Head In The Clouds

Welcome back guys!

In a past post, we took a look at VR. While to me that was the epitome of the gaming industry’s future, I stand corrected because let me introduce to you cloud gaming.

Adapted from: https://allenchi.org/cloud-gaming-the-future-of-renting-video-games/

Honestly, the term “cloud gaming” is really new to me and the first time I heard about it was during the podcast that I hosted.

So what exactly is cloud gaming? This article  does a pretty good job at explaining what it is but essentially think of it as a subscription streaming platform such as Netflix or Amazon’s Prime Video, where you pay a monthly fee to stream movies or TV shows to your television, phone, or computer, but for video games. This eliminates the need to buy physical game copies or downloading games in order to play them, how convenient is that?

If the convenience doesn’t convince you, cloud gaming also means that anyone could play games on pretty much any device that has a stable Internet connection with minimal hardware requirements. That means, you won’t be needing the latest Playstation or PC to play games like Destiny 2. You could simply play it on your phone!

While cloud gaming may seem really promising, all this accessibility and convenience comes at a price. I mean all the work required by your gaming console or PC to run a game has to go somewhere right? Well, this means that the processing power and energy use are now transferred to data centers housing tons of servers which are run by powerful GPUs and CPUs. While this may lessen the carbon footprint of an individual gamer and less energy would be required from their gaming consoles, the converse is true for data centers. Since the data centers would now be responsible for all the graphics rendering and data processing, energy consumption would surely increase, and hence their carbon footprint as a majority of these data centers are primarily reliant on fossil fuels.

The good news is, cloud gaming hasn’t become the norm yet as it’s still a relatively new concept. However, even a mere 30% increase in demand for cloud gaming is predicted to result in a 30% surge in carbon emissions, so imagine if cloud gaming is indeed the future of gaming!

Let’s say if this really was to be the future, not all hope is lost though because of… renewable energy (yay!). As with a lot of things, fossil fuels can be replaced with renewable sources for the gaming industry and this is where the Playing for the Plant Alliance comes in. Through the alliance, various gaming companies pledge to pursue greener and more sustainable practices, where Microsoft for example, pledged to power all its data centers purely by renewable energy by 2025. In that sense, given how energy-intensive cloud gaming is for data centers, perhaps it could incentivize gaming companies to become greener instead.

Till next time!

Cheers,

Tricia

And We’re Live

Ah, Twitch. Nope, not the sudden jerking movement your body might make occasionally but the live streaming platform, yes Twitch!

Never heard of Twitch before? Well, don’t fret, because this short video essentially sums up what Twitch is as a whole.

What started as a live streaming platform focused on video games in 2011, Twitch has grown immensely over the years and currently has 3.8 million live streamers and 1.4 million viewers to date. While the live streaming platform is commonly associated with video games, it offers a lot more variety and it is common to find streamers live streaming anything under the sun be it cooking, singing, or their day out in town (a.k.a “In Real Life/IRL” streaming). Additionally, with integrated search categories, there is no doubt that you would easily find a streamer that suits your preference. Furthermore, being known as one of the biggest if not THE biggest live streaming platforms, Twitch is home to famous streamers such as Ninja, Tfue, and Shroud, who each can easily amass 14,000 or more viewers per stream from all over the world. It is also not uncommon to find streamers with consistently high viewership to have Twitch live streaming as their full-time job as the platform offers ways of monetization such as viewers having the option to pay a monthly subscription fee to support the streamer or the streamer setting up a donation link (e.g. to their PayPal account) for the viewers to “donate” any amount of money as a show of support/appreciation for the content they are viewing.

It is precisely the popularity of Twitch and its huge audience as to why I wanted to talk about it for today’s blog post. Given the potential of influence that Twitch has, it is a prime platform for companies to capitalize on to promote their products. Following the same vein, this could also apply to NGOs and this is exactly what WWF Australia has done. Apart from setting up their own Twitch channel, they also have an ongoing program called “WWF Wild-Livestreamers”, where live streamers can host charity live streams to meet a set donation goal in the name of WWF and their work. Besides streaming for a good cause of saving wildlife and our planet, the program also offers incentives for the live streamers where $1 = 1 point, and these points could be exchanged for rewards (e.g. WWF merchandise). Since 2017, the program has managed to raise a total of $700,000 in support of WWF.

