“I don’t want to fight this. I want this to never have happened.”
August 28, 2019 8:45 AM   Subscribe

Several high-profile game developers publicly accused of sexual assault. And more may be named. [The Verge] “Things started with a lengthy blog post from artist and game designer Nathalie Lawhead, bluntly titled “calling out my rapist.” In it, she accuses Jeremy Soule, a longtime game composer behind series like Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic and The Elder Scrolls, of rape while the two were working together at an unnamed games studio in Vancouver in 2008. [...] Following Lawhead’s post, others started speaking up. Zoe Quinn — developer of games like Depression Quest, author of Crash Override, and a focal point of the misogynistic Gamergate movement — posted a harrowing account on Twitter, recounting alleged abuse from indie developer Alec Holowka, best known for his work on Aquaria and Night in the Woods.”
posted by Fizz (76 comments total) 46 users marked this as a favorite
(checks production credits on Skyrim)

Time to give No Man's Sky another try.
posted by Mogur at 9:20 AM on August 28, 2019 [9 favorites]

Thanks for posting this, Fizz. I saw this come up on Twitter yesterday and immediately removed JS’s music from my library; I’ve listened to it for years, but felt no problem jettisoning it. I was wondering what else was going to come out of it and am glad more people are feeling empowered coming forward. There’s no reason to “but the ART” any of this when there’s a lot of excellent work out there that wasn’t made by rapists.
posted by curious nu at 9:32 AM on August 28, 2019 [17 favorites]

Just swept through my soundtrack library and deleted everything by Soule. If I do go back to Elder Scrolls it'll have to be with the music off, but even then. Fuck Bethesda.
posted by seanmpuckett at 9:33 AM on August 28, 2019 [1 favorite]

Oh man, just reading the responses to Zoe Quinn's account is saddening. There's more than a few "I can't believe you because of GamerGate" responses, ignoring completely that she was the *victim* of GG and that the charges leveled against her were fabricated...
posted by mystyk at 9:33 AM on August 28, 2019 [27 favorites]

Never read the responses, the internet is a cesspool.
posted by graventy at 9:43 AM on August 28, 2019 [4 favorites]

I urge anyone and everyone to read Lawhead's 'calling out my rapist' post. This is the kind of thing I show to people when they doubt that 'gamergate' is a thing or try to minimize the feelings/abuse that others have felt when they're dealing with the #metoo movement.
posted by Fizz at 9:47 AM on August 28, 2019 [23 favorites]

I'm going to have to look for a mod to replace the music in TES games if I play them again. Maybe substitute them with the LOTR soundtrack.
posted by holmesian at 10:22 AM on August 28, 2019 [1 favorite]

Can't get this section of Lawhead's post out of my head, especially considering the serial nature of many harassers and assailants:

Most victims don’t survive this. They burn out. They leave the industry. They commit suicide, develop eating disorders, self-hate to a point that you can’t even function. I’m lucky that I have a family that picked me up when I was beyond broken. I’m lucky that I had the strength to not completely believe what I believed about myself, and try again. I’m lucky to get to a point where I can speak up.

When you defend rapists, and bemoan the cultural loss of their work when they get called out, think about the bigger loss that could have been the contributions of their victims. I have things to contribute too. I have art to put out there too. I matter too. Other victims do too.

posted by wellred at 10:25 AM on August 28, 2019 [108 favorites]

Annoyingly, Aquaria, Night in the Woods and Skyrim are all towards the top of my pile of shame. (Which I guess means that at least they're not getting any more money out of me, at least.)

I think the interesting thing about Quinn's calling out of Howolka is that it seems like he's definitely a missing stair - it looks like his more famous collaborators weren't aware of this side of him, but no-one seems to be that surprised.

Similarly, Soule already had something of a reputation. He'd frittered away a lot of the goodwill he'd gotten through his soundtracks on a Kickstarter he never delivered on, and he quit on doing more Guild Wars music after, reportedly, an incident at a Christmas party.

