Increase awareness

Building green momentum in the UK games industry

A conversation with Ukie

Ukie is the trade body for the UK’s games and interactive entertainment industry. The group represents 2,000 games businesses and 50,000 staff, and works across a wide range of initiatives and activities, from education to policy, from events to investment, all to support the UK games industry.

Given the continued escalation of the climate crisis, more of Ukie’s time is spent supporting UK gaming companies going greener, like their work on the Green Games Guide or bi-monthly industry meetings to share ideas.

So we sat down with Daniel Wood, Ukie’s Special Projects Lead and one of the driving forces behind Ukie’s green work, to learn more about their views on sustainability and how they plan to support change in gaming.

Daniel Wood

UKIE recently launched its Green Games Guide, what has the response been from the games industry?

The industry responded really positively to the Green Games Guide and the inaugural Green Games Summit, which took place in September 2021. We think one of the reasons it was received so well is that it offered plenty of practical advice for businesses seeking to reduce their environmental impact.

We knew from our research within the industry that the biggest barrier to action wasn’t a lack of willingness to help but a lack of relevant advice for the industry specifically. The guide, along with the sessions at our virtual summit last year, has helped fill in a lot of gaps and provided a strong foundation for the industry to build upon.

How receptive do you think developers and publishers are to the changes that are needed to be more climate-conscious?

I think the industry at large is aware of its responsibilities across a range of societal issues, especially as a result of games becoming much more prominent in society.

This means that games businesses are aware of the importance of participating in efforts to reduce their carbon footprint. We’ve seen this in a number of ways through the UN’s Playing for the Planet initiative, whose annual report showed the lengths businesses are willing to go to.

But at the same time, we also know the industry is the thin end of a much larger wedge. It’s therefore important that we do our bit but also recognize that inspiring change everywhere is just as important as looking at how we make and distribute games alone.

According to some data that SpaceApe provided for the Green Games Guide the biggest factor in a studio’s carbon footprint is the cloud storage and computing that underpins everything. How can UKIE put pressure on infrastructure companies to improve in these areas?

I think it’s less about exerting pressure and more about being a friend to those businesses. In the end, we’re all looking to achieve the same goal – namely, saving the planet from irreversible climate change – and it’s important we do that collaboratively.

We can achieve this practically in a few ways. We should, naturally, keep looking at our work in the way that Space Ape did to help quantify the issue. But we should use that as a starting point for a dialogue with cloud computing and storage providers to understand where they may look to change and whether there’s anything we can do to help.

We’ve, for example, run a green coding workshop to see if there are ways to ensure that our games can lean on that infrastructure a little less heavily. Breakthroughs there could have an enormous impact on our industry’s footprint but could also help those companies speak to businesses across the computing sector: amplifying our positive impact well beyond the games industry.

How much engagement has there been from the government in helping the games industry to be more green?

The Government has definitely looked interestedly at what we’ve done on this topic. Over the past few years, it’s really woken up to the potential of the industry to influence opinion on a range of campaigns and activities – including public health messaging, mental health campaigns and more – and make a positive contribution to society at large.

The games industry had the distinction of being one of the only major creative industries with a stand across COP 26 last year, which was a real achievement. But we’ll need to keep taking major steps on this in the future to ensure we keep the Government interested in the story we have to tell.

How do you think UK studios compare to other countries in terms of being more climate-aware?                                                                                            

I think it’s important that we come together as a global community to tackle the problems of climate change. We know that businesses in the UK are definitely playing a big part in helping the industry become more climate aware but it’s crucial that any lessons we learn here are shared around the world for maximum impact.

Do you think players can help studios to become greener?

I think it works both ways. We know that players are more interested than ever in games and games businesses that take social issues seriously. Companies who take a lead on the green agenda and explore climate themes within their games can get consumers thinking about their habits and support efforts to enact society-wide change. At the same time, we know that games businesses are perhaps uniquely connected to their communities. If players express a desire for companies to do more on the climate issue, as we’ve seen in other parts of the economy, it wouldn’t be at all surprising to see games businesses respond in kind.

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