The Sims 4 rated 18+ in Russia for same-sex relationships

EA's inclusive franchise considered potentially harmful to children under 436-FZ law

The Sims 4 has received an 18+ rating in Russia, apparently due to the potential for players to guide their virtual families into same-sex relationships.

The Russian Federation's decision was revealed via the game's official Twitter feed, but the reasoning behind it was given in response to a player's question.

"18+ [rating] has been assigned in accordance with the law number 436-FZ 'On the protection of children from information harmful to their health and development'," the Tweet stated, as translated by Ars Technica.

Electronic Arts, the game's publisher, would no doubt be disappointed with the decision regardless of its basis. The Sims series has generally received 12+ ratings in Europe and a 'T' (for Teen) in the US, but it seems that law 436-FZ has been invoked due to the game's depictions of same-sex relationships.

When the law was first passed in Russia in 2010, it was principally concerned with protecting minors from the sort of content that concerns most countries: violence, drug abuse, pronography, and so on. However, its second amendment, passed by Vladimir Putin in 2013, classified "propaganda of non-traditional sexual relationships" as harmful to children.

This will be particularly galling to EA as it is one of the most vocal and proactive companies on LGBT issues in the games industry. In November 2012, it was considered one of the "Best Places to Work for LGBT Equality" by the Human Rights Campaign. A year later it had maintained that high standard, scoring 100 per cent on the Human Rights Campaign's Corporate Equality Index.

Indeed, when EA was rather hysterically named "The Worst Company in America" in a Consumerist poll last year, COO Peter Moore mentioned the company's resistance to frequent complaints about same-sex relationships in its games as a point of pride.

"If that's what makes us the worst company, bring it on," he said, "Because we're not caving on that."

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Latest comments (17)

Nicholas Pantazis Senior Editor, VGChartz Ltd3 years ago
This is really sad, and sadly completely expected. This law will continue to push away any positive representation of homosexuality in Russian media.
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Gil Salvado 3D/2D Artist 3 years ago
Well, 18+ is OK, if you consider a censoring, indexing or even ban to be worse. And if you further consider that the human brain is fully developed with age of 25. 7 years to get it into your head that it's OK that some peaople are homosexual. Or do you believe additional 2 years are absolutely neccessary?

Of course it's still somewhat sad, that this is the only reason for the game to be marked as 18+, but I wouldn't call this an act of homophobia.
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Nicholas Pantazis Senior Editor, VGChartz Ltd3 years ago
How is this not an act of homophobia? This is a law created out of the belief that gay people corrupt children. That can't possibly be more homophobic and hate-based.
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Show all comments (17)
Igor Galochkin Game Programmer 3 years ago
In defense of Russia and as a Russian myself, I must say that putting a 18+ is pretty mild. In some Muslim countries there is a death penalty for homosexuals (Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Iran and other) or imprisonment (Egypt, Indonesia, Sudan, Tansania, Barbados, Pakistan, Malaysia, some states of the USA). There is nothing of the kind in Russia. Even in the USA, I expect many religious Christians will find it bad if their underage kids play a game where men kiss each other.
I personally have NO negative feelings towards LGBT. In fact, I wouldn't bother if my kids (if I had any) would play such a game. This certainly wouldn't stop me from playing the game and hell it would be fun to have to 2 lesbians there (!) Ain't that the typical fantasy :)
But please stop bullying ONLY RUSSIA for this anti-LGBT stuff!!!
There are plenty of other, much much worse places in world but it's always just Russia who is in the headlines. It's a pity that this game-industry specialized website participates in this dirty anti-russian propaganda. I understand, Russia is a big market so the 18+ label will hurt sales for EA, but this isn't big enough news to make headlines.
Why don't you say how this game is received by the Muslim countries I listed? Will this game be at all allowed in Iran or Saudi Arabia, or Nigeria (if EA at all distributes stuff to those countires)? Maybe in some countries they will imprison people for owning the game?
To sum up, the issue of bad perception of LGBT in Russia is there but it would be more fair and less political if one would write about the whole world and not just Russia and list in which countries how this controversial issue of LGBT in a kids-oriented game was received, starting from ones where it was outright banned, then going on with those where it got restricted (Russia, supposedly some states in the USA etc).

