Gears of War 5 reworked to remove smoking it apparently never had

In the continued campaign against “cool” depictions of tobacco use, Gears of War will apparently no longer include depictions of smoking — but there’s some confusion as apparently it wasn’t going to have any to begin with.

According to a report from Variety, a group called Truth Initiative approached Turner, whose esports Eleague team broadcasts Gears of War. This was apparently the catalyst for removing depictions of smoking in the new game, Gears of War 5.

That’s an odd choice: off the top of my head, I can only recall one character ever lighting up in Gears of War, and that was Michael Barrick. He sort of skates by, in my opinion, because he’s not some suave player character — he’s an older dude who chomps on a cigar. I don’t consider that depiction any cooler than, say, Sully from Uncharted. In both cases, the character doesn’t look cool because of the smoking — he looks like my crotchety Polish grandfather.

This is my longwinded way of asking: why go after Gears of War, if indeed anyone was “gone after,” when there are so many other smokers in games? What about Solid Snake? Or the aforementioned Sully? Or Yakuza‘s Kazuma Kiryu, who’s been smoking like a chimney for seven games now?

Anyway, chalk one up for clean lungs, right? Well, sorta. Rod Fergusson, the head of Gears developer The Coalition, said on Twitter that there was no smoking to remove from the game at all. Fergusson has said he fought hard to keep depictions of smoking out of the series, with Barrick being an exception he allowed on sufferance.

He also said in a statement to Variety, “It’s always been important for me to not use smoking as a narrative device, which is why we made the conscious choice to avoid highlighting or glorifying smoking in ‘Gears 5’ and throughout the Gears of War Universe moving forward.”

This comes days after Netflix proclaimed it would cut down on depictions of smoking in its shows after a report (also commissioned by the Truth Initiative) showed that tobacco use went up after characters in said shows smoked.

There’s some kind of humor the situation — Gears is a game series that made its bones with some pretty over-the-top gore, including some creative uses for a chainsaw. But smoking? Oof, that’s the part that’s going to lead the youngsters astray. Still, I will concede that with the prevalence of tobacco and relative dearth of body-sized chainsaws makes it more likely said youngsters will get hold of one than the other.

We’ve contacted the Truth Initiative for clarification about what role they played, if any, in the game’s development.

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