I think what happened with Guild Wars is a great illustration of why moving on from these arseholes is a positive thing: Jeremy Soule's hissy-fit made room for Lena Raine (Celeste).
posted by Merus at 10:29 AM on August 28, 2019 [7 favorites]

Lawhead's post is a really powerful read. One thing that stood out to me is her account of how he gradually moved from casual friendship to incessant complaining about women had wronged him, then to whining about how he resents women for not giving him access to the sex he needs to make music and how music is all about sex, all the while making it increasingly clear how much power he had over her career. I'm guessing that sort of pattern is a really common pattern among abusers. I just hadn't heard it so vividly described.
posted by treepour at 10:46 AM on August 28, 2019 [21 favorites]

Meg Jayanth (writer on 80 Days) has gone public, saying she's been warning people away from Sunless Sea and Cultist Simulator lead Alexis Kennedy for some time.

I had a funny feeling about Alexis, given his current relationship is with a women who was his direct report at Failbetter while he was CEO, and there was some talk at the time that his version of events wasn't accurate, but narrative-focused indie games is a small world and Meg is exactly the person I'd expect to be told.
posted by Merus at 10:50 AM on August 28, 2019 [14 favorites]

@leighalexander - for each abuser you heard about today there are like 10 more we can't talk about because of the retaliatory threats they've made to their victims, for whom it would be inappropriate to speak
Sounds like Alexis Kennedy (Fallen London, Sunless Sky, Cultist Simulator) has also been revealed to be a missing stair.

Given he's been increasingly big on "Alexis Kennedy presents" and keeping "who he is" tightly coupled with "what he makes", that puts an especially raw note on his work.
posted by CrystalDave at 10:51 AM on August 28, 2019 [13 favorites]

Oh good; it's only taken us five years to go from public coverage of "there is sexism in this industry" to "there is assault and rape in this industry."

...did anyone who believed Zoe Quinn the first time around, think that the sexism stopped with leers and catcalls and lower pay for the same work? I do wonder if the lackluster response to that--"It's just a joke! He's just being friendly! Maybe he's autistic!"--convinced guys that they could get away with more.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 11:05 AM on August 28, 2019 [26 favorites]

To be clear, Alexis Kennedy had nothing to do with Sunless Skies, only the previous game Sunless Sea. Earlier this spring, an individual I trust told a group I was in that she would no longer endorse him or recommend his involvement in projects or presentations, but that she could not elaborate because of the extremely aggressive libel laws in her country of residence.
posted by jsnlxndrlv at 11:07 AM on August 28, 2019 [13 favorites]

It would be nice to have a list of games and art that these people are getting royalties from and companies actively using their work. For example, Alex Kennedy has left Failbetter games a while back, so it should be safe to keep playing those games without worrying that he is getting money from them, right?
posted by Canageek at 11:11 AM on August 28, 2019 [3 favorites]

You feel like the battle lines are getting drawn and sides are mustering? There's basic decency and expectations that people can just not be cruel, predatory, assholes on one side, and this other dark side. And it's like we all will be faced with picking a side if we haven't already.

That's what it feels like. "Mad Mission," Patty Griffin
posted by elkevelvet at 11:27 AM on August 28, 2019 [7 favorites]

I know Alexis Kennedy and I know Meg Jayanth. In fact, Meg interned at my company. I believe Meg.

But also, I saw inappropriate and unprofessional behaviour with my own eyes that was later corroborated by others with direct, worse experience. It wasn’t my story to tell and I was asked not to say anything, but at least I can back Meg up now.
posted by adrianhon at 11:37 AM on August 28, 2019 [56 favorites]

Sickening. What with this and the accusations against Tool frontman Maynard James Keenan, that's more music I'll not be listening to again. Night in the Woods was one I was interested to play too, but at least that statement is coming from the right place. The sooner all of these predators are outed the better, so we can excise them from our lives and give our support to people more deserving of it. Infinite respect and admiration to the women brave enough to speak out (and I understand if many aren't ready for that). This has to end.
posted by Acey at 12:05 PM on August 28, 2019 [3 favorites]

A common thread: the world of video games is small, and indie games (as an industry) is much smaller. Rapists and abusers in games might not be millionaire Hollywood producers, but status is relative. Soule is one of the few household-name composers in games. Holowka and Kennedy are indie who's whos. We've heard that they targeted women who were looking for a foothold. That kind of status disparity is power to abuse, and even if all the abusers in the field were outed today that power would still be there. If working in games was less precarious, that would remove a lever that these men used against their victims.
posted by skymt at 12:13 PM on August 28, 2019 [13 favorites]

On the plus side, I just freed up a bunch of hard drive space.
posted by Acey at 12:22 PM on August 28, 2019 [11 favorites]

A thread from Olivia Wood, who was in a relationship with Alexis for two years. I’m friends with her and I believe her.
posted by adrianhon at 12:47 PM on August 28, 2019 [10 favorites]

It would be nice to have a list of games and art that these people are getting royalties from and companies actively using their work.

