Xbox accused of being 'woke' for a deeply stupid reason

Xbox Series X and S consoles
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Conservative politicians and commentators in the US are complaining that Xbox game consoles are now "woke" following an announcement earlier this month that Xbox Series X/S machines will be updated with an "Energy Saver" mode that reduces their power consumption (opens in new tab) when enabled.

This particular descent into partisan madness started on January 11, when Microsoft announced that the Xbox would be "the first gaming console to offer carbon aware game downloads and updates." Simply put, it means that Xbox consoles will be capable of scheduling updates for times when the electrical grid is making use of lower-carbon sources of power. 

It's a smart idea—Microsoft said the new setting cuts power usage by up to 20 times compared to the regular sleep mode—and it's actually not new: The "carbon aware" feature was rolled out to Windows 11 last year.

Naturally, that didn't stop the right-wing commentariat and their political enablers from seizing on the update as the next great transgression against freedom, and a new front in the culture wars, following equally idiotic sources of upset like M&Ms (opens in new tab) and gas stoves (opens in new tab). Retweeting a story about the update posted on right-wing website Blaze News (opens in new tab), Republican senator Ted Cruz wrote, "First gas stoves, then your coffee, now they're gunning for your Xbox." 

The tweet was misleading enough that Twitter added some bonus "context" underneath.

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Conservative youth organization Young America's Foundation shared the same article, saying, "Lol now the woke brigade is after videogames all in the name of climate change."

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Talk show host John Ziegler also felt compelled to comment, tweeting, "Could this be what finally makes some young people realize the negative real-world impacts of the #ClimateScam?!"

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Republican congressman Troy Nehls was perhaps the most on-brand of the bunch, equating Xbox consoles to guns.

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Flagship conservative talk show Fox and Friends also felt the need to weigh in, taking a break from bemoaning the loss of a conventionally sexy candy-coated peanut to complain that Microsoft is "coming after the children."

"They're trying to recruit your kids into climate politics at an earlier age," Fox Across America host Jimmy Failla said. "Make them climate conscious now."

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Climate consciousness doesn't seem to me like the worst thing in the world to foster in kids, although Failla predictably overlooked the fact that the vast majority of gamers are in fact adults. But facts and rationality have little bearing on high-strung political gamesmanship, as demonstrated by the fact that so much of this performative outrage is based on a simple lie: The Blaze report claims the update "will force gamers into powering down their Xbox consoles in order to fight climate change," but that's not actually the case at all. Microsoft said the update has become the default setting for newly set up consoles, but "will not affect performance, gameplay, or your console’s ability to receive overnight updates to system, games or apps." And if you don't want to use it, well, that's fine too: "You can adjust your settings at any time, choosing what works best for you."

But even if you don't care about climate change—which, for the record, is very real—there are simple, practical reasons for embracing this update. We noted a couple years ago that PC gaming can burn through heaps of power (opens in new tab), and that's true for gaming consoles as well. All that juice doesn't come free, so cutting back on usage will save you some bucks, too. I don't see how even the angriest anti-wokester can find fault with that. 

Microsoft declined to comment on the backlash to the update.

Andy Chalk

Andy has been gaming on PCs from the very beginning, starting as a youngster with text adventures and primitive action games on a cassette-based TRS80. From there he graduated to the glory days of Sierra Online adventures and Microprose sims, ran a local BBS, learned how to build PCs, and developed a longstanding love of RPGs, immersive sims, and shooters. He began writing videogame news in 2007 for The Escapist and somehow managed to avoid getting fired until 2014, when he joined the storied ranks of PC Gamer. He covers all aspects of the industry, from new game announcements and patch notes to legal disputes, Twitch beefs, esports, and Henry Cavill. Lots of Henry Cavill.