Edited 4 times. Last edit by Igor Galochkin on 12th May 2014 5:50pm

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Darren Adams Managing Director, ChaosTrend3 years ago
As with the recent Nintendo case this is just another cultural misunderstanding that we see time and time again from us over in the West. Just because we are fine with LBGT issues, we should not expect the whole world to see things the same way as we do.

To Russians there may be far more to it than we can understand, so to say it is 100% 'homophobic and hate-based' is simply an assumption which could be wrong. They have their reasons and as much as we disagree with them, we must respect the action they took with the 18+ rating.

EDIT: this was written before I read Igor Galochkin's comment.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Darren Adams on 12th May 2014 5:28pm

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Gil Salvado 3D/2D Artist 3 years ago
@Nicholas Pantazis

I can tell you what would be an act of homophobia: Banning this game from the russian market only because of this feature. It's getting JUST an 18+ rating. Please, put this into the right perspective. This is actually a mild treatment.

We're talking about a PC game anyway ... there are ways for teenagers especially to get what they shouldn't get. Russia couldn't make this game any more attractive for teenagers than by giving it a 18+ rating.

The russian goverment seems to believe that teenagers aren't yet ready for homosexuality until the age of 18. Try to see it that way. I can't see any hate-based action in that. They just want to protect their teenagers until a certain age from a special part of sexuality. And yes: Homosexuality is quiet special, if you think about it. Nothing wrong or bad about it, but not the norm either.
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James Berg Games User Researcher, EA Canada3 years ago
If the best defense of something is "Look at this other thing, it's worse", then I think you should re-examine the position you're defending.
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Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic 3 years ago
This and the Nintendo/TL situation are points where gaming hits a brick-wall in the form of how societies and governments act. There's also a clear inclination for people (in both situations), to downplay what's happening. Certainly there's other countries that are as bad/worse for anti LGBT sentiment than Russia. But, equally, hand-wringing and assumptions of "cultural differences" do nothing for anyone.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,
Regardless of what country you come from, this is an ideal that should be fought for. But if you think that gaming shouldn't attempt to bring such equality to the wider world, fair enough (I don't agree with you, but fair enough :) ).

Edited 3 times. Last edit by Morville O'Driscoll on 12th May 2014 8:22pm

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Iain Stanford Experienced Software Engineer, Tinderstone3 years ago
I see. Its ok as long as its "mild".
They just want to protect their teenagers until a certain age from a special part of sexuality.
- Gil Salvado


So are we just ignoring the accusation that children somehow need "protecting" from a given sexuality? I assume you're in the out dated belief that its a "choice"? What about the children growing up who are basically being told, "you can't be yourself, until you're 18. Please won't you think of the (other) children?"

Its "JUST and 18+ rating, please put it in perspective"....Again. its ok as long as its "mild" eh?

Not only that, but we should be thankful they put at 18+ certificate on it as that "encourages" teens to want it more. Well done Russia. Lets give them a pat on the back shall we.

But hey, its the cultural norm in Russia, so we should just accept it and move on. And we shouldn't *just* be picking on Russia. So lets leave them alone god dammit! Sorry to the LGBT community struggling for a voice in Russia...its your culture and other people have it worse than you. You're on your own apparently. /s

Some peoples comments on this site are sometimes worryingly....telling.

Edited 4 times. Last edit by Iain Stanford on 12th May 2014 9:14pm

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Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic 3 years ago
@ Andrew

A response like that is very... Business-like, I feel, and also very wishy-washy. It essentially blames finances, which is no doubt at least partially truthful. But it also means the go-to response would be "money shouldn't matter where equality is concerned." And Nintendo would be in as much hot-water as ever (or possibly more, from those who know how much money Nintendo has stacked away.)