Mobygames is generally accurate and up to date. IMDB...it’s sort of an old joke to periodically look yourself up and see what new fictions have been invented about your work history.

I think I’ve written this here before but in 2014 some GG asshole got their hands on a Skype zero-day and went after Zoe’s contacts and then all of *their* contacts. Pretty much every Boston-based dev at least had mutual friends with them, so all of us had to uninstall Skype for a couple days and switch all of our shit over to 2FA. The upside of this minor inconvenience is that I’ve only worked with one openly pro-GG dev, and we haven’t been on speaking terms for years.
posted by Ryvar at 1:25 PM on August 28, 2019 [4 favorites]

Matt Thorson (Celeste) has now tweeted that his team cut ties with Holowka a while back. And that he was not surprised by the allegations.

This really does seem to be some missing stair horseshit. If Thorson knew about this guy, but the NITW devs didn't, why is that? Not communicating about assholes like this is the same as putting up with them.

I'm not trying to put Thorson on blast, but we need to stop hearing about these pricks four years too late.
posted by selfnoise at 1:43 PM on August 28, 2019 [12 favorites]

A common thread in all of these cases (not just in games) is that the abuser with the power threatens the victim with loss of livelihood if they snitch. What do you do in that position as the victim? Suck it up, find a new career, or ...

The only solution is to completely destroy bro culture everywhere it exists.
posted by seanmpuckett at 1:47 PM on August 28, 2019 [17 favorites]

Someone you work with (especially remotely) being an asshole doesn't typically translate into them being dangerous, for most guys.
posted by Reyturner at 1:49 PM on August 28, 2019

Elizabeth Sampat's tweet (https://twitter.com/twoscooters/status/1166399344737697797?s=09) is critical:

- Whisper networks don’t work the way you think they do, specifically because they are born out of paranoia, NOT gossip

- If you have the APPEARANCE of friendship with a predator, chances are you’ll NEVER be told, simply out of safety concerns (unless you fit the victim profile)

This is why people like Holowka can work with so many different groups and those groups can be blindsided by this: the dudes in those groups were never at risk, yet victims would themselves feel like they were further endangering themselves by coming forward. This is a dynamic I had never put much thought into before all this started.
posted by jsnlxndrlv at 2:30 PM on August 28, 2019 [37 favorites]

selfnoise: The problem, as I see it, is this: It wasn’t my story to tell and I was asked not to say anything.

How can we effectively deal with abusers if we are specifically asked by their victims not to say anything?

I'm not trying to blame anything on the victims here: their abusers have power over them, whether in the form of legal threats or kicking the supports out from their careers. That's often why they were targeted to begin with.

But the missing stairs and whisper networks are the only obvious approach that doesn't betray the victim's trust.
posted by JDHarper at 2:31 PM on August 28, 2019 [2 favorites]

The larger answer is a structural change where victims are believed by default, where victims can expect protection from retaliation, and where justice is swift against the abusers.
posted by JDHarper at 2:36 PM on August 28, 2019 [8 favorites]

The industry still leans heavily male. There is no secret handshake for “I’m one of the good ones,” just like anywhere else. It’s pretty normal for men to not find out about this stuff until years after everyone else, and given the difficulty in determining whether someone’s acting in bad faith that seems like it’s equal parts bug/protective feature?

Our responsibility is to call this shit out when it happens in front of us (usually when it’s only men in the room), to believe women and back them up where we can...and a depressing amount of that is going to happen after the fact. If there’s a real solution to this nobody seems to have hit upon it yet from what I can tell.

I thought Jessica Price wrote a pretty fantastic thread on the theory, practice, and limitations of the whisper network.
posted by Ryvar at 2:38 PM on August 28, 2019 [10 favorites]

There is no "I'm one of the good ones" secret handshake, but "the idea that women have a sexual power over men that they are helpless to resist is horse shit" may be a serviceable substitute.
posted by seraphine at 3:03 PM on August 28, 2019 [13 favorites]

For example, Alex Kennedy has left Failbetter games a while back, so it should be safe to keep playing those games without worrying that he is getting money from them, right?

