Two of the women who accused game writer Chris Avellone of sexual misconduct in 2020 now say they were misinterpreted and have retracted their statements to the press after settling a libel lawsuit brought by the Obsidian co-founder. “We believe that he deserves a full return to the industry and support him in those endeavors,” Karissa Barrows and Kelly Rae Bristol wrote in a joint statement.
Avellone shared the statement and details about the settlement in a Medium post on March 25. “The parties resolved the matter and claims were dismissed with prejudice pursuant to a confidential settlement,” it read. “That settlement includes the return of an attorney fee award previously entered in California against Avellone, as well as a “seven-figure payment” to him from Barrows and Bristol, Avellone told Kotaku in an email.
Barrows told Kotaku she could not comment on the settlement outside of what was included in the Medium post. Bristol could not immediately be reached for comment.
A writer and designer on critically-acclaimed role-playing games like Planescape: Torment, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II, and Fallout: New Vegas, Avellone was one of a number of figures in the games industry accused of sexual misconduct in June 2020. Bristol wrote on social media at the time that Avellone had groped her at a trade show, while Barrows told Kotaku in an interview that the veteran game developer tried to get her drunk and to have sex with her. “He assaulted me, 100 percent, but I stopped him,” she said at the time.
At the time, Avellone apologized to Barrows and others on Twitter but did not respond to requests for comment. He was subsequently dropped as a consultant from games like Dying Light 2. A year later, however, Avellone publicly denied the allegations in a June 2021 Medium post and proceeded to file a libel lawsuit in California against Barrows and Bristol in particular.
That case was eventually dismissed via an anti-SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation) motion in 2022 upon review by an appeals court, and Avellone was ordered to pay attorney fees. A separate libel lawsuit was filed in September 2022 in Illinois, and both sides were preparing for discovery proceedings prior to reaching a settlement.
As part of that settlement, Barrows and Bristol now say Avellone “never sexually abused either of us.” Their statement goes on:
We have no knowledge that he has ever sexually abused any women. We have no knowledge that Mr. Avellone has ever misused corporate funds. Anything we have previously said or written about Mr. Avellone to the contrary was not our intent. We wanted to support women in the industry. In so doing, our words have been misinterpreted to suggest specific allegations of misconduct that were neither expressed nor intended. We are passionate about the safety, security and agency of women, minorities, LGBTQIA+ persons, and every other community that has seen persecution in the video game industry. We believe Mr. Avellone shares a desire to protect and uplift those communities. We believe that he deserves a full return to the industry and support him in those endeavors.
On Monday March 27, Barrows emailed Kotaku and other press outlets a copy of the joint statement, requesting to “retract my previous comments concerning Christopher Avellone.”
In a separate statement, Avellone wrote in his latest Medium post that people respect Barrows and Bristol’s privacy and “use this opportunity as a means to listen to all voices in improving our culture and our communities.”
“I appreciate the willingness of Ms. Barrows and Ms. Bristol to work with us in addressing issues within the game community, and their advocacy is to be commended and supported,” Avellone wrote. “There are still many very real challenges that we face but am confident we can face them together.”