New Assault and Harassment Allegations Are Surfacing Across The Games Industry

New Assault and Harassment Allegations Are Surfacing Across The Games Industry

Dozens of accounts of harm and manipulation, from the streaming community to major developers, are reverberating throughout the industry.

An outpouring of serious allegations concerning creators and streamers throughout the video game industry has, over the last few days, spurred some individuals and companies to sever ties with the accused. While developers, members of the press, and other industry professionals have been named in this new wave of allegations, the streaming community in particular has been shaken by newly surfaced accounts of abuse.

Of the new allegations, the most prominent are those against prolific game writer and designer Chris Avellone. Two people have come forward to accuse Avellone of sexual misconduct. One woman alleges that Avellone texted her a sexually explicit proposition in 2014; another recounted an instance where Avellone allegedly made a non-consensual advance on her during a fan convention.

The stories coming to light in this moment include, but are not limited to, allegations of sexual harassment and assault. New accounts of abusive workplace behavior, inappropriate conduct at industry events, emotional manipulation, and coercive grooming have also been made public, broadening the scope of the present movement to address far-reaching, systemic issues. Most of the new allegations have been shared on Twitter, echoing the events of last August that saw many individuals in the industry either corroborating accounts of abuse or sharing their own stories via social media.

Dozens of Stories Have Been Shared, Prompting Company Responses

A few companies have been relatively swift in responding to the new allegations. Yesterday, developers Techland, Paradox Interactive, and Studio Gato all released statements confirming the teams are no longer working with Avellone following the public allegations of sexual misconduct and harassment. On Sunday, peripheral manufacturer Astro released a statement announcing that three streamers accused of sexual misconduct—SayNoToRage, Supa954, and ActaBunniFooFoo—had been removed from the company's sponsored streaming group "effective immediately."

Calls for action amongst the Twitch streaming community prompted a statement on Sunday promising that the company is "actively looking into the accounts concerning streamers affiliated with Twitch[.]" Late in the evening on Monday, CEO Emmett Shear publicly released an internal email regarding the steps being taken, noting that consequences for the accused may include "banning, removing partnership, or removing people from promotional opportunities and activations" at Twitch's discretion. Shear himself has been accused of brushing off a question about Twitch partners leveraging their positions to abuse women at a company all-hands meeting last year. Many streamers are now calling for a one-day boycott.

A crowdsourced document collecting the dozens of new allegations against popular streaming personalities has further amplified the accounts of misconduct within the community. Yesterday, CEO of Online Performers Group Omeed Dariani stepped down from his role at the streaming talent agency after being named in one of the collected allegations. The New York Times reports that over 70 people in the streaming community have come forward with accusations in recent days.

A Focus on the Role That Professional Access Can Play in Abuse

Avellone and high profile Twitch streamers are far from the only well-known figures being named in these new accusations. Many of the stories being shared follow a similar pattern, wherein behaviors constituting abuse, harassment, or coercion are enabled in part by the status and connections of the alleged wrongdoers.

Two Ubisoft employees, Product and Brand Marketing Manager Andrien "Escoblades" Gbinigie and Ubisoft Influencer Relations' Stone Chin, stand accused of predatory behavior and assault. Accounts concerning both men claim that their prominent roles in the industry both provided a pretext for inappropriately approaching women and served to protect them from consequences, until now. Gbinigie issued a response on Medium which has since been either removed from the platform or placed under review.

Today, Ubisoft issued a statement regarding the allegations against both men to Gamasutra. "We are deeply concerned by these accusations," an Ubisoft representative says. "We take any allegations of abuse or harassment very seriously and we are looking closely into the allegations to determine next steps." Subsequently, new allegations of sexual harassment concerning Ubisoft VP of Editorial Maxime Béland surfaced on Twitter.

The accounts being shared concern prominent individuals in public-facing roles as well people who have allegedly abused their power within their own companies. Current and former IGN employees have shared new allegations against former Editor-In-Chief Steve Butts, also implicating IGN co-founder Tal Blevins and former editor Casey Lynch. Multiple current and former IGN employees have come forward to attest that Butts and Blevins in particular cultivated a hostile work environment rife with threats, blocked avenues for advancement, and harassment based on gender and sexuality.

Butts was fired in 2018 following an investigation into claims of workplace misconduct. He and Blevins went on to co-found Level 74, a video game consulting agency based in North Carolina.

On Tuesday, two former Insomniac Games employees shared allegations of gendered discrimination and predatory behavior within the studio. Both developers describe a company culture biased toward men making it difficult for women to advance or thrive within Insomniac's ranks. One of the former employees also alleges that a former Insomniac HR employee made inappropriate advances toward them and others at the company before eventually being fired due to an inappropriate relationship with an intern. [Update: Insomniac has responded, saying it had taken numerous steps to address the former employee's allegations.]

Calls For Games Industry Accountability Within a Broader Movement

Many of the stories that have surfaced over the past few days involve individuals who've held roles in the games industry for many years, and together they add to an ever-growing record of failures to safeguard against discrimination and abuse. This is not merely an extension of a moment that started last August, or with the #MeToo movement, or that stems from the rifts sown by Gamergate. While popularity and associated power of streaming personalities is a relatively recent development, the types of behaviors and harms described throughout these accounts are neither new nor unique to the video games industry.

Currently, other entertainment fields, including comic books and comedy, are also reacting to new, prominent allegations of abuses. The kinds of discriminatory practices and patterns of abuse described in this article are, verifiably, widespread across the broader entertainment industry.

Given the particular stratification and longstanding struggles with diversity within the video games business, however, these new allegations add up to a call for a major reevaluation of industry norms. Many of the stories shared in the recent days involve first meetings or harrowing incidents that took place at gaming events—the very fan conventions and expos that serve to unite those within the industry and, for those wishing to break in, serve as one of few avenues for making valuable connections. Things like travel requirements or an expectation of comfort with drinking culture can both limit who feels welcome within the industry and present opportunities for abuse.

Regardless of the steps we see taken in the coming days, weeks, and months, the ongoing battle to make the video games industry a safer and more inclusive one calls for effort on institutional levels and individual ones. As many have voiced their support for those coming forward with stories of abuse, some of the same people sharing their experiences are asking people to truly listen and pledge to be aware of the active, positive roles they can play in preventing further harm.

If you are in search of legal, harassment prevention, or mental health support, the IGDA's Women in Games Special Interest Group has compiled a list of resources for people of all gender identities here.

This article has been updated to provide additional response for clarity.

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Mathew Olson


Mathew Olson is a writer formerly of Digg, where he blogged and reported about all things under the umbrella of internet culture (including games, of course). He lives in New York, grew up under rain clouds and the influence of numerous games studios in the Pacific Northwest, and will talk your ear off about Half-Life mods, Talking Heads or Twin Peaks if you let him.

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