Failbetter has issued a statement:
We believe and stand with everyone who has come forward to speak out about Alexis Kennedy tonight.

Alexis left Failbetter three years ago. We no longer have any ties with him personally, creatively or financially.

We know that for some of you, Fallen London and Sunless Sea are irredeemably linked with him. It can be heartbreaking to love something as much as people love these games and feel they're tainted by association.

We fully understand and respect that. This sort of behaviour has no place in our industry, or in any other. We can only say that we strive to be a studio we can be proud of, and that you can be proud to support.
posted by Doktor Zed at 3:27 PM on August 28, 2019 [12 favorites]

Someone you work with (especially remotely) being an asshole doesn't typically translate into them being dangerous, for most guys.

[citation needed]

I'd agree that "asshole" doesn't always mean "dangerous," but I wouldn't go so far as to say that "typically" they're safe for the women and other marginalized people around them.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 3:30 PM on August 28, 2019 [2 favorites]

Crap, that's a typo. I meant to say "asshole" doesn't read as dangerous to most guys.
posted by Reyturner at 3:48 PM on August 28, 2019 [1 favorite]

One solution is for men and people with positions of power in the industry to speak out louder and to believe the victims. Many of them decline to do so because they hate women. Equally, many men believe women but prefer not to do anything that might harm their position in the industry, which includes even simply tweeting messages of support.

In other words, they're frightened. It's natural. Even I thought twice before tweeting about this, because I was worried about possible legal implications and more general attacks on social media – and I run and own a games company. I literally can't be fired. So there is no reason for me to be scared. But there it is.

Anyway, that other men in the industry will be more afraid to speak out. They're worried about being blacklisted or labelled as a troublemaker or whatever.

So that's the reason. It's bullshit, of course – I might be scared, but that only means those with even less power must be absolutely terrified; never mind being blacklisted, they could be bankrupted. Which means we all need to do the fucking right thing, swallow that quick feeling of fear, and extend a helping hand to those with less power. It's that simple.
posted by adrianhon at 3:55 PM on August 28, 2019 [27 favorites]

Information is being aggregated in this Waypoint thread which includes some others not thus far mentioned here.
posted by juv3nal at 5:00 PM on August 28, 2019 [4 favorites]

There is an article on Kotaku that has a second accuser of Soule.

Gonna see what I can find on that waypoint thread.
posted by annsunny at 5:06 PM on August 28, 2019 [1 favorite]

Twitter thread from the @NightInTheWoods account. They're not leaving this to individual developers' statements.

As awful as all of this is, and as much as I wish these women had never suffered such abuse, I hope to God the call-outs and accusations only rise, because there are undoubtedly so many more still yet to be heard. May all these abusive assholes be thrown out of the business.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 5:27 PM on August 28, 2019 [3 favorites]

Abusers like that are not only harming their immediate victims, they are doing damage to the projects they work on, their coworkers, fans of their work and the industry itself. There is nothing they are contributing that is worth any of that. It's a big industry and there are lots of people who are ready to do whatever they're doing without the abuse.

I doubt any of these guys got into the positions they've held and then suddenly decided to abuse their power. Behind each of these egregious assaults is likely dozens of inappropriate conversations, creepy behaviors, etc., pushing boundaries in what is often a far too permissive culture in game development. I'm hoping this current round of accusations is causing people to look more skeptically at patterns of creepy comments or "jokes", and any would-be abusers to reconsider.
posted by subocoyne at 5:41 PM on August 28, 2019 [10 favorites]

Please god let this tear back open N*ck R*binson stuff bc hes still shows up in my YT stream and there's PLENTY still untold about him
posted by RobertFrost at 5:54 PM on August 28, 2019 [10 favorites]

"...Holowka and Kennedy are indie who's whos. We've heard that they targeted women who were looking for a foothold..." posted by skymt at 2:13 PM on August 28

This makes me think of John Kricfalusi and the story last year about his predation (it feels like so much longer than that)...

Or removed from the "indie" side of things, Weinstein.

