My Wedding Stories

EA banned My Wedding Stories in Russia for the wrong reasons


Hello all. I just want to let you know that I won’t be covering Early Access content. You can read my full statement in the twitter thread below:

Why the decision to ban Wedding Stories in Russia is not about the defense of LGBTQ+ rights

Written by @SimplyHao – lawyer in Russia

The only Russian law that somehow limits the distribution of LGBTQ+-related content is art. 6.21 of the Code of the Russian Federation on Administrative Offenses. This article speaks about the propaganda of non-traditional sexual relationships to underage.

The age of the legal majority in Russia is 18. Thus, all content that contains the depiction of LGBT+ neutrally or positively must be labeled as 18+ according to Russian law. Please note that this is an administrative offense and not a crime. The worst consequence of this offense is an administrative fine of 1 mln RUB (approx. 13 000 USD) and the suspension of activity for 90 days. But the latest is rarely used because it is easier to hand out a fine.

There are some additional restrictions for the distribution of such content. Any printed product with the age restriction must not contain the prohibited for children imagery in the places generally allowed for children. There are no additional demands for the content published on the Internet – just label it properly.

Now let’s speak about the probable legal risks for EA.

The Sims games were labeled as 18+ in Russia from the base game. So, every part of the game, every pack and kit is labeled as 18+. Wedding stories are no exception. Trailers on the Internet – just put an 18+ label in the start as they do in cinemas, then proceed. All Russian trailers of the Sims have an age restriction label in the corner of the video that appears at the start. The same would be applied to the Wedding stories.

The trailer of the Dream home decorator has included the kid’s room with the trans pride flag – and no one cared. The trailer of the Cats and dogs has included the gay wedding – and no one cared. Why it would be different for Wedding stories? Just. Put. The label. That’s all.

Pictures on the Internet – just put an 18+ label on the picture and the web page.

The Russian version of the news about the Carnaval Streetwear Kit includes the imagery that, in terms of Russian law, must be 18+. No one cared. The Russian version of the news about the Modern Menswear Kit contains pictures of guys in skirts. No one cared. Every year the Russian version of the news talks about Pride month and praises all the LGBTQ+ simmers and sims with the fitting pictures. No one cared!

Everything about the Sims on the Russian version of the EA website is labeled as 18+. Why it would be different for Wedding stories? Just. Put. The label. That’s all.

So, we are left with the distribution of the material copies of the game on the disks. As far as I know, the Sims game in Russia is distributed mainly in digital. I googled briefly, and haven’t found any latest addons on disks at all. But even if they are – the Sims don’t need to change the whole image. They could make, for example, an additional wrapper just with Wedding Stories written on it and the disk case without any changes inside. It would be okay.

I have seen some tweets about the “Russian Constitution declares that marriage can be only between man and woman”. It is true. But! This is not about the media content and never has been. It is about, like. Literal marriages. Between real people in Russia. Not about some game that allows same-sex marriages in a fictional world mainly based on the US reality. So, according to all of the above, there are no legal risks for EA to drop the Wedding Stories for us. It is not illegal. It is not prohibited.

I also want you to consider that the English version of the EA announcement contains information that the ban is because of the Russian federal laws. The Russian version DOES NOT HAVE THIS INFORMATION.

For those of you who condone what EA did because “it is wrong that the game is labeled as 18+ because of the LGBT content”. Yes, it is. But I want you to consider that the demand to label the content is the most harmless impact of this law.

The law is used mainly for the oppression and erasure of LGBTQ+ rights organizations and initiatives. Films, books, and games at the moment are not persecuted for the LGBTQ+ content until it is labeled. The law does not demand to censor or cut out anything if it is labeled.

All the recent cases of censorship and cuts were about self-censorship in fear of backlash – not about some demand of the Russian government. And this is what EA does – just self-censors itself.

For all these years since 2014, The Sims games were labeled as 18+. No content ever have been cut out or altered. Every LGBTQ+ sims remained that way. All same-sex in-game families remained that way. How are Wedding Stories any different?

For those of you who think that if we still have this government and this law we approve all of this – no, we are not. A lot of people protested about the law from the beginning. But, unfortunately, we live under an authoritarian regime that gets harsher every day. The protests are fiercely repressed. The further explanations will require a whole new huge thread because there are a lot of factors that led to the situation we are in. Just, please, don’t think that you know our political situation better than we do. Listen to those who are oppressed. We know better.

The defense of human rights never should be for the sake of some abstract conceptions. The Sims team in their letter says, that this decision is for the protection of LGBTQ+ rights. But whom do they protect? Human rights don’t just hang out there in the air. They belong to people and this decision does nothing for the protection of the LGBTQ+ rights of the western people except virtue-signaling. Moreover, this decision does nothing for the protection of the LGBTQ+ rights of Russian people. The Sims games help a lot of us to escape from the reality.

To live in a world where everyone is equal, where there is no hate or prejudice towards different social groups. A lot of people have explored and understood their sexuality through the game. A lot of people stopped being homophobic because of the game – they subsequently just grew used to the conception of the world that the Sims games suggest.

We, the LGBTQs and allies in Russia, are constantly fighting for our rights and freedom to be ourselves. And the games like The Sims have been always showing to us – you are not alone. You are great as you are.

And when the Sims team decides to ban the Wedding Stories from Russia it hurts. Not only the decision itself but how it was made. All the letter is about the importance of the story shown in the addon. Nothing about us, the players. Nothing that stated – hey, we know you are out there. We are deeply sorry. Keep fighting. We will try and see what we can do for you. Just…nothing. It still would be a strange decision but at least it would show that they care.

If the Sims were really trying to protect us, to help us, there could be so many ways. They could have decided to transfer some of the gains of the Wedding Stories to the Russian LGBTQ+ rights organizations, for example. They could have reached out to the Russian LGBTQ+ simmers and make some content with them. Make some news materials, podcasts, in-game content. But they did literally nothing.

That’s why from our perspective the whole move is about looking good in the eyes of the western simmers. Who cares about Russia, right, it is a small and poor market. Who cares, that this decision will affect not only Russia but the other CIS (Commonwealth of Independent Countries) too.

And what about Ukraine? Will they get the pack? No one knows. And this is very unjust. Russia does not deserve this, but other countries don’t deserve this even more. And it appears, no one cares about them.

Please, The Sims, reconsider your decision. We deserve better.

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