A look into in-game nicotine addicts.
Smoking is one of humanities most widespread and persistent habits. So much so that it has even entered the gaming world. It seems that even in alternate realities and even with hero characters, smoking is a vice that cannot be shook off. Here are two characters at opposite ends of the spectrum who both smoke, and prolifically at that.
Snake is one of the world’s most iconic character, starring in a series of insanely popular 3rd person stealth-shooter games. He is swift, skillful, dexterous and ninja-like in his deadliness.
But he smokes. A super soldier whose main weapon is his body smokes. What’s even more bizarre is he constantly smokes, and in doing so reduces his health, yet calms him down. If this was how cigarettes worked, people would die after their first one, all the while feeling extremely calm. Um, what?
He lights up on the field of battle, something any soldier will tell you is a bad idea, drawing enemies towards him. See above for why that’s such a moronic idea. Ultimately, Snake’s dirty habit is not in sync with anything about the character, and it begs the question – why add it into the game in the first place? Moving on.
The illusive man is the driving force behind Cerberus, an organisation known for it’s extreme bias towards humans. They are, in many ways, the bad guys. ‘Bad guy smoking’ is a well established stereotype in the movie industry, and appears to be making headway in games too.
The illusive man doesn’t just smoke, he smokes constantly. I’m not sure if I’ve ever caught a glimpse of him without a cigarette in his hand. This full blown addiction is an interesting move on developer Bioware’s side. By always smoking, he effectively never smokes, if you see where I’m coming from. At least with Snake, he smoked for a reason – to calm down. However with this guy.. what’s the incentive? Why does he smoke? For stress relief, or some other cause? No. He smokes because that is simply what his character does. Because he is the bad guy.
In series like (yes I know I’m obsessed with them) Bioshock and Fallout, cigarettes made for valuable commodities, fetching high prices in devastated worlds. Their increase in value reminded me of how highly treated smokes are in prisons. Then the parallel hit me; in prison people are stuck somewhere that they don’t want to be with limited luxury items. Now substitute the word prison with Fallout. Another example of just how interconnected games are with reality.
Smoking is as ingrained in video gaming as drugs are. They affect both the sly and the heroic, the chosen and the laymen. However, can we really complain about this, given it’s an accurate portrayal of smoking in reality? It seems that even in virtual worlds, inhabitants will have to fight addiction, and self-inflicted illness. We can only hope they make a game introducing the nicotine patch.