How Paul Radecki and LGBT Russians Fought Censorship and Won

In Sims 4, you can be abducted by aliens, build an underwater house, or feed the carnivorous plants in your virtual garden, but what some players value more are the seemingly mundane aspects of the game. In countries where LGBT content is heavily censored and media representation is impossible to come by, Sims 4 players use the game to experience the mundane things they might be denied by the law: free gender expression, same-sex marriage, and same-sex adoption. According to Russian “Simmer” (gaming parlance for a fan of the franchise) Paul Radecki (@radecki95), that’s precisely why the Sims is so powerful. The Sims 4 is the dollhouse of dreamers, as Radecki explains: “Every player of The Sims is a dreamer, and dreamers want to create their dreams. Sometimes it’s not possible in the real world, but The Sims lets us create our world, our own story.” 

In Russia, a country with heavy censorship of LGBT content, this can manifest with LGBT gamers using The Sims to express with virtual dolls a free and public same-sex love or the uninhibited expression of gender identity. Playing The Sims has been a successful escape for many Russians for 22 years, that is until February 9th, 2022, when EA, the creator of The Sims, announced they would not be releasing the game pack Sims 4: Wedding Stories in Russia due to its featured characters being a lesbian couple. Russian Simmers felt “shocked,” viewing the decision as “homophobia, Russophobia to us.”…

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