Several Russian politicians have accused EA of creating ‘gay propaganda’ with its football sim, FIFA 17. Their comments follow a recent FIFA 17 event in which players were gifted the ‘Rainbow Kit’ FIFA Ultimate Team item to support LGBT football fans and promote inclusivity within the sport as part of the Premier League’s Rainbow Laces campaign.
Fans have already begun to speculate that the game could be banned in the country, also prompting concerns that several other high profile titles will also become unavailable.
FIFA 17 is ‘Gay Propaganda’ Say Russian Officials
According to The Guardian, which cites a report from the Izvestia newspaper, communist MPs have sent a letter to Russia’s communications agency, asking it to investigate the game. The letter cites a Russian law introduced in 2013 that forbids “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations among minors” as it could cause “harm to children’s health and development.”
United Russia MP Irina Rodnina also told Izvestia that Russian authorities should “verify the possibility of distributing this game on the territory of the Russian Federation” and that “every state has its internal laws and order; they need to be obeyed.”
If FIFA 17 was to be banned in Russia, it wouldn’t be the first time that EA has faced legal challenges regarding the LGBT content in its games. In 2014, EA chose not to sell Dragon Age: Inquisition in India as the game, which allows players to have same-sex relationships and also features a transgender NPC, violated the countries ‘obscenity’ laws. Mass Effect 2 and Dragon Age: Origins, which also allow players to have same-sex relationships, have seen bans in other countries.
Understandably, many gamers have questioned whether the same thing will happen with FIFA 17; but withdrawing the popular football sim from sale isn’t the only course of action that EA could take.
Alternatively, EA could patch the Rainbow Kit out of Russian copies of FIFA 17. Though, this runs the risk of having other FIFA 17 players who are against the game’s support of the Rainbow Laces campaign, but live outside of Russia, asking for their games to be patched too. It could also spark concerns that EA is ‘weak’ and is willing to alter its games in the face of bigotry, but such a move would allow the company to get around the Russia’s anti-LGBT law.
Another possibility is simply to reclassify the game, which is currently rated for all audiences. This was one of the suggestions put forward by communist MP Valery Rashkin who told Izvestia that EA could introduce changes to the “age classification of this information product,” thus meaning that FIFA 17 would not be sold to minors.
In 2014, another EA game The Sims 4 (which also allows same-sex relationships and which recently made changes to remove gender restrictions for its characters) received an 18+ age rating in Russia. EA has not commented on what its intended plans are (or if plans to do anything at all) regarding the MP’s comments on FIFA 17, but reclassification seems to be the most likely outcome.
Ultimately, whatever happens here, it’s important to pay attention as it could set the precedent for how other games with LGBT content are sold in Russia and other countries with similar laws. For example, Blizzard Entertainment’s Overwatch has multiple LGBT characters, with the identities of one of these characters set to be revealed ‘soon.’ That game is rated for ages 12 and up in Russia, but will it have to be reclassified once Blizzard officially lifts the lid on its first LGBT character?
We’ll keep you updated on the story.