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U.S. gamers create as much carbon dioxide as 5 million cars

That extra monitor is using a ton of energy.


Nahila Bonfiglio


Gaming can be a real energy drain.

Any first-time apartment dweller with a proclivity for gaming learned this lesson the hard way: The first electric bill after a good weekend of gaming can be harsh, particularly when you’re running a system with a few extra bells and whistles. But a new study shows that gamers are consuming more energy than we realized. A whopping 34 terawatt-hours of energy per year, to be precise.

It’s bad news for those of us who were hoping that by avoiding cars and hunkering down in our homes, we were at least remaining neutral on the environment. Instead, it turns out we are heavily contributing to the carbon emissions getting pumped into Earth’s atmosphere. According to the study, titled “Toward Greener Gaming: Estimating National Energy Use and Energy Efficiency Potential,” gamers consume 2.4% of all residential electricity. That is more than every laundry machine and dishwasher in the country.

The carbon emissions that all this gaming is pumping out are equivalent to more than 5 million cars, according to the study published in the Computer Games Journal. The study uses 2016 as the baseline for its data. Gamers use consoles most frequently, making the devices responsible for a full 66% of 2016’s gaming energy consumption. PC laptops and desktops, on the other hand, were responsible for 3% and 31%, respectively. Media streaming devices like Apple TV were responsible for the remainder.

While PCs contributed far less to 2016’s gaming energy consumption, that doesn’t mean they are more efficient. In fact, according to Digital Trends, PCs can be the highest energy-consumers in a household, in some cases. The study outlines the extreme case of a household running two high-end gaming PCs, fully equipped with multiple 4K displays. A home like this would consume a staggering 2,560 kilowatt-hours in just a year.

There are extenuating factors in this example, of course. Many PCs run less efficiently thanks to oversized power supplies, unnecessary upgrades, and flashy, but useless, aesthetic choices. This means that not all PCs are such an energy drain.

Thankfully, the study found an upside.

Despite gaming becoming more popular each year, gaming energy usage is not projected to increase exponentially. In fact, gaming energy usage in 2021 is projected to 33.6 terawatt-hours. That’s a minor change from 2016’s usage, which is good news for gaming. While the amount used is certainly still concerning, the lack of a marked year-to-year increase points to good decisions by the makers of consoles and gaming PCs. If we continue to pay attention to numbers like these, future generations of consoles can be far more energy-efficient. If future consoles don’t make changes, however, the study projects gaming consumption could reach as high as 76.9 terawatt-hours. This all depends, according to the study, on “the evolution of gaming methods and system types.”

In the meantime, we can all do our part to lessen the impact of gaming throughout the states. Skipping extra monitors will help immensely with energy output, as will paying attention to what your console or PC is dedicating energy to. One of the best ways to avoid excessive energy usage is to avoid those fancy 4K screens, in gaming as well as television. They might seem like minor changes now, but when it comes to energy consumption these moves could make a world of a difference.


H/T Digital Trends

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