There’s an interesting GamePro editorial (written by a freelancer) doing the rounds, which is worth a look. It focuses on the games console industry and poses questions about the sources of some of the rare earth minerals used in the manufacture of electronic gadgets. It also highlights the low wages and poor working conditions in some of the factories that produce the consoles, as well as the long hours culture of the companies that code the games.
You could go further in this discussion, and include mobile phones, MP3 players, laptop computers etc. Steve Jobs has been asked the question about conflict minerals, and his fairly straightforward reply was that they do stipulate that conflict minerals shouldn’t be used in the manufacture of Apple products, but that there was no way of being sure.
It’s a shame the GamePro writer is so parochially focused on the USA – it’s a global industry and a global problem.
I am a staunch advocate of the phrase, “every dollar you spend is a vote for how you’d like the world to be.” What we choose to buy and consume radiates throughout the world. This has become a problem for me recently as I’ve found myself having difficulty reconciling my love of video games with the impact that they can have on the world. In short, I’m no longer convinced that the dollars I spend on video gaming are voting for a world I want to live in.
One of the major reasons is a mineral called columbite-tantalite, which for brevity’s sake is also known as Coltan. It’s an ore that, when processed, produces tantalum, which is used as a component in almost all cell phones, DVD players, and video game systems. While the Congo produces a tiny portion of the global Coltan supply, it’s impact on the people of the region is absolutely immense.