Gears 5 Boss Corrects the Record on Smoking Censorship
The Coalition studio head Rod Fergusson took to Twitter to correct the record regarding a controversy stemming from the decision not to include smoking or tobacco products in Gears 5. A report released this past Friday claimed that The Coalition was removing instances of smoking from Gears 5 after consulting with nonprofit tobacco control organization Truth Initiative. The truth, according to Fergusson, is that there was never smoking in Gears 5 in the first place.
Fergusson’s message is direct, “I’ve always been anti-smoking and have pushed back on having it in Gears since day 1.” He explains that there is no smoking in Gears 5 and that there never has been. He adds that this goes all the way back through Gears of War 4. Smoking was at times shown in early Gears, prior to Fergusson taking over, but since then he’s made a firm stand. “I don’t want to contribute to the continued normalization of smoking,” he makes clear, adding that the game shouldn’t “glamorize something that is addictive and [can] kill you.”
The reason why is one that many people can empathize with, as Fergusson references the way smoking and lung cancer has affected his life through his friends and family. He frames his decisions to spurn smoking in Gears of War as, “reflecting my beliefs after losing friends to lung cancer.” He also offers a personal detail, noting that his father was a smoker and died when Fergusson was just four years old.
In the end, the substance of Fergusson’s remarks remains that any reporting regarding Gears 5 being “censored” is incorrect. There’s no smoking in the game, there never has been, and so no smoking has been censored or removed.
It’s unfortunate but as is common in the video game industry once a controversy has begun it’s difficult to get back under control. Fergusson’s Twitter account continues to receive accusations of censorship and arguments in favor of adding smoking to the game. The vitriol is somewhat tempered by messages of support from the Gears of War community sharing their own experiences losing loved ones to the consequences of smoking. Gears 5, meanwhile, hasn’t changed whatsoever.
Gears 5 releases September 10 on PC and Xbox One.