Saturday, 23 October 2021

Women in gaming open up about sexual assault in the industry

LONDON: Ever since the MeToo movement started, more and more women from across various professions and walks of life have come forward with their own stories of sexual assault and harassment. Now it appears it might just be the video game industry’s turn in the spotlight.

The floodgates opened when indie developer Nathalie Lawhead posted on her blog outing her alleged rapist – video game composer Jeremy Soule – and describing how her professional relationships were damaged after meeting him. While it’s a fairly lengthy read, I encourage everyone to read her post detailing how her livelihood suffered in the wake of their shared project – though I will add the content of it (and the other accounts here) can be disturbing.

After this, developer Zoe Quinn, known for her work on Depression Quest, claimed that fellow indie developer Alec Holowka assaulted and abused her, as did another person she declined to name. A developer named Adelaide Gardner also came forward to accuse Luc Shelton, who works for a studio called Splash Damage, of assaulting and gaslighting her.

In all of these cases, the accusers describe scenarios where they felt unable to (or in some cases, were explicitly told not to) publicly speak about the situation because indie development is a relatively small world and they feared professional backlash — though Gardner did also tweet she’d accused Shelton before and had received little reaction. In Lawhead’s case, her alleged attacker has worked on some very high-profile titles, including all of the Elder Scrolls games. Others have since come forward to say they were “warned” about these men, and Holowka’s co-developer Scott Benson tweeted that he believed Quinn’s account of the situation:

Many women in games participated in the MeToo movement after it took off in 2017. The movement itself began with allegations against film producer Harvey Weinstein, and later spiraled into a social media cause célèbre, in which women from all walks of life shared their experiences with rape, assault, harassment, and manipulation. Many in the gaming industry came forward and named names: IGN fired its then-editor-in-chief Steve Butts over “alleged misconduct,” as did Polygon with video producer Nick Robinson.

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