. For a video game console, the challenge is to make it last. And if we replace it, to give it a second life. »

Continuing this is what Commonn is trying to do, for example. Member of the Licoornes network of cooperatives, associated with the development of an alternative economic model to multinationals, Commun offers long-term rental of ethical computer equipment. Last year, the cooperative considered the time right to develop an offer of playing under GNU/Linux with free software and drivers pre-installed (software that recognizes computer peripherals: graphics card, printer, etc.), which is sometimes not directly installed on Linux. It makes sense to put very powerful devices on the market, they can be given many life cycles. If the device is strong to begin with, there will be less obsolescenceargues Élie Assémat, co-founder of Common. When the computer comes back to us, we can recondition it for video editing. Then, after eight to ten years, for office automation. »

Less energy efficient games and “ low technology »

Another alternative: make less energy-intensive games. Inside the studios, content creators perform technical arbitrations to offer their audience a pleasant and economical experience. The developer can choose a less efficient solution in terms of execution speed, but will require fewer calculations. It will require less CPU or graphics power and consume less energy »explains Geoffroy Vincens, of Nova-box.

The graphic choices are also food for thought. We must ask our stuff: is it important to play ultra-realistic games? ? » asked Elie Assémat. Things like this, like that Red Dead Redemption II — which also raises awareness about wildlife — o The last of us II, requires very high computing power to reproduce the details of reality in all their complexity. Instead of simulating energy-intensive photorealism, independent studios choose more sensible graphics processes that do not reduce the quality of games: Disco Elysium, Hades, Outer Wild…so many games that have received warm reception from critics and the video game community.

the game “ Disco Elysium »(computer, PS4, PS5, Switch…) was notably written by a team of eight writers. It won many awards, including Best Narrative. © ZA/Um

The Bordeaux people of Nova-box opted for the sophistication of the stories and a glossy aesthetic, reminiscent of comic strips. Games for which Geoffroy Vincens qualified low technology ». A position partly imposed by the modest beginnings of the studio, which had less financial and technical means. Because of this, we stayed with this dimension of the project rather than moving on to more ambitious energy-intensive projects. We became aware of the environment along the way. »

This aesthetic direction allows their games to endure beyond their release, the designer believes: A realistic game will quickly become dated. Games like ours tend to age better. » It also makes it possible not to encourage players to change equipment. Sobriety is essential in a world of finite resources, Frédéric Bordages points out: The metals from which the technology is made are limited to Earth. In a few years we will run out of them. These are as many resources as we will not have tomorrow to build a MRI of a hospital, for example. »

Very spicy,” The last of us II is one of those games that requires very high computing power, and therefore more energy. © NaughtyDog

Another solution applied today is that of cloud gaming » : Computing power and energy costs are outsourced to servers in a data center and the players stream pictures of their game on their screen. This is the case of Cyberpunk 2077 or other games like Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla.

This technology has its own pitfalls, says Frédérick Bordages: the stream reduces the carbon note, but going through data centers leads to more bandwidth consumption. An alternative is to play with the size of the files to lighten the environment log. One of our games is between 1 and 2 GB, compared to a single game AAA which weighs 80 GB, and imposes on download platforms a large difference in bandwidth consumption and servers »Geoffroy Vincens was exposed.

Combining consoles will be an interesting way for Frédéric Bordages, who allows himself to dream of returning to the arcades: The ideal is a shared room in the buildings or an equipped room in the block. This will make it possible to make friends with neighbors and restore commonality in everyday life. This world must be invented, but it does not seem far-fetched if we look at the deep desire of people to find true relationships. »

Play with stream “, as “ Cyberpunk 2077 », allows you to play connected to the internet without having to download the title to your computer. © CD Project

Linux,” future of video games » ?

A complementary track consists of passing its engine underneath GNU/Linux. Unlike Windows and macOS which are based on obsolescence, this open source operating system is maintained and continuously improved by the free software community. It extends the life of the equipment. But gaming on Linux has long been an obstacle course… Until Valve entered the fray with Steam.

This American studio has been proactive in making its Steam video game platform library accessible to people on Linux. To achieve this, Valve has been developing the open source software Proton since 2018, which allows games originally designed for Windows to run on Linux (Elden Ring, The Witcher 3, Dying Light 2etc.). Proton has developed thousands of games ready to play on Linux », says Liam Dawe, creator of the specialist site GamingOnLinux. To find out if the game they want works on Linux, players can go to the ProtonDB crowdsource database, which lists all the games tested and rates their playability.

To be more sensible, players can also switch to Linux. With the open source Proton software, there is no problem playing games designed for Windows like “ Elden Ring “. © FromSoftware

Linux is the future of gaming »longtime believer Gabe Newell, founder and CEO of Valve. To the point of putting Valve employees to work with the Linux ecosystem to improve its software packages. Valve has a lot of people working on graphics drivers, Proton, SDLGamescope and other projectslisting Liam Dawe. They improve Linux gameplay for everything, not just the Steam Deck »The computer-Steam console based on Linux kernel and released in 2022.

According to data collected by GamingOnLinux, the share of Linux users on Steam has increased from 0.8 % in 2018 at 1.38 % in 2022, dominated by Windows which aggregates more than 96 % players. Despite this unbalanced market, Liam Dawe says he has observed a clear trend » : More people use Linux for gaming, more and more people enjoy the efficiency of this operating system. » Last December, GamingOnLinux estimated 1,821,600 monthly active users on Steam by Linux distribution.

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