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Jia Guo
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Unity is a cross-platform game engine developed by Unity Technologies, first announced and released in June 2005 at Apple Inc.'s Worldwide Developers Conference as a Mac OS X-exclusive game engine. The engine has since been gradually extended to support a variety of desktop, mobile, console and virtual reality platforms. It is particularly popular for iOS and Android mobile game development and used for games such as Pokémon GoMonument ValleyCall of Duty: MobileBeat Saber and Cuphead. The engine can be used to create three-dimensional (3D) and two-dimensional (2D) games, as well as interactive simulations and other experiences. Besides, the engine has also been adopted by industries outside video gaming, such as film, automotive, architecture, engineering, construction, and the United States Armed Forces because of their real-time 3D platform.

As of 2020, Unity-made applications were used by 2 billion monthly active users, with 1.5 million monthly creators. With this large amount of users, what is unity’s behaviour on sustainable development? Well, we will look at its core products and the company itself to see if it is sustainable. However, we find that the products have a serious problem of large energy consumption with such a large amount of users. But the company is also making effort to make the content and community inside the app more sustainable. For example, the executives donated his personal funds to non-profits organisations, the content is educational and reminds users of crisis of climate change and the software is able to help make some environmental-friendly projects into reality through its real-time 3D platform. This is the summary of the company’s behaviour on sustainability and we will discuss it with more details in this review.

What it's made of:


Let's first talk about the main functions that unity has and how much electricity and energy they consume. Then, we will discuss how unity became sustainable through its functions and how it can be applied to sustainable projects.

Main features of Unity includes 

  • Hierarchical comprehensive development environment, visual editing, detailed attribute editor and dynamic game preview. Unity is also used to quickly make games or develop game prototypes.
  • Built-in terrain editor supports tree and vegetation patches.
  • Automatic resource import: The resources in the project will be automatically imported and updated according to the changes in the resources.
  • And so on

Among these features, it is easy to find that Unity has multiple functions supporting users to create contents. However, when this platform is able to store large amount of data, it means that the energy consumption would be large. The most pressing issue is that Unity, like all game engines, re-draws its content every frame. That’s not something that you need to do in an app, where most of the frames are going to be identical to the previous one. Most of that work is going to waste, and that means wasted power. Wasted power is particularly bad on mobile devices, since it means a needless drain on the device’s battery. This is particularly striking when you see that an empty scene – one with nothing more than a camera, rendering the skybox – consumes significant amounts of CPU resources(central processing uni). On iPhone X, for example, rendering the empty scene at 30 frames per second consumes about 20% of the CPU. You may say that there are methods to improve this situation, but the truth is that it still has large energy consumption due to its basic settings.

Commonly speaking, in order to create high-quality gaming environment, the game developers need to simulate and repeat many frames. So, if the equipments store them and then run the program, these programs and frames definitely consume lots of energy---especially electricity. Not only for game developers, as the technology developed, the quality of no matter the games or other visual products improved a lot. For users—the ones who use these products, the high-quality products means larger consumption of energy for them. Now many companies are trying to improve their products with smaller energy consumption and of course, higher quality. One of the solutions to solve this problem is to design a more effective system in company’s perspective. For example, if you forget to close the app but it is still running, the system will help you save your work and close automatically. 

How it's made:


However, the platform is also a good tool to help improve saving our planet with its high-quality functions. The engine has also been adopted by industries outside video gaming, such as film, automotive, architecture, engineering, construction, and the United States Armed Forces because of their real-time 3D platform. So, for example, Zutari, a South African engineering consultancy, is using Unity’s real-time 3D development platform to automate large-scale solar photovoltaics (PV) projects to reduce the time required to develop design-level insights and decrease costs. Zutari is using Unity to change the way large-scale solar projects in South Africa are designed, created, and operated.

Basically, they’re trying to use this platform to simulate light changes and perform all-day detection in order to calculate data and design the whole system. The platform actually provided a more effective way for these complicated projects to design and simulate real situations. Especially for some programs related to environmental issues---the platform is able to play an important role with these functions because it is a good tool to simulate real environment. For example, it can show the change of sunlight direction during the whole day.

Content of the game can also be good educational resources to learn about a few of the many inspiring ways creators are leveraging games to raise awareness about climate change, share more sustainable possibilities, make vital changes to their own operations, and activate players for the environment. This is the responsibility of a public platform and we are happy to say that now there are many new ways helping people raise awareness of climate crisis and sustainable development. Impact can not only be created in videos or advertisement. It can also appear in games and many other public platforms, and we should know that sustainability is everywhere in our daily life.

Who makes it:


Unity Social Impact is a division of Unity aimed at empowering employees and creators of all backgrounds to foster a more equitable, inclusive, and sustainable world. They partner with organisations that are providing inclusive economic opportunity, helping the planet become more sustainable, and creating solutions for critical health and well-being issues. In the area of education and inclusive economic opportunity, they created series of opportunities to help educate somebody like college students, female or black about the software. Besides, in the area of sustainability, digital health and well-being, Unity also collaborated with related companies to make some changes. Unity’s CEO, John Riccitiello even donated $1M USD of his personal funds, which will be shared with each of these organizations.

Unity also introduced the first-ever Unity for Humanity Environment and Sustainability Grant. The new grant will recognize creators whose real-time 3D experiences encompass themes of sustainability, including but not limited to climate action, clean energy, ocean health, sustainable cities, biodiversity protection, and more. Climate science experts from UNEP and Project Drawdown will serve on the grantee selection committee. Winners will receive funds from a pool of $350,000 USD, along with technical and marketing support and coaching to ensure that selected projects drive the largest impact possible.

These are some examples of what unity has done for social impact. The platform was first introduced to create video games. However, it now has been one of the larges game technologies in the world. We have seen lots of actions made by unity which was a good sign. What steps it will take in following days—or even years? The game industry is developing so fast in recent years. How should it become more sustainable and contribute more to the whole world? Maybe we can see what actions they will take in the future.