Over the weekend, multiple women in the video game industry accused Chris Avellone, a writer on a number of renowned role-playing games including Planescape: Torment, Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance, and Fallout: New Vegas, of using his stature in the video game industry to prey on women.
The women accused Avellone, who most recently worked on the upcoming zombie blockbuster Dying Light 2, of groping, sexual harassment, and other incidents, some of which took place at game industry networking events. Thus far, Avellone’s only response has been a series of individual Twitter replies in which he apologized to some of the women but did not go into detail about the events in question. Avellone has not responded to Kotaku’s requests for comment.
Update 3/27/2023 3:40 p.m. ET: Since this story was written, two of Avellone’s accusers, including Karissa Barrows, have settled a libel lawsuit brought against them by the Fallout writer for seven figures. As part of that settlement, Barrows requested to retract the statements to Kotaku she originally made below. You can read the full details here.
Original story follows.
Dying Light 2 developer Techland, which had Avellone announce the game live on stage at Microsoft’s E3 2018 press conference, said it would part ways with Avellone. “We treat 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 spokesperson for the studio told Kotaku in an email. “This is why, together with Chris Avellone, we’ve decided to end our cooperation.” The company did not say what its investigation into the allegations against Avellone revealed.
“I witnessed, and experienced, his behavior firsthand,” one of the women wrote in a Twitter thread on Friday. Speaking with Kotaku via phone, Karissa (who asked that we only use her first name out of concerns for her safety) gave more details about the incidents, which she said took place between 2012 and 2014.
She said she first met Avellone at a hotel bar meetup with industry friends at a 2012 convention, when he was working at Obsidian, the studio he co-founded. “He threw up his Obsidian credit card in the air and said ‘drinks on me,’ and he just started buying drinks for everybody,” she said. “Every time mine was gone, Chris was already back with one or two more for whoever was out, constantly just going back and forth. I remember refusing him, just being like ‘I’m good, I don’t need anymore, I probably shouldn’t drink anymore,’ and he’d be like, ‘No that’s fine, come on, let’s get you another drink.’”
Karissa said the alcohol hit her very fast, and eventually her two friends and Avellone decided to help her back to her hotel room. “Much of this I don’t recall except for a few moments,” she said. “I remember we were standing up at some point, I remember my two friends standing there at one point, and I remember this fairly vividly: Chris grabbed my face and started to kiss me. Didn’t ask, just went for it.” She said that at some point her friends left, heading down the hallway to the elevator just out of eyeshot. One later told her after she came forward that they had tried repeatedly to get Avellone to leave with them, she said.
“I was just kind of hanging my head there because I was feeling more self-conscious than anything,” Karissa said. “The biggest moment of clarity during this whole thing which came back to me later—again, things have come back to me in pieces—the thing I remember most clearly is when he started to undo my pants and put his hand down into them, I told him, ‘This is not a good idea.’ I think he paused for a moment, because I don’t think he was expecting me to say that, and I think the only reason I was able to say that was because I was on my period at the time.”
“He’s fucking disgusting, but he did not rape me,” she said. “He assaulted me, 100 percent, but I stopped him.”
Karissa said that she witnessed Avellone preying on other younger women this way as well, deploying booze and his status at various pop culture conventions. “Girl after girl, waiving around his company card, he made no secret of the fact that he worked at Obsidian,” Karissa said, describing it in one of her tweets as a pattern of using his “‘star’ power to victimize women.”
In replies on Twitter, Avellone said that the accuser “hates me, and she’s right to feel that way,” that he “never meant any harm” to her or another woman that Karissa said was harmed by Avellone, and that he was “trying to apologize.”
Following this story, another woman in the games industry shared on Twitter what she said was a screenshot of private Facebook messages between herself and Avellone in 2014 that showed him turning a non-sexual conversation into immediately propositioning sex to her, describing the proposed sexual acts in detail. The woman said that Avellone was aware of the fact that she was already in a relationship at the time, and that the messages made her feel “sick and upset.” (Since this person did not respond to requests for comment from Kotaku, we have elected to not print her name or link to her post.)
“This was before I was fulltime in the games industry, but knew I wanted a future in it and was actively working towards that,” she wrote in a tweet thread. “Chris was one of the ‘industry greats’ I was frankly flattered to even know let alone be friendly with.” (Avellone did not address this issue specifically in any Twitter reply.)
A third woman also accused Avellone of groping her repeatedly at a 2014 industry event while Avellone’s girlfriend was present. She wrote that “every time” Avellone’s girlfriend looked away, “his hand was on my ass & he was trying to get me to go to his room. I told him I don’t fuck my friends’ boyfriends & to stay the fuck away from me.” (This person has said that they will not speak on the matter further with members of the media, and made a public request that the media not use her name or link to her tweets. Avellone responded to a tweet that mentioned this incident to say he was “listening and being aware,” but did not directly address the incident in the response.)
Other recent games Avellone was believed to be involved with include Hardsuit Labs’ Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines 2. Paradox Games, the publisher of Bloodlines 2, said in an email to Kotaku that Avellone only worked on the project briefly and that “none of his contributions remain in the game.”
Avellone’s work on the recent RPG by Gato Studio, The Waylanders, is also under review. “Chris is no longer on the project, and I’ve been the lead writer all along, not him,” Waylanders writer Emily Grace Buck wrote on Twitter after learning about the allegations against Avellone. “Waylanders has very little writing by him as it stands, and I’ll be taking a look at his scenes.” Buck added that no one on the team had been aware of any of the accusations against Avellone until just recently. Buck and Avellone had been jointly interviewed for an IGN feature on the game that was published only a few days prior to the women’s tweets.
Today, Gato confirmed that Avellone’s contract with the company finished last week, and he is no longer associated with the game. “Studio Gato Salvaje and The Waylanders team take matters of abusive and predatory behavior very seriously, and we stand against the kind of behavior that was alleged to have happened in the stories shared over the weekend,” it wrote.
The allegations against Avellone come amid a new wave of people speaking out against sexual abuse and coercion across the games industry on social media. Like a similar outpouring back in August 2019, many people have come forward to share their own painful experiences, while others have called on long-overdue changes to how companies network and operate, demanding more accountability and for allegations of sexual assault and predatory behavior to be thoroughly investigated instead of just being swept under the rug.