The Gatekeepers tell their victims they have the keys, but lie about which Kingdom those keys are for are for.
posted by symbioid at 5:58 PM on August 28, 2019

From the Meg Jayanth tweets: > Alexis Kennedy has a pattern of "befriending" young women who are entering the industry and then crosses professional boundaries with them. This is exploitative. I know this now because he did this to me, when I approached him as a young woman looking for career advice + work.

awwwshiiit I know this pattern, I saw part of this pattern when I was a kid desperately clinging to my first Real Job in animation under John Kricfalusi. Right down to how he "targets people who are vulnerable and those who are outside of the whisper networks, particularly young women".

I was looking forwards to Book of Hours but, well, bye, Alexis.
posted by egypturnash at 6:47 PM on August 28, 2019 [16 favorites]

Bethesda dropped Soule back in 2018, or at least that’s when Soule announced he wouldn’t be the composer for TES 6. It’s unknown why Bethesda Game Studios decided not to keep using Soule’s work - he did Morrowind, Oblivion, Skyrim, and Elder Scrolls Online. Soule’s had a reputation for a while, totally unrelated to the news he’s a fucking rapist.
posted by um at 8:05 PM on August 28, 2019 [1 favorite]

Information is being aggregated in this Waypoint thread which includes some others not thus far mentioned here.

Surprised and disappointed to see merritt k. listed there. She's not a dev or involved in games in that way but it's a useful reminder that even small progressive queer games spaces can be deeply shitty and have their own hierarchies/missing stairs.

The essay linked below there, 'Hot Allostatic Load' by Porpentine Charity Heartscape (https://thenewinquiry.com/hot-allostatic-load/), is about this kind of situation and it's really harrowing stuff. Content warning for abuse, of course.
posted by ocular shenanigans at 3:46 AM on August 29, 2019 [5 favorites]

even small progressive queer games spaces can be deeply shitty and have their own hierarchies/missing stairs.

In my experience, it's more like "especially small progressive queer games spaces can be deeply shitty and have their own hierarchies/missing stairs"...
posted by Dysk at 5:27 AM on August 29, 2019 [4 favorites]

Ah, man. A friend of mine has been dealing with the fallout of Alexis Kennedy bullshit for several years now, and while it was pretty well-known in the whisper network, she couldn't afford to go public because of the precarity of her career and her bone-deep feeling that it was at least partly her fault. And now she has to look at this long, long list of names - not all of which she knew about - and deal with that. I'm proud of her for pushing through and continuing with her career, because it would have been really easy for her to switch industries before she really got established and leave behind "making games" as a pipe dream. But it was a near thing, I think.
posted by restless_nomad at 7:13 AM on August 29, 2019 [18 favorites]

The CEO of ChuckleFish (Starbound, Wargroove) is currently being accused of wage theft by former freelancer and employees, which isn't quite germane to the thread... except that he's also accused of engaging in sexual harassment like pestering an employee to identify which other team members they would sleep with and inviting young girls into the private dev channel on Discord for unspecified but apparently unsavory purposes. ("They'd hang around and then usually leave because of circumstances I'm not permitted to talk about." is a direct quote about the second thing.)
posted by tobascodagama at 10:55 AM on August 29, 2019 [5 favorites]

Failbetter has issued a statement:
We believe and stand with everyone who has come forward to speak out about Alexis Kennedy tonight.
Alexis left Failbetter three years ago. We no longer have any ties with him personally, creatively or financially.

So... why didn't they believe and stand with the people who came forward about him 10 years ago?

I expect to see a whole lot of this: "That person is no longer with our company, so you can still ethically buy the games he developed while he was here and abusing the women on staff," with the implied message of, "We don't have any abusers on staff today."
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 11:24 AM on August 29, 2019 [8 favorites]

Worth noting Meg Jayanth thanked FB for helping and believing them - after Alexis left, obviously:
Failbetter is not Alexis Kennedy, as much as he would like you to believe that he is solely responsible for their wonderful work. He isn't. I've worked for them post AK's leaving + I felt nurtured & respected. So much love to all my friends there.