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Morville O'Driscoll on 12th May 2014 9:25pm

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Paul Jace Merchandiser 3 years ago
or imprisonment (Egypt, Indonesia, Sudan, Tansania, Barbados, Pakistan, Malaysia, some states of the USA)
Igor I can assure you that theres not a single state here in the US where you can be arrested just for being gay. Gay marriage isn't legal in every state(it will be in a few more years) but that just means that gay people are not allowed to get married in some states or that their marriage(perfomed in states where it was legal) is not recognized by the states where it's still illegal. So while LGBT people may unfortunately still face harassment here in the US, none of them are likely to be arrested for their choice of sexual preference/lifestyle.
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Tim Ogul Illustrator 3 years ago
But please stop bullying ONLY RUSSIA for this anti-LGBT stuff!!!
There are plenty of other, much much worse places in world but it's always just Russia who is in the headlines
Honestly it probably comes from holding Russia to the same standards as Europe, by which measure of course they are way behind in almost every category, and I suppose is unfair. You're right that by the standards of repressive and totalitarian third world nations, Russia actually comes out pretty good. So yay Russia.
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Mary Hilton Community Manager, Reclaim Your Game3 years ago
It's not the Russian people who are doing this-it's one person in particular who's been very anti-gay-Vladimir Putin. He's the President of the Russian Federation, and he's very well-known for his anti-gay stance. He's prosecuted gays, and this move is no surprise. Giving this game a "R" rating compared to other countries extreme homophobia is pretty false strawman argument, and not of the same caliber.

But the Sims games have always had this 'issue' in them, and I don't know why this particular version should be singled out. I just wish political disagreements between countries would not rebound on every single cultural item, be it games, movies or songs. It's silly, and a waste of time. He's got more important things to do, I should think, than to personally rate a video game.

As far as gays being prosecuted for being so, the US isn't exactly a leading light-or doesn't anyone remember Stonewall, or the death of Matthew Shephard? Many gays still face discrimination in many areas of life, and while gay marriage is becoming legal in most states, there are some that have resisted this development with willful ignorance.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Mary Hilton on 13th May 2014 3:40am

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Alfonso Sexto Lead Tester, Ubisoft Germany3 years ago
Have to disagree there. I believe when the reason after this rating is "protection of children from information harmful to their health and development" it's an act of homophobia.

With 7 y/o you can just tell your kid that some couples are two boys and some two girls, just like you tell them (and he'll see) that heterosexual couples exists all around him. The rest is a "You will understand when you grow up"

"I can tell you what would be an act of homophobia: Banning this game from the russian market only because of this feature."
Rising the rating because of that feature also is, since it openly agrees it as something harmful. Banning it would be, on top of that, an act of censorship that (sorry if I offend somebody with this) would not surprise me coming from Russia.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Alfonso Sexto on 13th May 2014 8:27am

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Khash Firestorm Senior Programmer, MuHa Games3 years ago
I agree with Igor. Russia have right to say what is and what isn't harmful to their young generation even if its simply going against their culture. They did not ban product but simply said that it can be legally acquired by adults.
Each country have their own culture, censures and stuff. I for that very reason never moved to USA where I get job offered, and I'm glad not every country follows their "standards". I'm not saying everything they do is bad, it would be lie, as many of their cultural aspects are good, but there is to many negative aspects which holds ppl like me away.
If you can run around naked in one country they will point to all those "old culture" countries where you cant do that. But it doesn't makes them bad, simply different.
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Gil Salvado 3D/2D Artist 3 years ago
I guess, some of you which disagree with my posts seem to believe that I share the opinion of the Russian Government. Well, it's their decision. I respect that. It ain't my personal opinion of the topic, but I don't have to force my will and opinion to everyone else.

Why did I even got into this? Every time anyone is arguing about this he or she is raising a shitstorm. There no black and white here. There's also gray. And 18+ ain't black nor white.

I'm probably why to neutral for this black/white point of view.
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Ryan Locke Lecturer in Media Design, University of Abertay Dundee3 years ago
I find it hard not imagine the relief and comfort thousands of insecure or scared homosexual Russian teens who may have gained confidence about their sexuality from their gaming hobby, something so simple can really help someone deal with who they are. The 18 rating further's the 'its wrong' agenda, but I'll admit im surprised they allowed it at all.

At this rate, the Sims may very well end up being the only place these poor people can live out the lives they wanted.
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