Trista Patterson is the chief sustainability officer at Xbox, where she spearheads the gaming company’s ambitious target to be carbon negative by 2030. She co-founded the U.N. Playing4thePlanet Alliance to help the world’s largest video-game companies and their players set more ambitious climate goals. In 2023, Xbox released a toolkit to help developers track and reduce emissions from their games, an industry first.
What sustainability effort do you hope will gain popularity with the general public this year, and why?
The power of play should not be underestimated. Play energizes, unites, and can inspire, connect, and challenge us to tackle the climate crisis. The $334-billion gaming market is bigger than the markets of music, cinema, and sports put together, yet gamers are often overlooked. They are a young and influential demographic that can shape the future if we reach them where they are. In a world that is full of despair and danger, play is the perfect remedy. It fosters imagination, hope, and cooperation. Play helps us feel like we can save the world, and that’s what’s most missing for the general public right now.
What is a climate technology that isn’t getting the attention or funding it deserves?
We should pay more attention to the hidden power of defaults. Many default settings in our everyday devices and systems both small (such as laptops and video games) and large (like trade networks and transit systems) were set in a time when climate wasn’t a concern. Empowering people in all roles to examine and reset defaults can bring about energy, cost, and emissions savings at scale. I lead an ongoing effort at Microsoft/Xbox that re-examines pre-existing assumptions in our supply chain, designs, operating system, game codes, and user interface. Nudging console defaults, we have slashed standby energy consumption by 95%. Optimizing code in popular games like Fortnite and Call of Duty we reduced energy bills in half a billion homes, preventing the emissions equivalent of about 160 million car miles annually, and we’re on track for 2.5 billion car miles by 2030. Default changes are tiny but mighty, and are something that everyone can do.
What’s the most important climate legislation that could pass in the next year?
Instead of legislation, how about ludislation? Ludi is Latin for games. Ludislation is a radical proposal that would require all of us to play, create, and reinvent the rules of the climate game and have fun doing it. Climate debates connote sacrifice and guilt-sapping motivation and engagement. Youth are checking out. Ludislation taps our innate desire for fun, creativity, and connection, making climate action immediate, appealing, and rewarding. It’s powerful. At Playing4thePlanet, we host an annual “Green Game Jam” where AAA game companies compete to design the best in-game climate content. At Microsoft, our Minecraft Climate Futures project offers nine free in-game climate curriculums downloaded over 26 million times, and students are earning prizes from the world’s C40 mayors for their solutions designed in virtual replicas of their cities. Ludislation is not a fantasy, it is a necessity and a catalyst. The world needs more fun to accelerate climate progress.
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