While WWF Australia is the only environmental organization that I currently know of that is capitalizing on the success of Twitch, I personally feel that it is a promising start, and is only the tip of the iceberg for the possibilities of Twitch and how it can aid in raising environmental awareness. I do hope that more environmental organizations would follow suit and apart from raising donations, hopefully, more could be done to engage the audience in current environmental issues such as having weekly podcasts discussing these issues as it would give the viewers more incentive to “donate” rather than just doing it for a “good cause”.

Till next time!

Cheers,

Tricia

 

It’s a Podcast!

Hey everyone and welcome back to my blog!

I’m pretty excited to share this week’s post with you guys because it’s something different and it’s also something I’ve never tried doing before.

For one of my previous posts, Dr. Coleman posed a couple of questions to me: 1) whether gamers would be inclined to spend less time playing video games upon knowing the environmental impacts they pose, 2) whether gamers’ environmental consciousness differ from the general population (granted that they spend more time indoors)

Thanks to her questions, I was inspired to explore a different approach to getting gamers’ opinions (other than the usual surveys/polls), and thus, I present to you my first ever environmental gaming podcast!

As the podcast is pretty long, here are the timestamps for the various questions asked:

(2:49) Short introductions of each guest

(4:50) On a scale of 1-10 how environmentally conscious/friendly are the guests

(9:05) How aware are the guests of current environmental problems

(17:28) Whether being a gamer affects how environmentally conscious the guests are

(27:30) Thoughts on the environmental impacts of video games

(36:58) Is it possible to shift over completely to digital game copies

(43:30) Thoughts on eco-friendly gaming computers

(1:05:24) Whether video games can be a platform to promote environmental awareness

(1:25:00) Whether the guests are willing to change their gaming habits after the podcast

On a whole, the main takeaways from the podcast are that gamers aren’t that different from the average person in terms of environmental consciousness. Like a majority of the public, gamers are aware of the environmental issues going on today but aren’t particularly motivated to take action to help. This struck me as being quite ironic granted that gamers are about the most connected people to the Internet and how environmental issues can easily go viral on social media today. However, I think a point to keep in mind is the priority of gamers; essentially they just want to sit back, relax, and enjoy playing a game after a long day. Hence, they’re not inherently concerned about the environment and the consequences of their gaming habits because they simply just want to have fun.

Another good takeaway was the sustainability of the video game industry and how it could become more eco-friendly. The consensus was that there is a culture in the video game industry for things to be bigger and better. Companies push for stellar game graphics and flashy computer setups to feed consumer’s desires. As the products get better, the consumers would in turn desire for more; resulting in a vicious cycle. Hence, it would seem that the onus is on the companies to gear towards more efficient products to create a culture of energy efficiency, which would take time to normalize amongst the gaming community, however.

There is still so much I’d like to say about the podcast, but I’ll end on this note. Personally, I think this applies to not just gamers but to everyone; that more conversation needs to be had about environmental issues. To me, the problem lies not with people being ignorant but with them not having enough reason to care.

Till next time!

Cheers,

Tricia

 

 

Is This The Real Life?

Image adapted from: https://singularityhub.com/2019/05/10/5-breakthroughs-coming-soon-in-augmented-and-virtual-reality/

One minute you’re in the comfort of your bedroom, the next you’re transported to a deserted wasteland once known as Earth that is currently being overrun by a colony of alien robots. All in a blink of an eye!

Well, that’s virtual reality (VR) in a nutshell for you.

While not a new concept, the popularity of VR has only been on the rise for the past couple of years with VR technology constantly improving. Take the new Oculus Quest 2 set for release on October 13th, it is equipped with the latest Snapdragon XR2 chipset, to ensure the running of much better quality games. Furthermore, unlike its predecessor the Oculus Quest, the Quest 2 claims to have more pixels per eye, which would translate into improved sharpness and an all in all more seamless and immersive experience.

Some popular VR games today include Beat Saber, Half-Life: Alyx, and even Minecraft. Having had some experience playing VR myself, I would say that though the experience was really immersive and thoroughly enjoyable, a majority of VR games today haven’t fully utilized the potential of VR. Personally, the game that comes the closest to imitating real-life would be Half-Life: Alyx, where shooting and reloading guns operate the same way as a gun would in the real world.

