Climate Activism and Attitudes in Videogaming

On December 9th, 2022, the Yale Center for Environmental Communication hosted a panel with Marina Psaros, head of sustainability at Unity Technologies; Deborah Mensah-Bonsu, founder of Games for Good; and Dr. Jennifer Carman, Deputy Research Manager at the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication on videogaming and climate change. The discussion centered on the ways in which digital games can be utilized for large-scale social change in relation to our recent report of video gamers’ opinions on global warming. Dr. Lynn Fiellin, Professor of Medicine at the Yale School of Medicine, the Yale Child Study Center, and the Yale School of Public Health, moderated the panel.

Key Takeaways include:

  • The gaming community is more than its stereotypes: its demographics reflect the United States’ and videogamers hold similar attitudes toward climate change.
    • Videogamers are more willing to engage in behaviors to combat global warming than the general U.S. public and therefore represent a critical and untapped resource for climate action.
  • There are existing and developing strategies for “saving the world” with games:
    • Expand the definition of “green games.”
    • Blend in-game and real world experiences through augmented reality to generate interest in specific actions and/or offering in-game rewards for real-world actions. This can additionally be used to collect citizen-sourced data from around the world that can be used by an international research community.
    • Reduce the carbon footprint of games themselves, particularly through scope 3 emission reductions.
  • Videogamers are generally receptive to climate change-specific content in games and from well-known gamers.
    • Games for Good found that a large majority of videogamers appreciate the importance of gaming as an environmental educational tool and welcome environmental content in the games they play, with the important caveat that the content needs to fit the overarching storyline of the game.
    • Prominent players (i.e. “trusted messengers”) in the videogaming community can and have been successfully using their prominence to push for change.
    • The International Game Developers Association Climate Special Interest Group (IGDA CLIMATE SIG) is a gathering space for this type of work.
  • There are many ways videogamers can advocate for change within their community.
    • It is important both that influencers talk about these issues to their followers and that gamers talk to their friends and family about climate topics.
    • To reduce electricity consumption, gamers can look into powering their home or their gaming technology with renewable energy; they can also set their devices to efficiency modes (on consoles, in-game settings, power strips, and more).
    • To reduce waste, gamers can keep their consoles and other technology as long as possible. However, the responsibility also lies with developers to not require new technologies to play a game.
  • Younger gamers are part of a generation that has been especially active in drawing attention to racial and social injustices, mental health issues, and climate change. There are great opportunities for these voices to be uplifted within the gaming community to promote action instead of overwhelmed inaction.