Former ‘Dying Light 2’ writer Chris Avellone finally speaks out on sexual misconduct allegations.
Game writer Chris Avellone has broken his silence a year after sexual misconduct allegations were leveled against him on Twitter. The allegations, while never proved or even investigated in any serious way, nevertheless effectively derailed his decades-long career in the video game industry. Now, Avellone is not only breaking his silence, but has filed a libel suit against two of his accusers.
The accusations were leveled by Karissa Barrows, a woman Avellone met in 2012 at Dragon Con, and Kelly Bristol who Avellone claims to not remember ever meeting. They were made publicly in 2020, years after the events that took place between Barrows and Avellone. As always, there are two (or more) sides to every story, and while Borrows told hers very publicly last year, Avellone has remained largely silent. He broke that silence today with a series of tweets and a blog post.
Avellone waited a year to come forward. In the meantime, he’s been hard at work gathering the evidence he needs to clear his name, and he’s taking his accusers to court in order to do so by filing several libel charges in Orange County, California. “A long list of digital evidence and witness testimony has been compiled over the past year,” writes Avellone. “With that in hand, I filed a formal response last week, not to silence Karissa and Kelly, but to encourage them to speak more.”
At the time these accusations were made, Avellone was working as a writer on Techland’s excellent-looking Dying Light 2 and Gato Salvaje’s The Waylanders. The tweets were blasted out on a Friday night and by the next Monday morning his role at Techland was over. His work with developer Gato Salvaje was also terminated abruptly.
“This next bit might surprise you,” Avellone notes. “I didn’t fight any of this. You can’t. Cancel culture being what it is, the companies can’t fight it either, or else they are attacked, too. Companies can’t even ask for time to “look into it” without coming across as not believing the accusations, as unfounded as they are, because even the hint of a delay or wanting to find out more will be judged and will get them canceled, too. And no one wants to get canceled, even if it means turning your back on someone else getting canceled, even someone you’d worked with in the trenches for years.”
Avellone doesn’t hold a grudge toward these studios, however. He understands how hard this can be in the current climate of cancel culture and guilt by association. In an era when allegations are enough — and no proof of wrongdoing is required — a few tweets can end someone’s career and potentially cause big problems for a video game studio.
“Please know that even saying this,” he continues. “I don’t bear Techland any ill will. I still consider myself fortunate that I lasted longer than the other writers for Dying Light 2 (there were a lot, some I never even got the chance to meet before they were gone), even though I doubt anything I contributed still remains in the game, and I’m fine with that. I will admit, though, both of their statements, especially the Gato Salvaje one (The Waylanders, and the studio that had pushed for the unwanted IGN video) were painful to read.”
He does, however, bear some ill will toward the press. “Other parts of these stories that weren’t parroted by others are easy to prove false with a little research… if even a little research had been done,” he writes. “None of the press did any such research I’m aware of, even for the easiest confirmations. For example, a woman, Christy Dena, claimed we shared a night together in 2013 when I wasn’t even on the same continent.”
Particularly egregious, in Avellone’s view, was an article published The Gamer’s Sean Murray which still shows up prominently when Googling Avellone’s name. The headline reads: “Report: Game Writer Chris Avellone Alleged To Have Drugged And Assaulted Countless Women” despite no allegations of drugging anyone having been made. Karissa’s story included him getting her “black out drunk” (something he denies) and she claims she saw him use similar tactics on other women, but again: No evidence of any of this exists, and Avellone’s story differs wildly. Nor was this a “report” as the headline suggests. A “report” suggests an investigation of some kind was carried out and reported on. This was an allegation made on Twitter, nothing more. The headline is purposefully misleading.
“To be clear,” writes Avellone, “the game press don’t need to check the “facts” — all they need to do is report that someone said something or fall back on the word alleged, and it’s a story. And so they did, and the clicks started rolling in. As soon as the press “report” something like this, however, it carries the same validation as if it was researched and fact checked, which no press publication to my knowledge did.”
I admit, much of this story originally flew under my radar. I did not cover the allegations or the story at the time despite having long admired Avellone’s work in the video game industry. I did not look further into it and did not reach out for comment from anyone involved (since I wasn’t covering it there didn’t seem a need to). At the time, I had sworn off all controversial topics and politics for my own mental health. Between COVID-19, the Trump era madness and various personal issues, I was not at my best, and avoiding controversy — including controversy around Sony and Naughty Dog censoring YouTubers over The Last Of Us Part 2 leaks — seemed like a good idea at the time. You may not realize this, but covering controversial topics can be enormously stressful and demoralizing and it’s best not to enter the fray if you’re too frayed around the edges yourself.
