'Games can't save the world, but they can slow its demise'

OPINION: Michael Gapper looks at the oft-ignored impact of gaming on the environment

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Today, after a brief return to EPS's bosom in the Xbox/PS2 generation, the games business is back to wrapping things in paper. The modern trend is towards tight-fitting cardboard boxes with snug compartments for every component. The Gamecube came this way, and all three current-generation machines are packaged in the same elegant manner, though the recent slimline 360 has replaced the old 360's folded card endcaps with two worrying foamy ones.


With no room to breathe, few modern consoles make it to shelves with any damage. Those boxes munch through trees, of course, but they can be immediately collected and remade into something useful with zero special effort from the consumer.

Our biggest modern packaging crimes are in the small things: those points cards that could so easily be sold on little paper slips, the instruction booklets that chew up trees but nobody ever reads, and those awful blister packs. They're a gift from manufacturers to retailers; consumers hate them but they're secure and more displayable. Who cares if they're snipped and binned in seconds?

Don't get too attached to that ice, buddy.

Even modern DVD cases are needlessly extravagant given the small twelve centimetre disc nestled between layers of plastic and card. EPS was at least used for practical reasons, but DVD cases are used for no reason other than looks. In the PS1 generation we bought our games in CD cases; the discs haven't gotten any bigger but the packaging just keeps growing.

Sony's Blu-ray cases are a little lighter and some publishers have started shipping 360 DVD cases with bloody great holes in them to minimise the amount of plastic used, but we can still do better. Next-generation even more games will be bought digitally, but it's not enough. It's time for games to ship in CD cases, for manuals to be embedded in the game, for every piece of every console to be easily recyclable. It needs manufacturers to act responsibly and for you - the customer - to stop fetishising packaging. The planet doesn't need those fat DVD cases, nor do we.

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