...Want to make it clear that @failbettergames has believed us + helped protect some of us long before this became public. @itshannahflynn in particular a hero. I believe they are deeply committed to righting as many of AK's wrongs as they can + reducing harm
posted by adrianhon at 12:59 PM on August 29, 2019 [11 favorites]

I think it's also worth noting that Failbetter (for whom, I should disclose, I've done some contract work in the past) are comprised of a very small group of people (around a dozen, give or take, more than a third of whom joined after Alexis Kennedy left in 2016), that no accusation has been made of a wider culture of abuse or harassment beyond Kennedy's behaviour, and that a number of people, including Meg, Olivia Wood, and Cassandra Khaw, have taken pains to distinguish Failbetter the company (since Kennedy's departure, as adrianhon says) from its founder. (The use of Kennedy's name as metonymy for Failbetter's cultural product has been a long-standing and slightly odd thing, but that's another story.)

I think it's absolutely fair in general to be suspicious of this sort of official statement, of course, but I believe that it's sincere in this case.
posted by Zeinab Badawi's Twenty Hotels at 2:21 PM on August 29, 2019 [3 favorites]

Alex Lifschitz, who cofounded the abuse victim support group Crash Override with Zoë Quinn, has just admitted to being abusive after being confronted.
posted by lazugod at 6:10 PM on August 29, 2019 [7 favorites]

I think it's absolutely fair in general to be suspicious of this sort of official statement, of course, but I believe that it's sincere in this case.

I can believe it's sincere and still not enough.

Nowhere do they say, "we have taken steps to avoid that kind of behavior at our company in the future." Nowhere do they say, "we believe nothing like this is happening now - and if it is, we want to know so we can get rid of any creeps who have managed to hide their activities from upper management."

(Not meaning to call out FB in particular. I don't know them or their politics. I do know that I'm not seeing a set of announcements from gaming companies that they'll be firing anyone that management believes has assaulted other staff members.)

Metafilter used to be pretty heavily into "dudebro" discussions. It decided to change. If someone called them out on a comment thread of four years ago, the staff wouldn't say, "that person no longer has an active account;" they'd say, "because of discussions like that, we decided to change things - that kind of talk is no longer permitted here."

That's what I want to see: "Yes, we used to tolerate that, and it was wrong, and as we grew aware of the wrongness, we changed our policies and no longer allow it."
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 6:31 PM on August 29, 2019 [4 favorites]

There's a Twitter compilation of many of the stories of abuse in gamedev here.
posted by storytam at 6:50 PM on August 29, 2019 [4 favorites]

“Innocent until proven guilty in a court” is, at best, childishly naive and, at worst, dangerously obtuse. Stop saying it.

My answer to the "Innocent until proven guilty" approach is "I'm going to assume that she's innocent of libel until proven guilty. Because that's what you're accusing her of."
posted by Francis at 8:49 AM on August 30, 2019 [17 favorites]

on top of everything, the multiple side orders of economic abuse in Lawhead's story are just ... fucking shameful.

I would love to know the names of the studios and principals involved.
posted by Sauce Trough at 3:00 PM on August 30, 2019 [1 favorite]

[Deleted a couple comments. Someone referred to archiving the tweets publicly online; that can apparently create legal problems for the women involved, so let's not link to that kind of thing here.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 11:39 AM on August 31, 2019 [2 favorites]

CW: Suicide. One of the developers accused of wrongdoing, Alec Holowka, died this morning per a report by his sister on Twitter today.
posted by jsnlxndrlv at 12:23 PM on August 31, 2019

Oh, uh. For the sake of your well-being, don't read the responses to that tweet. This has all been awful, and by the look of things, it has a real possibility of getting worse before it gets better.
posted by jsnlxndrlv at 12:33 PM on August 31, 2019 [2 favorites]

Christ this was the wrong weekend to go back on twitter.

I remember the start of GG, and I'm worried this is going to be worse. If it's not it'll be because of everyone who learned the lessons of that garbage fire. Already most game devs I follow have locked their accounts and a lot of the ones I don't have as well.
posted by Braeburn at 4:19 PM on August 31, 2019 [3 favorites]

Looks like Scott Benson and Bethany Hockenberry, the other two Night in the Woods developers, deleted their twitters.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 4:53 PM on August 31, 2019

What an awful turn of events that just keeps getting worse. As someone for whom Night in the Woods resonated a lot, I feel heartbroken for everyone involved. Scott Benson posted an update on Kickstarter (link goes to Reddit since the original update is only visible to backers) before the latest news broke. It's well worth a read.
posted by Skybly at 12:55 AM on September 1, 2019 [5 favorites]

