I am developing controversial political games in Russia. Because of my last game, the Communist Party of Russia hunted me down, and I was forced into hiding, moving in with distant relatives.
EDIT: I have to leave for a couple of hours, but I will be back later. Thank you all for your questions and support!
Good afternoon, folks! My name is Georg, last time I did an AMA here,I talked about the challenges of creating a controversial adult game with some releigious overtones in Russia and all the threats that came from the opponents of such content, including religious fanatics and sex-negative conservaties.
And now, to balance it out, I was able to anger the Russian Communist Party by making another game. In essence, it’s a branching narrative game about a time traveler meeting with the Joseph Stalin himself. Through the course of the game, you can try to kill Stalin, change his worldview, and even seduce him and partake in some hot gay action with him (cue all the jokes about luxury gay space communism). There are 27 endings planned, each one with an exploration on how the world would look depending on the outcome of your conversation (and actions).
In May I announced the game, there was a slight surge of interest, but I just could not have imagined what would happen next. A small Polish gaming media learned about Sex with Stalin. The Poles generally do not like Stalin for obvious reasons, and they were delighted to see this game, One made by a Russian, to boot. It made some waves on the general european scenes, and ultimately attracted the attention of some of my compatriots who still worship the cult of the Great Leader. Tempers flared, and then even some of the largest Russian state-owned media outlets joined in on the action. At first, there were only a few disapproving nods, but then the host of a political talk show (imagine the very worst of your political commentary show, only with much more shouting) decided to devote a whole episode to the “Defilers of the Great History of the USSR”. Representatives of the Communist Party were also invited there. Of course, they could not appear indecisive. The Communists immediately convened a meeting and made a statement that the game should be immediately banned, and the authors punished by fine, or better yet, imprisoned. By making such game, in their opinion, I dishonor the history of our country and insult all the citizens of Russian. Their leader - Zyuganov, called me a Nazi collaborator. They also tracked down Stalin’s great-granddaughter, and talked her into writing a letter to Putin. Quite a few things in our country can be solved by writing a letter to Putin.
After this, all hell broke loose. Journalists besieged me - they constantly called me on my mobile phone (so much for privacy), drowned me in vaguely threatening mail, and even came to my hometown and showed the house where I live and all my neighbours’ houses on live TV. They showed my face, name, place of residence on a number of Russian political shows, and continued to discuss the game in major talk shows. In the evening, after seeing one such show, I decided to go out and get some air to clear the head. Some stranger came up to me, claiming that he knew me from somewhere. I tried to get away from him, but he followed me right to the very doorstep of my house. The very next day, someone threw some eggs at my house windows. By this time I received so many threats that I started to simply ignore them. In the end, after reading a couple tens of messages about how I should be sent to the Gulag, be shot and maybe then quartered, it’s unlikely that I’ll learn anything new by reading another. I decided that I could no longer expose my family and neighbors to all this, and went into hiding. Some distant relatives living in a smaller town sheltered me for a while. Even then I could not sleep peacefully. It was reported that the Investigative Committee (our country-wide prosecution department) began a preliminary investigation, and there was a significant chance that they will go ahead with prosecution. In our country, only about 1% of all cases results in acquittal. You can imagine my dismay. Or maybe you can’t, but I was very dismayed.
I am fond of brewing Russian moonshine called Samogon. This is a pretty fascinating aspect of Russian culture dating back centuries, my grandfather and great-grandfather all did this. I like to drink samogon, too, but I always drank in moderation. But stress from all this happening got to me and I started to drink more, much more. I was incredibly lucky that my relatives who sheltered me supported me and did not allow me to drink myself to death . Then, and I could not believe my luck, it all passed. The media switched to other topics (new sanctions, the threat of war with Iran, etc.). The Investigative Committee either decided not to prosecute, or my case got buried in bureaucracy and there was no political pressure to pursue it anymore. Threats mostly stopped, too. I guess no one was this mad to actually travel to my neck of the woods. I mostly stopped drinking, got back home and returned to developing my games. I don’t know what awaits me in the future, but so far I am alive and free.
P.S. And apparently I just can’t lead a normal boring gamedev life, so I somehow got involved with Ukrainian developers making a game that makes fun of Russian security services. I guess I should prepare for a visit from the FSB (this is the russian analogue of the FBI). Hopefully, I won’t be shot and buried in on of Russia’s cold forests.
Some proof that I’m not lying about all that jazz:
Stalin’s granddaughter (only available in Russian):
The game itself:
And the game that will probably cause FBI to murder me: