Toward Greener Gaming: Estimating National Energy Use and Energy Efficiency Potential


Rising computing power, improved graphics quality, higher-resolution displays, and streaming delivery have rendered computer gaming an increasingly energy-intensive activity. However, the role of gaming-related energy use, and how it varies across platforms, has not been substantively examined by the energy or gaming research communities. We measured the energy consumption of 26 gaming systems representing the spectrum of technology, price, and performance. Among the findings, energy use varied widely by hardware, but equally widely depending on which of 37 game titles or 11 benchmarks were run. Cloud-gaming energy use in datacenters and networks is markedly higher than that for local gaming. Virtual-reality gaming can use significantly more or less energy than gaming with conventional displays, depending on hardware and software choices. In aggregate, we find that gaming represents $5 billion per year in energy expenditures across the United States or 34 TWh/year (2.4% of residential electricity nationally), with 24 MT/year of associated carbon-dioxide emissions equivalent to that of 85 million refrigerators or over 5 million cars. Targeted hardware and software strategies can reduce the gaming energy use by approximately half, while maintaining or improving metrics of user experience. In addition to system designers, gamers and game developers can play a significant role in managing the energy required for gaming.

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    Using weighted-average residential electricity prices of $0.137/kWh (U.S. EIA 2017, 2019). Given the structure of most electricity tariffs, at the marginal prices where this consumption actually occurs, costs would be about 50% higher. The weighted-average electricity emissions factor is 0.71 kg marginal CO2-equivalent per kilowatt-hour (U.S. EPA 2019).


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This work was sponsored by the California Energy Commission, under Agreement #EPC-15-023 and benefitted enormously from engagement with many experts from the gaming industry, other energy researchers, and real gamers, many serving on our Technical Advisory Committee. Input on the PC side was provided by AMD (Donna Sadowy, Claudio Capobianco, Scott Wasson, and Justin Murrill) and Nvidia (Tom Peterson, Phil Eisler, Sean Pelletier, Anjul Patney, Nick Stam, John Spitzer, Luc Bisson, and Sean Cleveland). Representatives of the console industry, including the Entertainment Software Association (Michael Warnecke) and Sony Interactive Entertainment America, Nintendo of America, and Microsoft Corporation participated in a project workshop and other information exchanges. Game developers providing input included Nicole Lazzaro, Bob King, and Tom Bui. Tom’s Hardware (Fritz Nelson, Joe Pishgar, and Chris Angelini), PC Perspective (Ryan Shrout), and eXtreme Outer Vision (Slava Maksymyuk) provided discussions about energy-per-performance assessment and consumer decision-making. Jon Peddie Research (Ted Pollak), Iowa State University (Douglas Gentile), Fraunhofer USA (Kurt Roth), and Statistica (Liisa Jaaskelainen), laid important groundwork for our characterization of the gaming marketplace. Colleagues at other research institutions provided in-depth exchanges, including Jonathan Koomey (Stanford University), Pierre Delforge (NRDC), Peter May-Ostendorp (Xergy), Douglas Alexander (Component Engineering), and Vojin Zivojnovik and Davorin Mista (Aggios), and the USEPA’s ENERGY STAR program (Verena Radulovic, Matt Malinowski, Ben Hill, and John Clinger). Two dozen Berkeley Lab employees volunteered to intensively test an array of gaming rigs under various operating conditions to enable us to measure energy use, performance, and user experience under real-world conditions. Ian Vaino of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s Workstation Support Group provided workspace and support for the Green-gaming Lab, system procurement and assembly, and our extensive testing process. Sarah Morgan served as Program Manager. Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory is supported by the Office of Science of the United States Department of Energy and operated under Contract Grant No. DE-AC02-05CH11231.


This work was sponsored by the California Energy Commission.

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Correspondence to Evan Mills.

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Mills, E., Bourassa, N., Rainer, L. et al. Toward Greener Gaming: Estimating National Energy Use and Energy Efficiency Potential. Comput Game J 8, 157–178 (2019).

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  • Energy
  • Power
  • Efficiency
  • Performance
  • Carbon emissions
  • Green gaming