I won't claim to be some sort of expert; I'm sorry in advance it any Giantbomb users are smokers themselves and take offensive. However, smoking seems pointless, expensive and all round stupid. I realise it's addictive but you know that’s been well documented for some years now. Maybe I'm just bitter when I bought a second hand Dreamcast only to find the console tainted yellow from cigs and the pads greasy and no amount of cleaning every seemed to get rid of it, but enough with the babble to the point at hand.
Smoking seemed cool, when I was 11, times have changed and I would like to believe that gaming and smoking have no connection. Yet it came to my attention that doesn't really see it that way. It is a very common thing to smoke in you can't go very far without finding a vending machine that sells them. I don't know the reasons behind it, I just know playing in the arcades was a rotten experience (I forgot to mention I had asthma) I love fighting games so when I got the chance to play them in their natural environment I put up with the pain for the sake of it.
I recently noticed that very few types of media in this day in age promote or display smoking. Hell didn't avatar get some grief for Sigourney Weaver smoking so much? Yet in Japanese games cigarettes are not only a frequent tool to make a character look cool, but also are a usable and useful item.
My first experience of smoking in videogames started with Metal Gear Solid. Snake could equip a pack of cigarettes that when I first used seem to serve no purpose other than to slowly drain your health. I think that would have been a good statement, it was only when either a friend or the game itself suggested that I use the smoke to see infrared beams, and then even steady your aim with scoped weapons. So doesn't this put a purpose to an otherwise (at least in real life) useless and potentially deadly item?
I'll be honest though most of the examples I've got aren't meant for the younger gamers, most if not all have 15-18+ ratings so a more influenced generation won't be hypnotised into thinking cigarettes have any purpose beyond none.
Next up Deadly Premonition, a recent Japanese game but shares the use of cigarettes without hardly any negative. uses cigs to pass time and in a game where a great deal of side quests and storyline missions are based around being somewhere at the correct time these are a handy item. Again 18+ rating.
Another example a game I played and enjoyed deeply but found the casual smoking kind of off putting. Vanquish our hero Sam sparks up a great deal during his conquest of the Russian spaceship/weapon of mass destruction. Hell in the future I guess cigarettes cost next to nothing since the act of smoking it put to the use of a single button, and Sam tosses the aside in order to distract his foes, again making smoking look useful.
Here is a classic for you, Final Fantasy 7, Cid smokes a cigarette. I don't believe it is every mentioned and your attention is never really drawn to it. I don't mind making no big deal of smoking, its a common site (especially for Japanese) however his limit break Dynamite he uses his lit cigarette to light a stick of Dynamite and throws it at the enemy. You have no control of this in reality but again making smoking look useful without any of the glaring cons to the habit.
I'm sure there are plenty of other examples out there. Its not just , one of my favourite games Bioshock (and System Shock 2) has smoking as useable items but both of these examples give you a pro and a negative. Mana energy or Eve at the cost of health. While my Japanese examples don't really seem to offer a negative.
So what's my point, to be fair I don't know if I have one. Most adults can make decisions on their own videogames aren't really going to change that. I just think it’s a shame that in a country and culture that I respect and admire very deeply that smoking is kind of just another thing. Drug abuse never seems to be an issue at least not any that I've heard (again I'm no expert) I just wish it they would ban smoking in arcades.