Unlike some past games in the series, Gears 5 does not include any depictions of smoking–part of a move Rod Fergusson, head of Gears studio The Coalition, said is to avoid glamorizing the addictive and deadly habit. In a series of tweets, Fergusson said he has been against depictions of smoking in Gears "from the beginning."
He pointed out that the concept art for the character Dizzy from Gears 2 was shown with a cigarette. But in the final game, the character doesn't smoke. That's because Fergusson stepped in and "stopped it."
Some Gears of War games have featured depictions of smoking, but Gears 4 had no smoking and Gears 5 will not either. Fergusson said as long as he's in control of the Gears series, smoking will never return.
The Gears of War series was created and originally developed by Epic Games, up until the Fortnite studio sold it to Microsoft in 2014 for an undisclosed sum.
Some stories have suggested that Gears 5 at one point featured depictions of smoking and were later removed, but this isn't true, Fergusson said. He said there is "no censorship" because Gears 5 never had smoking to begin with; you can't remove what was never there.
People on Twitter commented that this is a strange take because the Gears franchise is a Mature-rated series with brutal depictions of violence and alcohol abuse. Why focus so much on smoking? Fergusson said he isn't trying to be the "moral police," but instead he wanted to cleanse Gears of smoking to avoid glamorizing smoking and because of his own personal connection to lung cancer.
"I didn't want to glamorize something that is addictive and kill you," he said. "Wasn't trying to me any moral police, just reflecting my beliefs after losing friends to lung cancer. If you had the ability to create a world, what would you change?"
According to Variety, the anti-smoking group Truth Initiative approached the TV company Turner–which broadcast this weekend's Gears 5 Summer Series event–to discuss smoking in Gears 5. According to the report, "Turner collaborated with The Coalition to strip out smoking from the game," but something seems to be lost here, as Fergusson pointed out Gears 5 never had smoking to begin with so it couldn't have been removed.
The Truth Initiative has for years now called out video games for glamorizing smoking. The group criticized Blizzard for putting a cigar in Overwatch hero McCree's mouth. "The creators of Overwatch may not realize that their choice to depict a hero with a lit cigar sends an influential and potentially addictive and deadly message to the young people who play the game," the organization said.
In 2017, the Truth Initiative released the results of a study that claimed research demonstrates that there is a link between exposure to images of smoking and the probability of young people taking up smoking.
The Truth Initiative also released a list of video games aimed at teenagers that they say glamorize smoking, including Overwatch, StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty, Uncharted 4: A Thief's End, We Sing, XCOM 2, and Injustice: Gods Among Us.
Gears 5 launches in September for Xbox One and PC. The game's first technical test takes place this weekend–here's how to get in and everything you need to know.
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