Regina Wu

Weekend Gaming – Greener Gaming and Thinking with Portals

The weekend is upon us, but first – Happy Earth Day, everyone!

It’s not often that we associate green thinking with gaming – with gaming we tend to think bigger and more powerful all the time. However, did you know that according to a report by the National Resources Defense Council, video game consoles use an estimated 16 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity each year? Video game ­packaging is another big environmental offender. In 2007, about 101 million video games were sold in plastic cases. The energy needed to produce such packaging adds up to equal the greenhouse gas emissions from more than 9,000 cars.* With a few minor changes to your gaming habits, you can help reduce this usage.

Here are 5 basic tips to make your gaming time a little greener:

  • Consider the devices that you are using to game. Did you know that the Playstation 3 uses an average of 150 watts in active mode? By comparison, the Nintendo Wii uses about 16 watts.* On your PC, the 2nd Generation Intel Core processor family and Intel HD Graphics allow you to play a large number of PC game titles without the need for a power hungry add-in graphics card. You can find a list of titles optimized for Intel HD Graphics here. Another power saving option for your PC is to switch your disk drives to Solid State Drives. Since these drives have no moving parts, that means a lot less energy is consumed as well as the drives being much more reliable. You also get a great performance boost when accessing your disk drive. These component changes can mean savings on your power bill for a desktop, and extended battery life for your mobile computer.

  • This may seem obvious, but turn off your systems when they are not in use. Many consumer electronics also use electricty even when the device is “off” so consider using a power strip that you can shut off when you are not using your console. Additionally, you can make use of built-in power saving features. For instance, PCs have sleep functions that you can set up if you leave your computer idle for some amount of time. In Windows 7, you can set this in the Power Options under the Control Panel. Many of the modern consoles have auto shut-off features as well. On your Xbox 360, enabling the auto shutoff feature is simple. Bring up your Xbox guide, scroll over to the Settings tab and select System Settings. Select the first option, Console Settings, and then choose Startup and Shutdown. Choose Auto-Off and then select Enable. Your Xbox will now automatically shut off after being idle for 6 hours. We are all susceptible to forgetting to turn things off, but with these features we can rest assured that the device will turn itself off after a while.

  • Many modern gamepads, mice and keyboards operate wirelessly. While this is extremely convenient and reduces clutter, battery usage can increase tremendously. Consider buying rechargable batteries or battery packs for your gaming devices to reduce the amount of batteries that you are throwing out. Most console controllers offer rechargable battery kits, and Playstation 3 controllers are built to recharge through a standard mini-USB connection.

  • When you are finished playing a game, don’t just throw it away – trade it in! Many game retailers have trade-in programs where you can accumulate store credit by trading in your used games. Additionally, if you have been doing some cleaning and found some really old games, check on eBay to see if your old Atari or Nintendo games are worth some money. With a few simple searches, you may discover that the “junk” collecting dust in the attic could be treasure to a video game collector.

  • Did you know that a large majority of PC games are offered digitally? With services like Steam or EA Download Manager, you can purchase your games online and download them straight to your PC. Not only does this eliminate the use packaging material for the games, but less games need to be shipped to stores, and you personally save on the fuel needed to travel to a retail store to buy it. Even better, with brand new releases, you can often pre-load the game and start playing it the minute that it launches – no waiting in line at the store at midnight! These download services also include links to videos, articles, reviews and sometimes even a demo version about the game, so you can learn much more about the product before deciding to purchase. Steam runs a sale on a different game every weekend, often up to 50% off the regular price so if you are gaming on a budget you can save some big bucks purchasing online instead of at a retail store. To learn more about download services that are available, check the end of this post.

With these simple tips you too can be a greener, more energy conscious gamer. We can all do our part to conserve and make this earth a little bit greener.

On the gaming front, I have spent most of this week playing the highly anticipated Portal 2 (which, coincidentally, I purchased digitally through Steam). The game is the followup to the runaway hit packaged with 2007 game compilation The Orange Box. Portal 2 expands on that original game in scope, retaining the mind bending puzzle solving and witty dialogue. There is also an added cooperative mode, where players solve more complex puzzles with a friend. The launch of this game also includes the release of Steam on the Playstation 3, allowing players to play across the two platforms online. I’ve been having an absolute blast with the game – I am on my second playthrough now, exploring the environments more thoroughly and trying different ways of tackling the puzzles.

What games are you planning on playing this weekend? Do you have any tips to help gaming be greener?

* Source: http://science.howstuffworks.com/environmental/green-science/green-gaming1.htm

Digital Distribution Games Services:

  • Steam – Offers a wide variety of game titles, from casual to indie to blockbuster titles.
  • EA Download Manager – Offers blockbuster games from Electronic Arts.
  • Blizzard.com Store – Offers games from Blizzard.
  • Big Fish Games – Offers a wide variety of casual games.
  • Direct2Drive – Offers a wide variety of titles, from blockbuster to casual to indie.
  • Pop Cap – Offers games from PopCap.
  • Pogo – Electronic Arts’ casual games portal
Regina Wu

About Regina Wu

Regina Wu is a performance engineer in the Performance Benchmarking Group at Intel. She works on gaming performance testing; identifying and testing what gamers love and want for system performance. She is also a part of the world-renowned PMS Clan, where she is the division leader of the Guitar Hero/Rock Band division. She has competed in several high profile tournaments, such as the World Series of Video Games, Championship Gaming Series, World Cyber Games, and online leagues like CAL and CEVO.

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