Gears 5's rootin-tootin chainsaw-gun-wielding COG soldiers won't be blowing any smoke when the game launches later this year. That's because Microsoft-owned developer The Coalition has announced the development team is working to remove all depictions of tobacco use and smoking after urging from Turner and anti-smoking advocacy group Truth Initiative.
The cause-and-effect of this decision is actually rather notable, as The Truth Initiative began this push by approaching Turner, who has exclusive rights to broadcast Gears 5 esports events through the ELeague sports division. According to Variety, Turner then worked with The Coalition and Microsoft to ensure Gears 5 would be the first Gears of War game where characters didn't use cigars or cigarettes.
Senior VP of Turner Sports Sales pointed out to Variety that while it may seem hypocritical to keep Gears' intense violence while removing smoking, there's a large amount of research indicating a correlation between depictions of tobacco use in media and use among smoking in young people (who are the target audience for Turner's ELeague). The link between game violence and real-world violence is a far fuzzier correlation.
Gears of War development veteran and studio head of The Coalition offered a particularly interesting perspective on what Truth Initiative's ask meant for the Gears of War 5 team. “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.”