Gears 5 will feature no smoking. Gears 4 didn’t either, and tobacco products only had the most fleeting appearances in the original game. Last week, developer The Coalition, anti-smoking group Truth Initiative, and esports broadcast partner ELeague announced the lack of tobacco in formal terms – and in doing so, ignited yet another conversation about videogame censorship as we speed toward the Gears 5 release date.
Variety’s report on the partnership includes a quote from Truth Initiative CEO Robin Koval, who says “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.” But it appears that “taking smoking out” is a small but important mistake in phrasing.
Rod Fergusson – modern chief of the Gears series – says “I’ve always been anti-smoking and have pushed back on having it in Gears since day one. There was no smoking to remove from Gears 4 or 5 because there never was any smoking to begin with. And as long as I’m in control, there never will be. Sorry for the confusion.”
Fergusson clarified his stance in a series of tweets following those reports. “I didn’t want to glamorize something that is addictive and kill you,” Fergusson says. “Wasn’t trying to be 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?”
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In other words, please don’t inhibit a developer’s creative vision by asking them to add certain types of content to a game when they don’t want it there.