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Hero in blockbuster teen video game “Overwatch” smokes cigars

A hero in Overwatch, a highly anticipated new video game from Blizzard Entertainment rated suitable for teenagers, is shown smoking a cigar, adding to the widespread use of tobacco in video games marketed to and played by youth.

Overwatch, which was called a potential e-sports phenomenon in one review, centers its action around “an international task force of heroes banded together to restore peace to a war-torn world.” One of the heroes, Jesse McCree, is described as a 37-year-old bounty hunter and outlaw who “came to believe that he could make amends for his past sins by righting the injustices of the world” and who “fights only for causes he believes are just.” But he does so with a lit cigar – contributing to a cultural norm that Truth Initiative and other organizations have been working to change to make this the generation of youth and young adults to end tobacco use for good. 

McCree Overwatch screenshot
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Truth Initiative research shows that smoking is prevalent and often glamorized in video games popular among youth, and that young gamers view tobacco use with making characters “tougher” or “grittier.”

The ratings disclaimer on the game’s Web site indicates that the teen rating is due to blood, violence and use of tobacco, yet the game is rated suitable for teenagers.  

While the science linking tobacco in video games to youth smoking behavior is still taking shape, there are steps the industry and individuals can take to reduce the risk, including getting tobacco use out of games marketed to youth and rating games that show tobacco use as “Mature”.

“The creators of Overwatch may not realize that their choice to depict a hero with a lit cigar sends an influential and potentially addictive and deadly message to the young people who play the game. The best thing that the creative and commercial forces can do to protect youth and young adults from tobacco is to stop depicting characters engaged in smoking,” said David Dobbins, Truth Initiative’s chief operating officer.