When news broke earlier today that Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft (along with other multi-national companies like Nike, Apple, Huawei and more) have been associated with forced labour camps in China, my months-long struggle with gaming sustainability came to a head. A very ugly head. Sure, this is much less exciting than the new Final Fantasy VII Remake demo, but I think it’s a much, much more important topic.
SUSTAINABILITY: WHERE WE HAVE BEEN
The truth is that we’ve been quite careless about the kind of impact that our gaming has on the planet, on the environment and on other people. For decades, we’ve used fossil oil to produce the plastic that almost all physical gaming media is made of. We have outsourced manufacturing to countries where it’s cheaper, without thinking twice about why it’s cheaper: lack of work regulations means that workers can be exploited with little to no pay, which is much cheaper than to actually pay people what they deserve. Both in terms of human resources, as well as natural ones, we have been playing roulette with our future as if we were at sagamblingsites, not really paying any mind to how it’s been affecting our planet and those who inhabit it.
Even in developed economies like the US, it’s not uncommon for workers to be subjected to less-than-ideal working conditions, often incurring in “crunching” that can leave people permanently scarred. This is without even mentioning the misogynistic tendencies ingrained in the industry, as well as the lack of diversity.
In other words, we’ve not done much to make our industry a good thing for our planet and its people. In fact, aside from some notable indie releases (like the lovely 2064: Read Only Memories) some sustainability in gaming is minuscule to the point of being non-existent on a larger scale. We must change.
WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE
To be quite honest? I am not sure. Ensuring decent working conditions for people making our consoles, shoes and electronics would mean a jump in price, and a decline in revenue for companies who are currently using exploitative labour. Ensuring a reduced carbon footprint and lessening our dependencies on fossil fuels would mean less physical releases, more expensive and slower shipping. Are we ready to do that? I think we should do it, and quickly.
There is simply not enough urgency in drafting and implementing frameworks that ensure sustainability and human rights across the industry. You can talk smack about casinos en ligne all you want as an alternative to physical ones, for example, but they are much more sustainable than physical venues (with its infrastructure, resource, catering and energy requirements, to name but a few).
I’m not a policy maker. But I am a user. So, moving forward, I want to make sure that the people and companies I support within this (and any other) industry are as committed as I am (or hopefully more so) to making their efforts sustainable, humane and ethical. And if this means making some drastic decisions moving forward, so be it. I much rather play with a clean conscience than with a Nintendo Switch.
You can read the report from the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (the one denoting industries’ reliance on Chinese forced labour), here: https://www.aspi.org.au/report/uyghurs-sale