Gears Of War 5 Is Going To 'Avoid Highlighting Or Glorifying Smoking'

In 2019, because we’ve already seen a shift away from it in a lot of movies and TV shows, it’s not the biggest deal if a major video game decides to not show any of its characters smoking. It is interesting, though, if the game is making a point of it.

The Coalition, developers of the upcoming Gears of War 5 have, via Variety, worked with Truth Initiative (an anti-smoking group) to “remove all smoking references” from the game. It’s not like the series is renowned for it in the way that, say, Red Dead or Metal Gear is, but still. The decision is going to apply not just for Gears 5, but any future games in the franchise as well.

Coalition studio boss Rod Fergusson says “I’ve seen firsthand the devastating impact of smoking. 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.”

Fergusson, who has been involved in the series since its inception, clarified Truth Initiative’s initial statement with some tweets:

It’s not the most obvious series for an anti-smoking group to work with, given how little we associate smoking with Gears — Barrick is probably the only character ever regularly seen with even a cigar — but as Fergusson says, personal reasons can be at play alongside simply crunching the numbers of “how many characters are smoking”.


    the best way to psa against smoking is not to ignore it. ignoring a problem only makes it worse. The best option is to instead showcase the negative effects in some way.

      Or we could not use games as PSAs.

        Why not?

          Because games (especially ones like GoW) are for storytelling and entertainment, not instruments for social control, as much as some people wish they were (or try to push them to be).

            Instruments for social control? Come on. What do you think storytelling is? Stories are written, told, and proliferated because they have socially connected meaning. Every story you've ever read, seen, written, or talked about is an act of political and social memetics.

            Besides, you're kind of implying that the decades of movies, games, tv, etc making smoking into a visual shorthand for "cool" weren't doing the exact same thing. Something like 20% of people in western countries smoke. Why wouldn't it lose favour over time? Why wouldn't the people making the stories not be allowed to put their own personal values into the story just like every other story ever written?

              So Videogames have to become anti-smoking (or whatever else) PSAs to atone for the sins of the movie industry?
              If game creators want to make a story that is about the consequences of smoking so be it, they don't need to be pressured into adapting existing licenses or games in the works to fulfill that role.

                When did I say anything like that? Nobody is forced to do anything. You're the one insisting that this is censorship or tools of social control or... Something.

                The dude in charge of the game said "I don't want to do that because I don't like it." That's it. If you want to get into the politics of commerce and art, then cool. Interesting topic. But this isn't a big deal.

                  I'm not insisting anything or making anything a big deal. I was responding to a question about why games shouldn't be used as PSAs. You brought politics of commerce and art into it.

                Who is getting pressured? The game makers are doing it out of their free will because they want to. It is the story they want to tell.

                Also, you are acting as though the game is going to have the characters patronisingly talking to the screen and telling the player not to smoke or something like that. In reality, all they are doing is removing smoking from their creative endeavour.

                  The game makers are choosing not to glorify smoking as you said, the comment I was responding to was suggesting they have to do more to combat smoking such as showcase the negative effects.
                  I never opposed them not glorifying smoking, I opposed the suggestion to them using their game as a PSA when it is not intended to be.

      I don't think that's true.

      We know, for example, that teenagers aren't dissuaded from drinking because of negative advertisements showing kids vomiting in the toilet and being rushed off to hospital to get their stomach pumped because they happily post photos of these exploits on Facebook and regularly boast about how shit faced they were.

      The negative effects of smoking are also extremely hard to convey in a relevant way, in that they are typically 30 years removed which is well beyond the risk horizon of most adults, let alone most children. Furthermore, young adults in particular are biologically predisposed to risk taking and feelings of invulnerability - problems happen to other people, not you.

      Smoking has always traded on outlaw/outsider cool, and showing a baddie hucking up a lung while holding a gatling gun and acting as a bullet sponge just normalises smoking and trivializes the entire exercise.

      Visiting someone's emphysemic dad in hospital and moralising about the evils of smoking would be even worse, feeling patronising and thematically false.

      It's not like people aren't already "ignoring a problem" anyhow, it's in bright colours on every goddam packet. And yet people still smoke.

      Remove smoking from everyday references in games and movies, however, and soon enough people forget that it's even a thing.

        There's been a fair few advertising studies on the effectiveness of public health campaigns on smoking, drink driving and that grim reaper AIDS awareness. They don't work as well today because obv. tastes and what not has changed, but I remember reading about some solid impact from the change to the packaging.

        From the Cancer Council:
        Advertisements that young people perceived as most effective were those that evoked a strong negative emotion such as fear or sadness and conveyed a thought-provoking and believable message about the serious long-term consequences of smoking. These were perceived as more effective than advertisements that were designed as humorous or entertaining, or normative advertisements that had low emotional content or generated low cognitive engagement. These perceptions were consistent between teenage boys and girls.

        Population-based research also indicates that recall of campaign messages has been associated with reduced smoking behaviour in youth and a recent study by Biener and colleagues of adolescents aged 12–17 years found that the level of the advertisements emotional intensity was a significant predictor of advertising recall.

        Advertising recall - just in case there's any confusion - is how well people remembered the health message of the ad (ie. if you smoke x y and z will happen to your body).

        Edit: more key phrase from the section:

        All these comprehensive reviews reach a similar conclusion - that mass media campaigns can positively change smoking behaviour in adults and youth. Where they differ is in the strength of their conclusions. The most comprehensive review on the effects of media campaigns on smoking behaviour was a major monograph published by the US National Cancer Institute in 2008. This 650-page document reviewed scientific studies conducted in numerous countries across several decades.

        In this case I'm just saying that not showing smoking at all does even less than trying to showcase the problems. it is ignoring it they are really that against it. It's like saying I want to fight against slavery by not having any mention of it in a old era game rather than show how detrimental it was to the slaves. it wouldn't help your cause at all.

        I'm not even saying this should be done. just that it's counterintuitive to the developers point.

          Not really. The developers point is that they dont want to glorify it, not make gears 6 anti-smoking.

          Movies have spent decades trying to associate smoking with being cool. Breaking that association takes time and one of the best ways to do it is use a different visual to show that you're supposed to find the character cool and dangerous and outside the rules.

          Please don't tie Hays Code era visual shorthand with actual slavery. That's... idk. Just full of weirdness.

        Those last two sentences are a bit of a non-sequitur. They already have big warning labels and 'UR GON DIE' packaging, and yet people STILL smoke. I'm not convinced that simply removing references to smoking in fictional works is going to have any noticeable effect on smoking rates in the real world - especially given that an explicit warning already exists on each and every packet of smokes.

          Perhaps in attempting to reusing the quote I unnecessarily garbled my main point, however I think in context it's pretty clear the argument I was making.

          1) There's plenty of public health messaging already for those who already smoke. It's in their face every time they pick up a packet.

          2) For those not otherwise smoking already, PSAs are of dubious benefit relative to it never occurring to someone that they might consider taking up smoking in the first place.

            Yeah sorry, good point. Misunderstood that.

        I don't know if it is just references alone.
        Live in a low socioeconomic area, you're more likely to smoke.
        Suffer from mental illness, you're more likely to smoke.
        Lets look past this people thinks it's cool thing. Nicotine is a drug and is does have effects on you like other drugs. We don't advertise meth yet people still do that.

    I eays just like its common to make a space soldier look gruff by smoking but in reality... they would be dead... cause they handle large volumes of gunpowder and high explosives they would of statistically died from self immolation before cancer.

    Also no smoking in space ships due to the limitations of life support systems and oxygen rich environments... so they coildnt be chronic addictive smokers.

      Dude, it's fictional. In-universe arguments don't work outside of that universe.

      Most military explosives are very stable and very hard to ignite. If you put a match to C4 it burns slowly and melts like wax.
      It's actually a thing you can do heat your rations.
      Gun powder hasn't been used for military purposes for a hundred odd years now, let alone in the future.

        So... how do they make gun go bang? Last time I looked, bullets had gunpowder in them.


      And I have never thought, even when I was a child, that putting a little stick in your mouth and sucking on it was gruff or cool.

    Reminds me of that time the AMA tried to push for legislation that would prevent smoking from being depicted in films at all. Well intentioned, i'm sure, but it's fictional yeah? kinda seems a bit pointless to me.

      But smoking was the first product placement in cinema, cause it worked to see glamorous movie stars just holding their brand. The seperation of fiction doesnt count when you idolise the stars playing them.

        Yeah fair. I was thinking that not all portrayals of smoking in fiction are positive , but you make an excellent point. It's kind of irrelevant how it's portrayed if star power or familiarity encourages people to smoke anyway.

    What about games which don't just show smoking but allow you to do it?

    If you use cigarettes in Bioshock don't you get a hit to your health but something else goes up?

    And didn't "Vanquish" on the Xbox360 have a dedicated "smoke" button? I think you could use cigarettes to distract enemies.

    I also remember setting a lot of things on fire in the VR title "The London Heist" including a cigar - great of them to give you a lighter to play with during dialogue sequences. Blood and truth doesn't give you anything cool to play with.

    Ok guys... before we continue this deep dive on its fiction and whatnot.

    GoW 5 producer did not actually specifically set out to make a no smoking statement here. He put up that quote to clarify the fact a misquote/misunderstanding from an article from Variety where they tried to make a big fuss over the producer mentioning no smokes and overblowing it to this whole anti smoking self censorship thing.

    The producer obviously has his own anti smoking stance but GoW was never intended to have a no smoking self censorship message.. to paraphrase him a bit smoking wss never there to take out from 4 to 5.

    Of course Kotaku decides to just blow up the whole censorship angle some more by deliberately misconstruing the follow up by Fergusson to match with the mess up by Variety... good job I guess?

    So a game that doesn't show smoking has an article about how it's games won't show smoking. Ummm, yay? Low hanging fruit much?

      As i said above... blame Variety.. they sorta overblew/misquoted Fergussons comments on his stand against smoking into some sorta supposed collaboration with an anti-smoking group to "remove smoking" from GoW

      He added the tweets after to confirm both his stance and that there really was no specifically targeted effort/collab to "remove smoking". It was just misconstrued once again by Kotaku for this article as a link to the misconstrued Variety article...


    Very sensible. You don't want to risk your health while you're striding across a battleground with a chainsawgun in your hand.

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