Past Gears of War games sometimes featured the characters smoking cigarettes and cigars, but that’s changing for the upcoming Gears 5. Anti-tobacco organization Truth Initiative approached Turner, which is hosting the ELeague Gears Summer Series Invitational and has broadcast rights to Gears 5, about removing smoking references from the game. Turner then worked with The Coalition to remove all smoking references from Gears 5, which is something that has apparently been months in the making.
While some Gears of War fans may take this is as a form of censorship, it seems as though The Coalition’s Rod Fergusson is in favor of the decision. “I’ve seen firsthand the devastating impact of smoking,” he said 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.” Microsoft reportedly had no hand in the decision, with The Coalition making the final decision to remove smoking from Gears 5 itself.
One reason why The Coalition agreed to remove smoking from Gears 5 is due to the research that shows a correlation between seeing tobacco in entertainment and actually using tobacco in real life. Even though Gears 5 will be rated M, the game is undoubtedly played by kids and teenagers, so the hope is that removing depictions of smoking will keep some young people from adopting the habit themselves.
It’s also worth pointing out that removing smoking in Gears 5 won’t have any actual impact on the gameplay. Cigarettes and cigars have never played a role outside of cut-scenes, unlike games like Metal Gear Solid that have actually used smoking as a gameplay mechanic.
A decision like this is unlikely to have a negative impact on Gears 5‘s sales or reception. It’s safe to say that no one is playing the games to see the characters smoke; Gears 5 fans will be picking up the new title to see the next chapter in the Gears of War franchise’s ongoing story, as well as to play the latest iteration of its celebrated multiplayer mode.
As it turns out, Gears 5 fans will have a chance to try the game’s multiplayer early. The first Gears 5 multiplayer tech test begins on July 19, available to Xbox Game Pass and Game Pass Ultimate subscribers, as well as those who pre-order the game.
Gears 5 will launch on September 10 for PC and Xbox One.