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Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Playing for the Planet Alliance—and Nintendo's Absence?

By LUDWIG VON KOOPA - I'm not complaining. Far from it.

I may need to explain yesterday's article about KoopaTV trying to appeal to climate change protesters. ...Well, I won't give a full explanation, but just know that I didn't talk about my own political views on climate change in that article. At any point. I just wanted to compare the ideal KoopaTV participant to the characteristics that one can deduce are present in a climate change activist.

Characteristics on an abstractable level. Not actual personal politics. Though it's absolutely fine if you disagree with my politics! That's arguably more exciting for me. You can have people who disagree with one another but otherwise have similar characteristics—like high attention to detail, interest in reading, et cetera. You're also probably not a horrible person for disagreeing.

With that out of the way, I'm not done talking about climate, because this time, there's videogame-related stuff to talk about. The United Nations Environment Programme at this week's UN Climate Action Summit got a bunch (21) of gaming-related companies together to join a “Playing for the Planet Alliance” and published a press release, “Video games industry levels up in fight against climate change”. With the force of so many gaming companies, including Microsoft and Sony, that's the best headline they could come up with? Correct me if I'm wrong (and this'd be considered a Corrections Corner contribution), but as someone that runs and writes for a gaming website, I've never written a headline saying “[noun] levels up to [do whatever]”. It's the most degenerate form of headline for a gaming-related topic, written by someone who wants to sound clever about games but doesn't actually play them.

What's this alliance actually do? They're all pledging to do something to reduce their carbon footprint. For less information (but not intended to be of no value by its creators, I'm sure), check out this trailer:

I suppose it's a more promising montage video than the one the White House showed off in that roundtable on videogame violence last year.

In general, the companies promise to spread awareness and educate gamers through their games on how to be better stewards of the environment. Some companies pledge to do meaningless “carbon offsets.” They mention that Niantic will apparently use Pokémon GO as a platform to “engage their community to act around sustainability issues.” I figure that means not catching Grass types so they can stay in the wild and absorb carbon dioxide. Meanwhile, Ubisoft “will develop in-game green themes.” You know, maybe environmental concerns is why Ubisoft keeps making Just Dance games for the Wii—so the last-decade console won't turn into electronic waste. (Except the Wii can't digitally download things anymore.)

Only Microsoft will actually have a non-negligible impact here, addressing the one practice in the videogame industry that has a net-negative effect on the environment, and that's the supply chain that actually goes into making these things. They hope to reduce supply chain emissions by 30% by 2030, which is an actual, tangible goal and not like the other vague stuff most other companies are doing just to get their name in the press release to be a “good guy.” 

This is all based off a report that the United Nations commissioned on how to get the gaming industry to be more environmentally-conscious. This ranges from solid ideas about not having consoles suck up energy when already fully-charged (which kills your console's internal battery) to questionable game design suggestions (and they want at least one “green nudge” as part of the design of EVERY game) such as:
“Developing the green credentials of popular game characters – Sonic, Mario or Lara Croft, for example – could inspire gamers to ’do their bit’.”
“In many games, such as Fortnite and Clash Royale, trees are destroyed as gamers march through the levels. Tweaking the experience so that points are awarded for protecting the environment, rather than pulverizing it. Alternately, offering a badge for conserving resources, could encourage gamers to value nature.”
“Whether it is picking up plastic, choosing a non-meat dish in Cooking Fever or using game techniques to make electric cars ‘desirable’, targeted messages embedded in game ‘media time’ can influence offline behaviour.”
UN United Nations Environment Playing for the Planet gaming industry leaders environmental messages survey
“Gaming industry leaders are showing the way—87 percent surveyed plan more environmental messages in their games.”

(GAME FREAK clearly and unfortunately didn't get the memo about non-meat dishes with their sausage curry in Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield.)

Personally, Mario turning into a full-time environmental activist—and Super Mario Sunshine and Ignorance is Bliss don't count due to ulterior motives—would produce more tons of writing material for me than the tons of carbon emissions that will be reduced because of this entire Playing for the Planet Alliance. That's actually exciting to think about.

However, that may not happen anytime soon, because there's a notable absence in the Playing for the Planet Alliance—Electronic Arts Nintendo.

Nintendo, in fact, already does lots of pro-environment things. They have a whole corporate social responsibility report that includes numbers on their worldwide business use of electricity and recycling. They take great care in making sure their supply chain takes the environmental concerns into account.

But Nintendo apparently doesn't want to commit to being part of an “alliance” that wishes to force an agenda on game designers across the industry—makes sense, since Nintendo's own game designers don't want those kinds of messages in their games to begin with. Good for them. Nintendo (and the other companies not in the alliance) can still do pro-environment things and consider any legitimately good suggestions, without having a globalist organisation that obviously doesn't have a clue about the videogame industry run their businesses for them.

Ludwig wonders if this article will make him lose all of the climate change striker audience he tried to accumulate in yesterday's article. Oh well. Trying to pretend he's someone that he's not is as unsustainable as a future of fossil fuels. What do you think of this United Nations-based gaming alliance? Is it going to just be something that companies put their name on to look good but doesn't actually affect anything, or is this going to be a big change in the way the industry works from now on? Share your thoughts in the comments section!

By the end of 2022, Nintendo is still absent from this alliance, but Microsoft and especially Sony are investing more and more into it and are openly proud of adding environmentalist themes in their games.


  1. Even though Nintendo did not join the alliance, there is not any series with a more pro environmentally friendly message than the Animal Crossing series. Players are not just encouraged to grow their own food, but they are also enticed to recycle items that they no longer need so they can be rewarded with bells. The world also features a ton of biodiversity including the villagers, plants, and insects and marine life found in each of the in-game seasons. I cannot think of any other games that promote sustainability so subtly as this series does.

    1. Items left in the town aren't biodegradable, though. They just remain there. Forever.

  2. Having an environmentalist message in games isn't necessarily bad (Final Fantasy VII, for example, has a pretty "green" message), but I dislike the thought of developers being pressured into doing it. Trying to shoehorn a message into a story where it doesn't fit usually ends up feeling forced and awkward, and that can have the opposite effect of what it's intending.

    1. There's this guy on Facebook who is arguing with me that since the company freely entered into the alliance, that means that all of the designers working for the company are a-okay with having their creativity constrained by awkward restrictions.

      Then he said, hey, the planet is in crisis, so developers should feel happy to discuss this stuff whenever and wherever possible.

      I can personally say, as a writer, it got really ham-handed and silly during the first several weeks of April 2019 where I had to force an Ace Attorney reference into every single article.


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