That being said, the possibilities with VR are seemingly endless, giving game developers a ton to work with and I feel that this could be a very promising gateway into spreading environmental awareness. It was found that the immersion of VR could actually enhance one’s understanding of various concepts. Couple this with the interactive aspect of video games and I think we have a new platform for education in the future.

While most VR games available today are rather short in gameplay and simplistic, one such game that hinges on this concept is Trash Rage, where it is the year 2049 on Earth but instead, it is now a rubbish-filled wasteland governed by robots. Essentially uninhabitable, your job as one of the few remaining survivors who relocated to Mars is to return to Earth and restore it, making it habitable for humanity once again. During a demo of the game, it was noted that other than engaging the player, bystanders were equally engaged by the game as well, as they were actively throwing hints to the player on how to play the game. Personally, I think that the positive response is largely attributed to how the message of the importance of recycling is delivered through the form of a game. This way, the message would be relayed to the player in a fun and lighthearted manner, rather than making them feel like they need to “learn” something.

Despite there being simulations of climate change and its resultant consequences available through VR, which are still a good method of raising environmental awareness, I feel that incorporating them into games would greatly enhance receptiveness. Being able to experience it is one thing, but creating a lasting impression is another, which to me, being the main protagonist in a post-apocalyptic world would definitely do the trick.

Till next time!

Cheers,

Tricia

 

No Consolation

Atari, Nintendo, Microsoft, and Sony. What do they all have in common?

Producing pretty darn good game consoles over the years that have provided us with countless hours of fun and memories.

Image adapted from: https://arstechnica.com/gaming/2019/06/console-makers-warn-trumps-trade-war-could-increase-hardware-prices-25/

Forget downloading digital copies of games. Nothing beats unwrapping a brand new physical copy of Animal Crossing: New Horizons or FIFA 20 that I just bought for my birthday. But along with the plastic wrapping I just threw into the bin goes my ignorance about the environmental impacts of these physical games.

Although I’d much prefer owning a physical copy of a game than a digital one (sentimental value perhaps), sadly, the environment would prefer I do the opposite. According to a study titled the Console Carbon Footprint, it was revealed that 95.6% of console gamer’s carbon footprint could be reduced if they switch to downloading digital copies of games. I know the percentage seems too large to be true but if you think about it, it makes a lot of sense given the manufacturing process required by physical games.

While digital downloads of games result in 0.017kg of Co2 emissions, the manufacturing process of physical games produces 0.39kg of CO2 emissions thanks to the need for an aluminum polycarbonate disc, plastic cover (made of polypropylene and polyethylene), and glossy paper for the printed cover and leaflet. To put things into perspective, FIFA 20 alone, generated 595,395kg of CO2 emissions due to the manufacturing of its physical game copies, which is comparable to the CO2 emissions of 129 cars per year.

Apart from the carbon footprint of physical game copies, let’s not forget their physical waste too. According to the same study, if all owners of the previous FIFA 19 game were to dispose of their discs in exchange for the new FIFA 20, a total of 128kg of waste would be produced.

Maybe you’re still not convinced by the impact of these numbers just yet. But consider this: FIFA is but a single game in a seemingly endless sea of games across multiple genres. Imagine the total waste and carbon footprint of all these games combined! What’s more, game developers regularly churn out new games almost every year, with highly anticipated titles such as Cyberpunk 2077 arriving this November and Monster Hunter Rise planned for release next year.

Sentimentality aside, the wise choice now as a consumer would be to start downloading games digitally rather than obtaining their physical copies, however, there is only so much an individual can do. Could the game developers make game manufacturing processes more sustainable?

Till next time!

Cheers,

Tricia

E is for Energy

Hello everyone! Hope you’ve had a good week thus far and welcome back to my blog 🙂

For this week’s post, I figured tackling the topic of video games and their impact on the environment would be a good start. In particular, video gaming’s energy consumption and carbon footprint.

When thinking about the culprits behind climate change, one might not think of video games. I know I didn’t! But in fact, video gaming has a larger carbon footprint than meets the eye. Did you know that the energy consumed by video gaming consoles like the Playstation 4 and computers are estimated to be a whopping 34 terawatt-hours annually, which believe it or not, is comparable to the energy used by 5 million cars! I mean, I’ve always known that computers and video game consoles are somewhat energy-intensive but these numbers shocked me.

