A Pokemon GO player in Russia faces jail time for playing the game inside of a church. Ruslan Sokolovsky, a blogger from the country, is accused of ‘inciting religious hatred’ after making a video of himself playing Niantic’s hugely popular game in a church before posting the footage to his blog last year.
Sokolovsky, 22, has been in pre-trial detention since October after the court reversed a decision to put the blogger under house arrest. The trial for the Pokemon GO player began earlier this week in the city of Yekaterinburg and if he is convicted, he could spent seven and a half years in prison for the offense.
This is not the first time that video games in Russia have made the headlines. Last year, Blizzard was forced to ban an Overwatch comic in the region as it featured a kiss between Tracer and her girlfriend and could have been subject to the country’s ‘homosexual propaganda’ legislation. FIFA 17 also came under fire in Russia for the same reasons as the introduction of an LGBT pride-themed football kit resulted in calls for the game to be banned or reclassified for a higher age group in the country.
In fact, this isn’t the first time that Pokemon GO players have been found breaking the law or that lawmakers have been forced to legislate in order to make sure that the game has been played correctly and safely. For example, Pokemon GO was used by armed robbers to lure in victims in one case. Meanwhile, police used the game to lure in fugitives trying to escape the long arm of the law but, seemingly, still trying to catch ’em all.
At this point it’s unclear how long it will be before Sokolovsky’s trial reaches a verdict and what the odds are of him being convicted under the law, which saw members of the band ‘Pussy Riot’ go to prison for two years in 2012. It will also be interesting to see whether Niantic updates the game to prevent it from being played in religious locations in Russia because of the trial.
Niantic has plenty of other plans for the game this year, including adding a trading feature, but conservative lawmakers will be hoping that it will find time to introduce such a block as well.
Source: Associated Press
Pokemon GO is available on iOS and Android.