In what will surely be a candidate for most hypocritical virtue signal of 2019, Gears of War 5 will not feature any tobacco use, with developer The Coalition aiming to avoid glamorizing smoking.
The issue was first raised ahead of the Gears 5 Summer Series event this past weekend. Variety reports that broadcaster Turner was approached by the Truth Initiative to discuss smoking in the game.
Following the meeting, references to smoking were purportedly removed. In a statement after the Summer Series, Truth Initiative President and CEO Robin Koval said:
“In the midst of the pervasive reemergence of glamorized smoking imagery in pop culture, we commend [The Coalition] for taking smoking out of ‘Gears 5’ and ELeague for featuring this tobacco-free game during this weekend’s competition."
Tobacco Ban in Gears of War 5
In a Twitter thread, The Coalition studio head Rod Fergusson clapped back at that narrative, protesting that he's fought to avoid the use of tobacco throughout the Gears of War franchise.
With Gears of War 5, he claims that censorship wasn't a problem; something can't be removed if it isn't there in the first place. This is something that has played a large part in Fergusson's role in the franchise's development since its early days.
To be fair, this isn't entirely accurate. I've been against smoking from the beginning and have worked hard to not make it a part of our franchise. Ever notice that the Dizzy concept art for Gears 2 has a cigarette but the actual character in the game doesn't? I stopped it. https://t.co/KahohpMH3A
— Rod Fergusson (@GearsViking) July 12, 2019
He notes that Gears of War 2 character Dizzy was designed to be a smoker; initial concept art featured the character with a cigarette. In the final game, however, this isn't shown.
The Gears of War franchise was first created by Fortnite developer Epic Games; Microsoft purchased the rights to it in 2014. Since then, The Coalition has clamped down on tobacco use. While the first three games depicted smoking, Gears 4 - The Coalition's first title in the franchise - didn't feature any smoking.
Rod Fergusson notes that this will be the case with Gears of War 5 and all titles that he's involved with. While he claims he isn't trying to be the "moral police," he says does want to avoid glamorizing smoking.
"If you had the ability to create a world, what would you change?" he asked on Twitter.
Sounds a lot like he wants to be the "moral police" to me.
Franchise That Glorifies Violence & Features Alcohol Abuse Doesn't Want You to See Anyone Smoke a Cigarette
Gears of War is a game that involves killing innumerable people, usually with comically oversized and overpowered guns. I think if you're going to buy into virtue signalling due to a moral panic, that part just might be more "problematic" than smoking. Just maybe.
— White Chocolate (@rhodeislander) July 15, 2019
"Moral police" or not, though, the Gears of War 5 smoking ban is insanely hypocritical.
Since the first title was released, the Gears of War franchise has served up gamers a non-stop diet of gore and sensational amounts of violence - not to mention alcohol abuse.
Dominic Santiago, a lead in the first trilogy, frequently drank to excess, especially in Gears of War 3. While this was contextualized as the coping mechanism of grieving widower, he wasn't the only character known to indulge; even Gears of War 2's Dizzy was known to have a few.
And all of that's fine! By this point, gamers should know what to expect from the Gears of War franchise.
But please, The Coalition, spare us the virtue signaling.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article are solely those of the author and do not represent those of, nor should they be attributed to, CCN.