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CW: Sexual assault and harassment
Prominent game designer and writer Chris Avellone has been accused of leveraging his position within the games industry to sexually assault and harass multiple women.
This is the latest instance of a man in a position of power allegedly using their clout to target, harass, and assault women who work in and around game development. Accusations against Avellone follow on from a series of allegations made last year against notable industry figures including Elder Scrolls composer Jeremy Soule and Weather Factory founder Alexis Kennedy.
First-hand accounts published on social media over the weekend accuse the Dying Light 2 and Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines 2 narrative designer of intentionally getting women "blackout drunk" at industry events before making non-consensual advances, and sending sexually explicit messages to women over social media.
"I witnessed, and experienced, his behavior firsthand. He got me blackout drunk on Midori Sours (on the company dime)," said one accuser, in a lengthy account posted on Twitter. "He and two friends somehow got me back to my room, where he pounced in front of the other guys.
"They left after a few moments (also drunk), and one of them told me what he had witnessed the next evening. I had very vague impressions that someone had made out with me when I woke up that morning, but thought it was a dream. When I asked Chris about it, he told me that I had eventually refused him."
After witnessing Avellone do the same thing to other women on different occasions, he was eventually reported to convention organizers and blacklisted -- though his accuser claims that didn't halt his pattern of behavior.
"His behavior didn’t stop, though. If anything, it got worse. It took years for his employer to finally fire him (I honestly don’t recall the exact reason he was given, it was a while ago and I wasn’t there personally - this was relayed to me by a friend who also worked there)," they continued.
"He moved to other studios. Other projects. Other conventions until they stopped inviting him on their own accord (whether due to behavior or relevance, I don’t know). The actions I witnessed myself occurred between 2013 and 2015. Those I was told by friends who remained around him occurred up until 2017 or 2018. This was recent.
"I didn’t bother blowing this up until today due to work being insane all week, but I’ve got the time now. Chris Avellone is an abusive, abrasive, conniving sexual predator. People tried to get him help. He refused it and continued. Stop glorifying him."
Another allegation posted online, alongside pictures of an exchange between Avellone and the victim, details how Avellone sexually harassed someone who was working towards full-time employment in the industry by sending them sexually explicit messages without consent.
"This was before I was full-time in the games industry, but knew I wanted a future in it and was actively working towards that. Chris was one of the 'industry greats' I was frankly flattered to even know let alone be friendly with. So I forgave and regularly asked him career advice," they wrote, explaining why they were in contact with Avellone.
"What pisses me off is other industry people have done worse to me. I’ve been raped, sexually assaulted, and inappropriately touched by people that are not Chris. But rapes don’t generate screenshots so if I publicly outed anyone the internet would just descend to ridicule me."
Avellone has acknowledged the allegations against him by replying to his accusers and others on Twitter, but has yet to issue a full statement or an explicit denial.
"I never meant any harm to you, and I had thought things between us had ended well all up until seeing you off. That said, if I can't do anything to apologize for it, I understand, and there's nothing more to be done," he wrote in response to one allegation.
Given his role as a freelancer, Avellone is currently working on a number of projects for a handful of companies. Some, such as The Waylanders developer Gato Studio, explained they parted ways with the veteran writer before the allegations came to light.
"Chris is no longer on the project, and I’ve been the lead writer all along, not him," wrote The Waylanders scribe Emily Grace Buck on Twitter. "Waylanders has very little writing by him as it stands, and I’ll be taking a look at his scenes. No one on the team knew anything about this. We’re handling it, and I’m open to feedback."
Others, including Dying Light 2 developer Techland and Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines 2 maker Hardsuit Labs, have yet to acknowledge the allegations. We've reached out to reps for those studios for comment.
Update, Techland: Dying Light 2 developer Techland said it is "looking very closely" into the allegations made against Avellone, and that it has "no tolerance for such behaviors."
"We take matters of sexual harassment and disrespect with utmost care, and have no tolerance for such behaviors - it applies to both our employees as well as external consultants, Chris among them," a company spokesperson told Gamasutra.
"That is why we are currently looking very closely into the matter. We will provide you with information on our next steps soon."
[5PM ET]: Techland has amended its earlier statement to add that it has since, in agreement with Avellone, decided to part ways with Avellone on Dying Light 2. In addition to the above, Techland provided the following: "This is why, together with Chris Avellone, we’ve decided to end our cooperation. We are still working towards delivering the experience we promised in Dying Light 2. Both our narrative team, which Chris supported, and the whole development team of Dying Light 2 continue progressing efficiently, according to the plan revised at the beginning of the year."
Update, Paradox Interactive: A representative from Bloodlines 2 publisher Paradox Interactive has explained Avellone's involvement with the game was "brief," and that none of the content he produced would be used in the game. The company didn't comment on the sexual harassment and assault allegations.
"Chris Avellone briefly worked with the Bloodlines 2 writing team early in the development of the game," said Paradox. "Through an iterative creative process, however, none of his contributions remain in the game that Hardsuit Labs is continuing to develop."