Alliance's largest ever study shows playing video games can lead to climate action

May 24, 2024

Playing for the Planet’s largest-ever survey has found that video games can spur positive actions and attitudes toward the environment in real life. The survey, targeted at gaming communities and designed to unearth attitudes towards environmental issues and environmental content within games, reached 380,000 players across ten games.

Participating studios included Ustwo, Ubisoft, and Tilting Point, among others, and was launched off the back of 2022’s Green Game Jam, where more than 40 studios came together to explore ways to leverage the industry’s commitment to improving Food, Forests, and our Future using in-game nudges and tactics.

How did players respond to green messaging in games?

It’s the first time Playing for the Planet has surveyed players about green content in relation to the Green Game Jam at this scale – and the results were striking.

More than 81% of video gamers want to engage with more green messages in video games,  Gamers would like to see more green content in games, and more than two-thirds have considered changing their behaviours (such as eating less meat) as a result of in-game messaging. Around 80% of players are concerned that environmental issues are affecting them now, and will do so in the future, which suggests a genuine appetite for action.

There was an even gender split between men and women, and the largest number of responses (42.6%) came from those in the 21-39 years age category.

Deborah Mensah-Bonsu, who helped to organise the Green Game Jam and the survey, says the willingness of studios to give their communities a voice on these topics has been really encouraging. Having hundreds of thousands of responses from players is a strong signal that we're on the right track. She adds: “We wanted to lay the foundation for more regular feedback from players on environmental themes and this has been a great first step.”

Dr. Kristen Knowles PhD, Senior Lecturer in Psychology at Queen Margaret University who was part of the team developing the project adds that people spend a lot of time playing games, and interacting with environmental themes has the potential to raise awareness about the climate. “Players might begin to feel differently about their role in the environment outside of the game, which constitutes a significant step toward changing behaviours in real life…if we can get people thinking, we have a potential for action down the line.”

How did video games create real-world action for the planet?

Playing for the Planet’s Annual Impact Report also revealed that 2022 was a record-breaking year when it came to rolling out actionable sustainability measures: more than 30 gaming studios facilitated the planting of more than 2.5 million trees, reached more than 600 million players with environmental messaging, and encouraged 54% of Alliance members to commit to a decarbonisation ambition.

As the world focuses its attention on committing to net zero targets, the video game industry is clearly moving in the right direction. Jennifer Estaris, Game Director at Ustwo gamers feel passionate about the potential of video games in the sustainability journey. She says: “As a B-Corp and a studio that at the time was about to launch Alba: A Wildlife Adventure, it just made sense. We are in a climate crisis and we need all hands on deck. Working together toward a common goal, and specifically, a common GGJ theme takes advantage of strength in numbers, where the whole impact is greater than the sum of the studios.”

Playing for the Planet, launched during the 2019 environmental conference in New York, is facilitated by the United Nations Environment Programme. It was founded to encourage the video game industry to reduce their emissions and to help inspire gamers to develop sustainability awareness and commit to climate action.