Kotaku has a more anodyne update about Holowka's death. Mostly words from Alec's sister that corroborate the Scott Benson post. She makes a more pointed request for people not to turn this into a vehicle for further harassment, but we'll see. Additional people involved (including Zoë Quinn, Albertine Watson, and Alec's sister) have pre-emptively closed their Twitter accounts to try to de-escalate said inflammatory response.
posted by Arson Lupine at 9:11 AM on September 1, 2019 [3 favorites]

Wow I guess I should not have been surprised but apparently some of the night in the woods backers are among the assholes as well since presumably you have to be a backer to comment on Scott's latest update. (for anyone who has access, I'm not talking about the one person I was responding to there)
posted by juv3nal at 5:46 PM on September 1, 2019

Wow, I just saw the news regarding Holowka's death. I'm at a loss for words. This entire ordeal has been nothing but ugly pain and trauma. I sometimes hate how keyed into gaming I am. Ignorance seems like bliss when you hear about stories like this.

One of the first comments on that Kotaku article is worth reading and while it's a bit long I'm going to share it here:
I’m already seeing the comments, so let’s be clear about something here:

“Cancel Culture” did not kill Alec Holowka. We don’t yet have the full picture of how he died, but it sounds as if he died by suicide, and had been suffering from a host of psychological and personal difficulties prior to that final, tragic act.

No one deserves death over allegations of abuse, but the fact that Holowka is now dead does not mean that allegations should not be levied where and when they are necessary. To say that “cancel culture” killed Alec Holowka seeks to revictimize his alleged victims (and even the man’s own sister admits he was responsible for “causing harm”) by laying the blame for his death on them.

I want to be very, very clear here: Holowka didn’t deserve this, his family didn’t deserve this—no one ever deserves the fallout, heartache, and loss that follows suicide.

But the fact that Holowka appears to have ended his own life does not, will not, and cannot silence victims of abusive behaviors. The man may or may not have been guilty of the various allegations of abuse made against him, but his alleged victims have the right to make those allegations—and those allegations should be investigated.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again as many times as is necessary: “Believe women” does not mean that the accused is automatically guilty. It means that allegations of abuse should be fully and thoroughly investigated, every time, irrespective of whether or not we personally feel that the individual woman involved is “worthy” of that investigation (whatever the fuck that means). Every person is a human being, and human beings have an inherent right to their personal dignity—and that dignity deserves the respect and consideration necessary to say “you claim this person did X to you, and we’re going to get to the bottom of it,” rather than immediately responding with “well, you went back to their apartment/had been in a relationship with them/dressed provocatively/are known for having been sexually active with multiple partners in the past.”

Those things are all red herrings meant to distract from the core allegation—which, if proven, makes the alleged perpetrator’s actions their fucking fault, and no one else’s.

Holowka’s death, while tragic and undeserved, is already being used as a red herring to distract from the core conversation surrounding the sexual liberties (and abuses) that some in the industry have been taking with their peers, subordinates, and fans. The loaded label of “cancel culture” is being held up to mock survivors and alleged survivors, and is part and parcel of an effort to shut the discussion down and silence victims.

It is base, vile horseshit, and to use a man’s death as a distraction from a discussion too many want to see shut down is cowardly and ghoulish in the extreme.

I hope his family can find some peace in all of this, and that if there is an afterlife, that Holowka finds his peace in it—but none of that changes the discussion on the ground.
posted by Fizz at 4:39 AM on September 2, 2019 [18 favorites]

Kotaku is one of the few places I'll read the comments, but the standard mantra still apples for most other places like Reddit, YouTube: Don't read the comments. There's a lot of gamergate troll bullshit going around.

posted by Fizz at 5:15 AM on September 2, 2019

Wow I guess I should not have been surprised but apparently some of the night in the woods backers are among the assholes as well since presumably you have to be a backer to comment on Scott's latest update. (for anyone who has access, I'm not talking about the one person I was responding to there)

Yeah, there's a couple jerks with an axe to grind. I haven't checked back recently, but I'd guess they're still making the same comment they did the first couple times.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 8:25 AM on September 2, 2019

One of the disgusting things about this is how clearly it shows the gleeful lack of consistency among so many alt-right types/self-identified capital-G 'Gamers'. They started out hating Zoe Quinn for being Zoe Quinn and also Alec Holowka for being an 'SJW indie developer', then pivoted to praising Quinn at the accusations out of a joy at seeing an idological enemy get 'taken down', then pivoted back to a narrative of a poor innocent developer being hounded to his death by Quinn. And in the process, ignoring the stated wishes of Holowka himself and attacking his sister for conveying those wishes.