Wading back into these waters lately, I understand why though a part of me regrets this decision, however sensible it seemed at the time. In retrospect, I wish I had taken a closer look — especially since apparently nobody else did. Over the past few months I have begun covering more controversial stories once again, both here and at my Substack (subscribe!), and more often than not there is much more to a story than meets the eye. Sometimes these allegations turn out to be more complicated — the messy fallout of a bad breakup or relationship gone awry. Sometimes they are much more serious than that. Often the press does not do its due diligence when “reporting” on these issues, and the result can be calamitous for peoples’ lives, reputations and careers.
I won’t go into great depth on the backstory behind all of this. Nothing I can summarize will do a better job than simply going to the source. Avellone posted his side of the story in this blog post. He posted his Twitter thread as a separate blog post here. Barrows’ allegations can be found on Twitter, though they are protected. Much more will come out when this goes to court.
I recently covered the story of Alexis Kennedy, another game developer who was accused of sexual misconduct and denied all allegations, but was still thrown under the bus without any proper investigation taking place. What I wrote in that piece applies here as well:
“My interest in this story is the same vein as a defense attorney’s when they look at criminal trial. The presumption of innocence is sacred. We abandon it at our own peril, and I believe that social media — and the speed at which information and misinformation travels in today’s hyper-connected world — makes this issue more important than ever.”
“Typically, when these types of allegations are leveled reporters go to great length to ensure that the accuser is telling the truth. This is important for many reasons. It’s crucial that journalists get a story like this right because many different peoples’ reputations are on the line, including their own. It’s all well and good to say “believe women” until you find yourself responsible for ruining the lives of several University of Virginia students falsely accused of rape. Now your career is in the gutter and several young men have had their lives and reputations destroyed. Believe women, certainly, but not without doing your due diligence.
“When reporting a story like this, journalists set out to find corroborating witnesses, not merely other people on Twitter who claim to have heard similar stories. Hearsay and gossip may point us in a helpful direction, but they’re no substitute for evidence. So reporters must dig and find witnesses whose stories can bulwark the original accuser’s case (or disprove it).”
It’s one thing to have a kneejerk reaction on Twitter to something that seems very bad. It’s another altogether when you decide to level judgment and another still when you choose to cover a story without either A) getting the facts right or B) at least attempting to approach a subject with balance and caution. Writing sober, measured takes may not be as fun and may not get as many clicks, but it’s nevertheless the right thing to do. We should still treat the court of public opinion the same as a court of law, with justice — not retribution or politics — as the true goal.
All that being said, I admit that I no more know the truth of the matter than you or anyone else other than those intimately involved in this story. Avellone has finally come forward with his version of events. His accusers made their versions public in 2020. None of us can possibly know who is telling the truth, who is exaggerating, who is telling lies. There is a gray area where two people can remember or interpret events very differently as well. Anyone who pretends otherwise is selling something.
A libel case is serious — far more serious than accusations made on social media — and what follows will be crucial to our understanding of events regardless of the outcome.
Evidence is required in a court of law if not in the court of public opinion. Witnesses will be called. Texts will be provided. Something at least much closer to the truth will emerge based on testimony and evidence. In the meantime, we should reserve judgment and remember that there’s a reason we presume innocence, and it’s largely the same reason we listen to accusations and take them seriously. The truth is paramount. Even Avellone, whose reputation and career have suffered greatly over the past year, acknowledges the need to both listen and reserve judgement:
“I’m in the game industry,” he writes. “And there are many problems in the game industry that need to be addressed. We should not be silent about them, and when people come forward, we should listen to their voices. I have. I listened for a year.
“When someone feels they have been wronged, their story should not be dismissed. These stories should be investigated as if they are true. I also believe all facts should be put forth before judgment is delivered.
“I spent the last year trying to persuade myself that these acts were done out of a misguided sense of self-righteousness. I have tried to correct the record, dispel misconceptions, allow voices to be heard, but it is clear I was wrong; the attacks against me were made from malice. I’m ready to defend myself, and setting the record straight is the first step.”
Now all we can do is wait to learn more. As always, my best suggestion is to stay out of it — don’t go on Twitter and harass or harangue anyone. Don’t take sides or make bold proclamations about guilt or innocence. Let the dust settle and the chips fall where they may. Keep an open mind.
The truth will out, as the saying goes.
You can also listen to my podcast with Alexis Kennedy and Lottie Bevan on YouTube.