The Sims, the electronic dollhouse game from Electronic Arts (EA), has been LGBT-friendly since its very beginning, when the first game treated same-sex relationships just like any other relationship. Its sense of inclusion has only grown since then; in 2016, a free update to The Sims 4 let you create genderqueer Sims. But that progressive outlook isn’t appreciated in seven countries which have just banned the game’s mobile version, The Sims FreePlay. Though EA says the Sims ban is due to “regional differences,” the seven countries that have banned the game all have homophobic laws, so it’s not a stretch to assume the game’s queer content is the reason.
On June 20, a representative from Electronic Arts announced the Sims ban. Starting July 5, fans in China, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Kuwait, Qatar and Egypt will be unable to download The Sims FreePlay. Players who’ve already downloaded the game will be able to keep playing, but they won’t receive updates nor be able to make in-game purchases.
Though EA’s statement only refers to “regional standards,” the first paragraph mentions diversity: “We’ve always been proud that our in-game experiences embrace values as broad and diverse as our incredible Sims community. This has been important to us, as we know it is to you.” Given that, it’s not hard to assume that it’s the LGBT content that’s causing the problem.
Adding credence to this possible reason behind the Sims ban, the six Middle Eastern countries banning the game have all criminalized homosexuality. Though homosexuality has been legal since 1997 in China, there are also no laws currently protecting LGBT people from discrimination there. Not just that, but the Chinese government is cracking down on positive representations of LGBT people in media — though with increasing acceptance, there has also been backlash from citizens.
The Sims franchise also has a long history of LGBT acceptance. In addition to accepting homosexual relationships since the first game and the genderqueer update in its fourth installment, an earlier precursor of the game featured dancing muscle daddies. The 1996 game SimCopter featured an easter egg where, on certain dates, swarms of “himbos” would hug, kiss and dance on the top of buildings.