Gamescom 2019

Are video games harmful to the environment?

20. August 2019, 15:59 Uhr | Tobias Schlichtmeier
The booth of Aorus in hall 7 at the Gamescom in Cologne.
The booth of Aorus in hall 7 at the Gamescom in Cologne.
© Foto: Koelnmesse | Thomas Klerx

Are you a gamer? Then you're one of the 34 million people in Germany who regularly grab a computer game. But what about environmental pollution - is gambling sustainable?

Many visitors are coming to Gamescom, the world's largest trade fair for the video games industry in terms of exhibition space and visitor numbers. From August 20th to 24th it will take place at the Cologne Exhibition Centre and will be held in 2019 under the motto »Cloud Gaming«. Cloud Gaming or »Gaming as a Service« means playing video games via a server. The servers require electricity that first has to be generated - and not always in an environmentally friendly way. However, sustainability is not an issue at the fair, although the gaming industry is now bigger than the film or music industry.

Games more popular than ever

Video games are becoming increasingly popular. In Germany alone, more than 34 million men and women play at least occasionally or even frequently, according to the Association of the German Games Industry. 48 percent of gamers are female, 52 percent male with an average age of 36.4 years and rising. Whether with game apps on the way to work in the subway on the smartphone, with family or friends on the console or online on the PC, the variety of games contributes to the further spread. According to a forecast by Statista, the data volume will increase to around 180 billion gigabytes by 2022 - four times the previous consumption.

Environmental pollution is increasing

The increasing demand for storage space and thus computing power increases power consumption and consequently also environmental pollution. According to a study by Springer Science and Business, gamers consumed around 75 billion kWh of electricity worldwide in 2015. This corresponds to about one sixth of Germany's annual electricity consumption. Mobile consoles and smartphones are also causing the figures to rise sharply. New technologies such as the 5G mobile communications standard are contributing to this progress. They support current gaming trends such as e-sports, virtual and augmented reality as well as cloud gaming services such as Google Stadia and PlayStation Now.

New concepts needed

Energy-efficient and sustainable IT infrastructures are needed to counteract the growing environmental impact. »Even our favourite hobbies must be environmentally friendly«, says Nicolas Röhrs, Managing Director and co-founder of Cloud & Heat Technologies. His company develops concepts for tomorrow's data centers. Hot water direct cooling, for example, allows waste heat from data centers to be reused to heat buildings and to connect to district and local heating networks. The technology in the Eurotheum skyscraper in Frankfurt reduces CO2 emissions by up to 557 t per year and at the same time saves cooling and heating costs. Other data centers around the world want to use the technology to reduce the environmental impact of gaming.

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