Skip to main content

Gamers in the U.S. create as much carbon dioxide as 5 million cars, study says

A new study has examined the energy use of gaming devices across the county, and it’s bad news for anyone hoping to escape global warming by diving into a video game.

“Toward Greener Gaming: Estimating National Energy Use and Energy Efficient Potential,” published in The Computer Gamers Journal, found that U.S. gamers consume an incredible 34 terawatt-hours of energy each year. That’s 2.4% of all residential electricity, with carbon emissions equal to more than 5 million cars, adding up to $5 billion spent. Gaming sucks down more power than all the nation’s freezers.

Image used with permission by copyright holder

The study has plenty of blame to go around. In 2016, the year used as a baseline for most of the study’s findings, consoles were responsible for 66% of gaming energy consumption. PC desktops used 31%, PC laptops used only 3%, and the rest was consumed by media streaming devices (like Apple TV or Nvidia Shield).

PC gamers aren’t out of the woods, however. While they contributed less to power consumption overall, PCs tend to be less efficient than consoles and represent the highest per-household consumption in extreme examples. The study describes a worst-case scenario of a home with two high-end gaming PCs, overclocked, using multiple 4K displays. That would eat up 2,560 kilowatt-hours per year.

From 3D-printed prostheses to burgers grown in science labs to smarter mobility for the elderly or infirm, tech improves our lives every day in a million ways beyond simply making things more convenient. Tech can have a meaningful impact — that’s why we call it Tech for Change. Here are the companies and people fighting to make a difference.
Tech for Change

Often, the inefficiency of PC gaming can be blamed on bad build decisions. The study “found dramatically oversized power supplies in almost all” PC desktops tested. That reduces efficiency because most power supplies deliver poor efficiency when only consuming a small fraction of their maximum output.

Surprisingly, virtual reality comes out of the study unscathed. While virtual reality can increase power draw due to higher display resolutions, the use of techniques like foveated rendering can compensate. Virtual reality’s results were worst when a VR headset was used alongside an external display

It’s a bleak picture, but there’s a faint silver lining. Gaming energy is projected to be 33.6 terawatt-hours in 2021, a mere sidestep from today. Energy efficiency improvements should offset new hardware and an expanding user base. That means the future should, at least, be no worse than the present.

However, the study notes that “alternative scenarios” could be as low as 29.4 terawatt-hours, or as high as 76.9 terawatt-hours, depending on “the evolution of gaming methods and system types.”

What can you do to game greener?

There’s more to the study than a report on gaming power consumption. It also makes recommendations for how gaming’s overall efficiency can be improved.

In-game diagnostics could be used to give gamers a better sense of energy use. While framerate and frame time figures are watched closely, games do little to inform gamers how much power they’re using. The study further recommends that “developers may consider ‘gamifying’ this information.”

Policy strategies are also recommended. There’s currently no government-sponsored consumer education campaign directed at energy use of gaming hardware. Consoles, gaming PCs, and other gaming hardware aren’t required to provide any energy use information aside from that usually required for any electronic device.

There are a few immediate recommendations gamers can take, as well. 4K displays are beautiful, but if you want to game greener, skip them. This is true for both televisions and monitors. Additional monitors also add significantly to power draw. Overclocking should be avoided, while undervolting can improve efficiency.

Finally, PC gamers should consider using V-Sync and in-game framerate caps. Those settings can reduce energy use by up to 39%.

Editors' Recommendations

Matthew S. Smith
Matthew S. Smith is the former Lead Editor, Reviews at Digital Trends. He previously guided the Products Team, which dives…
About a third of U.S. households lack broadband internet. 5G may change that
d links new 5g home router link nr  dwr 2010

A new report that addresses the topic of broadband internet access in the United States features a startling statistic: Almost a third of U.S. households do not have access to a broadband internet connection.

The report was published by market research company The NPD Group. According to a press release published by The NPD Group on Thursday, July 25, the report, known as the Rural America and Technology report, found that 31% of U.S. households didn’t have a broadband connection. In this case, a broadband internet connection would be defined as a connection that provides either a minimum of 25Mbps download speed or greater. The report notes that 31% of households without broadband would work out to “roughly 100 million consumers” who don’t have access to broadband connections and that most of these households are in rural markets.

Read more
Donald Trump says the U.S. government should sue Facebook and Google
How to Watch Trump State of the Union

President Donald Trump took a swing at Big Tech on Wednesday, saying that the U.S. government "should be suing Google and Facebook and all that."

Trump spoke out against the companies an interview on Fox Business. He did not give specific reasons for bringing lawsuits against tech giants, but claimed without evidence that Google is trying to rig the 2020 election. He also accused Twitter of making it harder for users on the platform to find and follow his account. 

Read more
The Sims 3 cheats: all cheat codes for PC, Mac, PlayStation and Xbox
the sims 4 review mem 3

Part of the fun of The Sims 3 is being able to, well, simulate real life. Sure, it isn't the most realistic simulation, but being able to control a person's life from their job to how they decorate their home is appealing to a huge swath of players. Because the fun comes from being able to customize and tweak things just how you want, it doesn't really feel like breaking the rules to use some cheats to make your game even more customizable, right? After all, you're just trying to give you Sim their best life ... or worst, depending on what mood you're in. However you decide to use all these Sims 3 cheats, we won't judge.
How to cheat in Sims 3
The basic cheats we will go over first need to be typed into the cheat console by hitting  Ctrl + Shift + C (Command + Shift + C on Mac).

To reach the cheat console on the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 or another console, you’ll need to press all shoulder and trigger buttons simultaneously.

Read more