But as I think about it now, this should be no surprise considering that the average gamer spends about 6 hours gaming per week. This made me wonder, due to the circumstances of the recent COVID-19 pandemic, a lot more time would have been spent at home especially with companies encouraging working from home and schools adopting online classes. Would this have resulted in an increase in time spent gaming?

With the help of friends in the gaming community, I ran a poll where out of 35 respondents, 82.9% agreed that they have been spending more time gaming due to the COVID-19 situation. Now that can’t be good news for this year’s energy consumption (for the gaming industry at least).

My friend and I playing Monster Hunter: World together with outfits inspired by Cosmo and Wanda from The Fairly OddParents. Image credits: myself

Furthermore, game companies today are starting to stray away from games being a singleplayer experience towards a multiplayer one. Take Monster Hunter: World, for example, where players can team up in groups of four to slay big scary monsters. Being a popular franchise, Monster Hunter: World garnered a record high of 334,684 players in 2018. While being able to play games together with your friends online may be an exciting experience, it sure isn’t for our environment. This is because the entire multiplayer aspect is only made possible thanks to the use of servers, which are responsible for connecting us to the Internet, and providing us with things like Google and social media platforms.

Now, who provides us with these servers? Data centers of course! Considering how increasingly reliant we are on the Internet today, the energy usage of 205 terawatt-hours by data centers globally in 2018 surely would have increased.

I don’t know about you but I am seriously reconsidering the amount of time I devote to gaming, now knowing what an impact it can have. Perhaps I could invest in less energy-intensive computer parts? Time to do some scouting at Sim Lim mall…

Till next time!

Cheers,

Tricia

Oh Hi There!

Hello everyone, and welcome to the start of my blog!

Let me first give a quick introduction about myself so you guys can get to know me a little better! My name is Tricia (but I sometimes also go by Trish) and I’m a year 1 student pursuing a Bachelor in Environmental Studies at NUS. Prior to university, I graduated from Temasek Polytechnic with a diploma in Veterinary Technology. Why veterinary technology you may ask? Well, at the time, I was incredibly lost and confused with regards to what I wanted to do in life. However, one thing I knew for sure was that I really loved animals. Going from there, the most logical career path to me (and my parents) was to become a veterinarian and the first stepping stone was getting a diploma in Veterinary Technology. However, a module about wildlife ecology and conservation that I took during my first year sparked my interest in wanting to help animals other than domestic pets. Which brings me here today, embarking on a quest to learn more about our planet’s environment and wildlife ecology so that hopefully one day, I would be able to contribute to protecting our animals. 🙂

My cat Albus and I from a while ago (because I don’t have any recent pictures of myself)

You may be wondering, so what is this blog going to be about? Are you going to be chronicling your daily life out of boredom due to COVID-19 circumstances? Well, as much as I have tried (and failed) to do so in the past, this blog is nothing like that and would (hopefully!) be a more interesting read 🙂

Video games and the environment.

That’s right! In the following blog posts, I would be tackling the topic of video games and their impact on the environment. So why video games? Honestly, the brainstorming process for a blog theme did not take long for me because writing about video games was a no brainer. My passion for video games started at a young age thanks to my sister who introduced me to my very first computer game during my primary school days, much to my mother’s dismay (Maplestory cough cough). Although it may have resulted in dissatisfactory PSLE results, I discovered a hobby that I enjoyed immensely which stuck with me for years (and hopefully more to come), so you win some and you lose some right? I’ve been playing video games ever since, and it has become such an integral aspect of my life that it has contributed to the forging of many relationships that I hold dear.

During the lockdown period in Singapore, I even dipped my toes into video game live streaming on Twitch and I can safely say that it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made not because I’m making big bucks as a streamer (I wish) but because the friends I’ve made from it are some of the closest friends I have today. What’s more, it helped me to step out of my comfort zone by pushing me to be more comfortable with public speaking and encouraged me to network with others.

Here’s a gif of me getting scared taken from one of my live streams

That being said since video games have been such a huge influence in my life, this blog posed the perfect opportunity to delve deeper into the world of video games; to understand the industry more from just a consumer’s perspective. In particular, their impact on the environment. In the blog posts to come, I intend to explore not only the environmental harm that video games may bring but also how the industry could potentially aid in environmental movements. Stay tuned because I have exciting plans for this blog and I hope that you would join me on this journey in shedding some light on video games and their relationship with the environment.

Till next time!

Cheers,

Tricia