There's no consistency or throughline of argument, just wilful and whiplash-inducing self-contradiction multiple times within 48 hours. It's completely bad faith, vicious harassment for its own sake, for the joy of hurting someone. Nothing they do isn't cynical or performative.
posted by ocular shenanigans at 5:35 AM on September 3, 2019 [5 favorites]

Scott made a medium post about his working relationship with Alec which, unsurprisingly in retrospect, was way more fraught than he ever let on at the time.
posted by juv3nal at 5:47 AM on September 3, 2019 [5 favorites]

I survived Alec Holowka. A lot of people got it much worse than I can wrap my head around. And I’m a man. People who aren’t men got it worse. I thought I was unique in my experience with him, and that the abuse started and stopped with me. I thought I’d helped him truly change. I was wrong. I feel so stupid. I feel gross. This is how one man can have several victims and never have it come to light. Abuse isolates you. It makes you lonely. It might make you too afraid to talk about it. And if you do, people may not believe you. But mostly it just goes on silently. For years. Because you depend on them. Because they hold control on some aspect of your life. Because you’ve just been beaten down into silence.

Wow, Scott tells a powerful story. Really sorry for all the people especially women who were destroyed by Alec.

The important message I got from this is that it is important to tell. Alec was able to keep going because victims of abuse feel like it is a secret to keep. Alec siloed his contacts so that he could always have a fresh crop to abuse.
posted by Meatbomb at 6:46 AM on September 3, 2019 [6 favorites]

Lawhead also wrote a follow-up blog entry yesterday.
posted by subocoyne at 5:34 PM on September 3, 2019 [2 favorites]

Laurie Penny in Wired, "Gaming's #MeToo Moment and the Tyranny of Male Fragility":
My fingers are fairly itching with all of the stories I’m not telling here because they aren’t mine to share, and the consequences wouldn’t only be mine to bear. Secrets that eat you up from the inside. I don’t want to think about how much time I’ve spent over the past five years dealing with the fallout of male violence, giving advice, trying to mitigate damage, trying to protect survivors. I don’t want to think about it because most of the men in my life and in my fields of work don’t have to spend their energies on such things.
Hard to find the best paragraph to excerpt from this article. The concluding paragraph is also a real gut-punch.
posted by mhum at 3:45 PM on September 6, 2019 [8 favorites]

A.M. Darke has come forward about Randy Mack, Zack Johnson, Kevin Simmons of Asymmetric (West/Kingdom of Loathing)
posted by juv3nal at 7:32 PM on September 8, 2019 [2 favorites]

I guess I don't feel so bad now about getting out of the habit of playing KoL (I ran out of time per day to get through all the turns and burned out), but that was literally the only game I ever stuck with or paid for for a long period of time, since I am not a gamer. Damn.

"Thankfully he a) said it was ‘kinda sleazy’, b) forgave me, and c) said “at least it’s Randy”.
There’s the time he slashed my tires - which he said was fine because he could buy me new ones.
He said he didn’t want me to annoy him the same way, therefore I should not have a job.
No of course you haven’t, black people don’t watch Leave it to Beaver. (I had seen it).
And before that there’s probably an off-screen blowjob.
Sometimes grabbing the beer would make me a couple seconds late and I would feel like a failure.

posted by jenfullmoon at 8:40 PM on September 8, 2019

We've had an explicit denial from Alexis Kennedy of Failbetter, along with a follow-up from his fiancee Lottie Bevan that, among other arguments, tries to pin blame for Alex Holowka's death on #MeToo.

Needless to say, neither strikes me as terribly credible, especially Bevan's piece which reads like a Katie Roiphe piece.
posted by NoxAeternum at 9:11 AM on September 16, 2019 [2 favorites]

Not that I imagine anyone needed convincing, but Failbetter's CEO made a medium post addressing Alexis' denial.
posted by juv3nal at 1:41 PM on September 23, 2019 [4 favorites]

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