A Wave of Sexual Harassment Accusations Is Sweeping the Games Industry

Allegations of sexual assault, abuse, and harassment are moving through every level of the video games industry.
24 June 2020, 8:17am
e3 esa
E3. Image: ESA

In the last few days, numerous people have come forward with accusations of sexual harassment, abuse, and assault allegations against people in the video game industry. The victims and the accused come from every corner of the industry, and the companies they work for or are associated with have issued statements or say they have opened investigations into abusive and inappropriate behavior.

Twitch, Facebook, Ubisoft, Paradox Interactive, Cards Against Humanity, Techland, Gato Studio, and Bungie have all responded to allegations of abuse, misconduct, and sexual assault related to current and former employees and contractors in the last several days.

On June 19, Twitch streamer Jewels Verne accused Destiny 2 streamer Lono “SayNoToRage” of inappropriate behavior including a lot of aggressive and unwanted physical contact. Afterwards, multiple women came forward with similar stories of harassment and abuse from Lono. On June 20, Lono published a response on YouTube where he acknowledged past bad behavior but pushed back against some of its framing, saying “I went to these events and behaved in a way that’s indefensible, but I did not—in my recollection of the events, in my memory—harass and seek out and persist in unwanted advances.”

Destiny 2 developer Bungie’s community manager Chris Shannon responded to the stories on Twitter. “Proud of the brave women in the community coming forward. This was their story to tell and [it’s] our job to listen,” Shannon said. “Bungie hasn't worked with Lono in a long time and won't ever again.”

As people continued to share their stories, other victims came forward with stories about abuse, harassment, and other bad behavior in the games industry at large.

In a statement released Sunday night, Twitch said "we take accusations of sexual harassment and misconduct extremely seriously. We are actively looking into the accounts concerning streamers affiliated with Twitch and will work with law enforcement where applicable." Twitch CEO Emmett Shear also shared an internal company email where he promised to take the stories seriously. “I want Twitch to be the safest place to create on the internet,” he said in the email.

That prompted allegations of hypocrisy on Shear’s part, with accusations of the streaming company’s leadership having avoided confronting harassers in the past.

“While I believe Emmett sincerely wants to fix Twitch’s systemic problems, Twitch has a history of responding to public pressure and then not fully following through (e.g. 2018 ToS updates),” Justin Wong, a former Twitch executive, said in a Tweet responding to Shear’s statement. “I hope this time is different, and they’re transparent about the process and results.”

VICE reached out to Twitch for a statement and it directed us to its tweet and Shear’s comments.

The sexual misconduct allegations against Twitch partners and Shear’s reported ambivalence to them are part of a wider reckoning in the games industry. Streamers, programmers, executives, fans, and journalists have come forward to share their stories of sexual assault at the hands of men in the games industry. A post on Medium is cataloging those stories.

Monday afternoon, Kathryn Johnston, a Senior Account Executive at Kairos Media accused Andrien Gbinigie of rape. Gbinigie has worked for Ubisoft for eight years and is currently the brand and marketing manager for Watch Dogs. In a since-deleted Medium post, Gbingie denied the charges and presented images of messages between himself and Johnston that he argued cast doubt on her claims. However, after Johnston’s initial allegation, Twitch ambassador Hannah Rutherford said she knows multiple women who’ve had similar experiences with Gbinigie.

Andrien Gbinigie did not immediately respond to VICE’s request for comment.

"We are deeply concerned by these accusations,” Ubisoft told VICE in an email. “We take any allegations of abuse or harassment very seriously and we are looking very closely into the allegations to determine next steps."

After IGN interviewed writer Chris Avellone and Emily Grace Buck about their upcoming game Waylanders on June 17, women came forward to accuse him of misconduct.

In the wake of the news, Techland, Gato Studio, and Paradox Interactive (who provided a statement to Gamespot) all distanced themselves from Avellone. “We treat matters of sexual harassment and disrespect with utmost care, and have no tolerance for such behaviors,” Techland—where Avellone was working on Dying Light 2said in a statement. “This is why, together with Chris Avellone, we’ve decided to end our cooperation.”

“Chris is no longer on the project, and I’ve been the leader writer all along, not him,” Grace Buck said on Twitter. "Waylanders has very little writing by him as it stands and I’ll be taking a look at his scenes. No one on the team knew anything about this. We’re handling it, and I’m open to feedback.”

Avellone did not immediately respond to VICE’s request for comment.

Cards Against Humanity co-founder Max Temkin, who was accused of sexual assault in 2014, stepped down following accusations of racism and sexism from former employee Theresa Stewart detailed in a report from Polygon. In a public statement, Cards Against Humanity acknowledged its toxic work environment and promised to improve its Human Resources department.

These stories are the latest in a fresh wave of accusations hitting the games industry. It’s been through this before, multiple times.This recent wave of stories is a reminder that the reckoning isn’t over, not for the games industry and not for society at large.

This article originally appeared on VICE US.