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Why conservatives are accusing the Xbox of being ‘woke’

The criticism comes after the brand said this month it’s rolling out updates to improve the energy efficiency of the video-game consoles

An Xbox One video game controller. (Michael Ciaglo/Bloomberg News)
3 min

Move over, gas stoves. There’s a new household item that’s been thrust into the culture war over climate change.

That would be the Xbox.

Microsoft, the tech behemoth behind the video game console, said earlier this month it will update Xboxes to run more efficiently, saving users money on their electric bills and trimming the gaming industry’s carbon emissions.

But now conservative commentators and politicians are lashing out at Xbox, calling the brand “woke” for worrying too much about the planet.

“It’s crazy what they’re doing,” Fox News host Jimmy Failla lamented in a recent segment. “They’re trying to recruit your kids into climate politics at an earlier age.”

The Xbox is the latest product to join a long list — one that includes hamburgers, cars and, most recently, stoves — of everyday items targeted by conservatives who argue efforts to curb carbon emissions threaten Americans’ way of life.

It follows a flaming-hot debate over gas stoves sparked off this month after a member of the Consumer Product Safety Commission said he had not ruled out banning or regulating the appliance due to the health risk of toxic fumes. The agency later backtracked on the remarks after vocal Republican criticism.

“Now the woke brigade is after video games” said the Young America’s Foundation, a conservative group. And Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) quipped on Twitter this week: “First gas stoves, then your coffee, now they’re gunning for your Xbox.”

So what’s really happening to my Xbox?

On Jan. 11, Xbox said in a blog post it is rolling out a number of updates to improve the energy efficiency of existing consoles in an effort to meet Microsoft’s corporate goal of becoming “carbon negative” by the end of the decade.

For instance, when possible, the company said, it will schedule updates for games, apps and other software during times of the night when renewable sources are generating a higher proportion of electricity on the local grid.

And Xbox will automatically update certain older consoles to an energy-saving mode meant to reduce electricity consumption when game time is over. That mode is already the default on newer models.

The change comes at a small cost to gamers: It takes about 15 seconds to boot up an Xbox in power-saving mode compared to a “sleep” option from which the machine can instantly be woken up, according to the tech publication the Verge.

Microsoft declined to comment beyond its Jan. 11 blog post.

The conservative website the Blaze accused Microsoft of trying to “force gamers to power down to fight climate change.” But the company emphasized users can switch back if desired.

“You can adjust your settings at any time, choosing what works best for you,” wrote Blaine Hauglie, a technical program manager for Xbox.

More on climate change

Understanding our climate: Global warming is a real phenomenon, and weather disasters are undeniably linked to it. As temperatures rise, heat waves are more often sweeping the globe — and parts of the world are becoming too hot to survive.

What can be done? The Post is tracking a variety of climate solutions, as well as the Biden administration’s actions on environmental issues. It can feel overwhelming facing the impacts of climate change, but there are ways to cope with climate anxiety.

Inventive solutions: Some people have built off-the-grid homes from trash to stand up to a changing climate. As seas rise, others are exploring how to harness marine energy.

What about your role in climate change? Our climate coach Michael J. Coren is answering questions about environmental choices in our everyday lives. Submit yours here. You can also sign up for our Climate Coach newsletter.