Multiple men in the games industry accused of sexual abuse or assault


A still from the promotional video for Soule Symphony No. 1.

A still from the promotional video for Soule Symphony No. 1.

(Image credit: Soule Symphony No. 1)

On Monday, Tetrageddon developer Nathalie Lawhead published a blog post about her time working at an unnamed developer in Vancouver. Titled ‘Calling out my rapist’, it alleges that composer Jeremy Soule raped Lawhead after meeting her at a party and striking up a friendship. In the days since Lawhead made the allegation against Soule, more members of the industry have come forward to share their own experiences of abuse, accusing several industry men of unwanted advances and sexual assault.

Lawhead says she met Soule when she was struggling with burnout from her job and problems with immigration, and the composer was someone she was able to connect with as a fellow artist. She wanted a friend and they were not in a romantic relationship, but she says their conversations took a turn and he started to become misogynistic and sexist.

“He talked about the mystical power women hold over men with sex,” she writes. “How men are helpless and they need sex. How he needs sex, and a relationship, so he can write his music. He talked about how composing is sexual, and how he will write about sex as inspiration in his music. He talked about how performing music is very sexual. He wrote songs about women that he had relationships with this way. What he does to women, is what inspires his music.”

Lawhead alleges that Soule indirectly threatened her job, and his relationship with the company’s CEO and others in the industry made her worried about jeopardising her position, so she tried to maintain the friendship while declining his advances.

“He made advances on me and I explained that I didn’t want this and wanted a friendship,” she says. “He was very threatening, and didn’t listen. He made it clear that it’s ‘him or bust.’ He raped me.”

Lawhead’s blog post also details her time working on an ARG and other projects, including emails between her and the companies she was working with at the time. They show her fighting to get paid for her work at a job where she felt exploited and pressured into staying. Eventually she was let go.

Since the blog post was published, other members of the industry have come forward and spoken publicly about alleged abusers. Goddess Mode writer Zoë Quinn tweeted out a post that accused Night in the Woods developer Alec Holowka of abuse, explaining that reading Lawhead’s post inspired her to share something she’s been silent about for almost her whole career.

Quinn accuses Holowka of abusing her and says he was “regularly mean and violent”. She had been staying with him after he invited her to come to Winnipeg and start an indie house with friends, but she says he convinced her to talk those friends out of sharing a place, leaving her isolated. 

“I was scared to leave,” she says. “I was scared to tell anyone. He’d act normal when other people were around and lay into me as soon as we were alone, then apologise and say how much he needed and loves me.” Her post alleges further instances of emotional and physical abuse, and she says she often had to hide from Holowka in the bathroom.

Eventually, another friend had to help her leave. Quinn alleges that not long after, Holowka banned her from an indie games community that he ran, before then banning himself. That was nearly a decade ago, but Quinn says she was too afraid to speak out and had to skip the last couple of GDCs because she “could risk being around him or seeing everyone clap for him on stage.”

Holowka has left social media since Quinn published her post, but Scott Benson, who worked with Holowka on Nights in the Wood, made a statement on Twitter on behalf of the studio, saying they will no longer work with him going forward.

Night in the Woods’ publisher, Finji, also made a statement, saying it was cancelling the signing event at PAX West and that it was still “processing” the accusations. I’ve also reached out to Quinn, Holowka, Lawhead and Soule, and will update the story with any responses.

The momentum generated by Lawhead’s post has inspired others, beyond Quinn, to come forward about their experiences with various industry figures this week. Some of the allegations don’t name names, while others call out specific individuals. The allegations share a lot of similarities, with stories of men taking advantage of vulnerable women who believed they were being helped by friends.

As far as we know, no criminal charges have been brought against any of the men accused in this week’s posts. For her part, Quinn says she favours rehabilitation over punishment and doesn’t “wish ill will on anyone.” 

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