The Climate Crisis and Game Development

We got a chance to sit down and chat with Climate Strategy Advisor Alexandra Palmquist, with many years of experience from the United Nations Development Programme, GoClimate and Normative to talk about the climate crisis and what companies in the games industry can do to help - even at indie level.

What are the most important things a company in our industry could do in relation to the environment?

Community engagement, given that it is where you have the most outreach, where you can have the most impact. To get your community engaged in different environmental causes. A downside, if you could even call it that, would be that any changed habits leading to less consumption by players would not really show on your on studio's carbon footprint - but it's definitely where you could have the most impact over time! That and just basic sustainability hygiene: don't travel by airplane more than necessary and never purchase more than you need. Setting a healthy company culture and not promoting "gluttony", if that makes sense?

When is it right to carbon offset?

Note: to learn a bit more about what climate compensation or offsetting is, click here.

To compensate for the emissions you can’t reduce is where you want to end up, but if you have already emitted in the past, why not compensate for it? In that sense we all have historical emissions so I don’t think there is ever a way to offset too much. But then, once you offset, of course you want to make sure that you’re spending the money on something meaningful, on something that actually has an impact. Also, why not make a habit of it: if there's a trip you cannot avoid taking, why not offset it?

So basically, limiting your impact as much as possible and then compensating for the rest through good compensation schemes?

Exactly! Making sure that the credits for the offsetting are reliable, that it is a project you really believe in, and that it has the impact that you are paying for.

What do you foresee as the biggest challenges or opportunities for our industry in the years to come?

I think the community spirit in the gaming industry is really inspiring. Seeing what has been done regarding Ukraine for example where there have been marches in games with people really coming together, people checking in on each other. I think translating that mindset into environmental sustainability as well, that is the key; how can we come together and do something about this? Harnessing that spirit and see what we can do for bees, what we can do for the marine ecosystem and what we can do for the climate. And recognizing that gaming itself doesn’t have to be a harmful practice at all. That we can continuously reduce emissions from gaming with both the way that games are hosted and the energy consumption in our devices, but also as an awareness and community spreading platform.

I think sometimes it is hard to keep track of what people are doing. The core problem with climate change is that it’s not one person’s emissions being the problem, but the collective. If we lived in an environmental dictatorship it would be easy to have one person deciding for everyone what to do. This is not how it is and is never what the gaming industry will be like; it’s a lot of people which means control is decentralized, essentially. Therefore, it will be very difficult to keep track of what people are doing and why they are doing so. You can never control which type of energy people are using, what type of devices they use, or which other sustainability related practice they have. It will be hard to make sure that people are following your advice.

You mean in relation to our Scope 3?

Note: Scope 3 is a term used for indirect emissions, such as emissions caused when a product is consumed. For example, the power consumed when people play a game is part of a studio's Scope 3, and the emissions caused are added to the studio's total carbon footprint.

Yes, for sure. Scope 3 will definitely be the hardest bit. I think cloud hosting, web services, and energy, all of those things can be sorted – and they are beginning to get sorted – but Scope 3 is really difficult.

What can players themselves do to help?

Make sure that you use low energy settings on your devices and to use renewable energy. As a gamer and only relating to the actual play of games, those are the main things you can do to make your hobby as sustainable as possible. But it’s more about what you can do beyond that: talking about climate change, talking about it in games and communicating your values. Your identity as a gamer can be turned into something that promotes sustainable behavior: “we as a gaming community don’t travel unnecessarily” or “we don’t pollute more than we have to”. Building on that community spirit and creating an ingroup feeling of people who care about something.

Where do you think a game publisher like Kinda Brave can have the largest impact?

There are so many gamers out there and many unhealthy habits in the gaming community. Your greatest impact could come from being someone that the others can look up to, by being the one that inspires others to do better, setting a new standard for what is possible. Doing that already from the start, I think that rhymes well with your name. In short, being inspiring to others and to be somewhere where people can turn to. I think it is super important, to be a welcoming place.

Is there anything you've seen us do so far that you'd encourage others to follow?

To set a baseline really early. I think that it is super impressive to have already started, in your first year, with buying second hand items, choosing renewable energy, all of those things and to really set the baseline and not have to go back and redo. That is really the biggest achievement. To start out a company with only having an electric vehicle; I have never seen that before. It is very modern and in line with current trends. But it is so cool that you start on that step instead of having to transition into something sustainable later.

What are your thoughts on the future of sustainability and business in general?

I believe the greenhouse gas emissions will be each company’s biggest liability. For investors, when they do risk assessments, this is going to be a major factor: can my company exist without fossil fuels? Can my company exist without having to offset a huge carbon footprint? For investors I think it’s going to become crucial. Also, from the consumer side: where do people want to work nowadays? Which companies attract the most talented people? In the end, which products do we want to use? We have a lot of choice and it is going to be so easy to just say “ok I’ll go for the sustainable one”, “I’ll go for the organic one”, or “I’ll go for the green one”. So, if a business is not sustainable, I believe it is not going to survive. It is a really tough business climate in general.

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