A woman who accused video game designer Chris Avellone of sexual assault opens up about her allegations and says it's time to oust abusers from the industry
- Chris Avellone, a high-profile video game designer known for his work on "Planescape: Torment" and two "Fallout" games, has been accused of sexual assault.
- One of Avellone's accusers, Karissa, told Business Insider that Avellone forcibly kissed her and then tried to put his hand down her pants while she was "blackout drunk" at a 2012 convention. She says he stopped when she told him "this isn't a good idea."
- Avellone responded to the allegations on Twitter soon after they came to light, saying that he wanted to apologize.
- Avellone has since been silent on social media and did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
- Since allegations involving Avellone surfaced, dozens of other women have accused senior men in the video games industry of sexual
harassment, assault, or inappropriate behavior.
A woman who accused high-profile video game designer Chris Avellone of sexual assault and helped spark an outpouring of similar claims against senior men in the industry has encouraged other victims of sexual misconduct to come forward.
Karissa, who spoke to Business Insider on the condition that her last name was not revealed, made the allegations against Avellone on social media on June 20. Since then, dozens of other women have accused senior men in the industry of sexual harassment and sexual assault.
Avellone co-founded Obsidian Entertainment in 2003, and left the studio in 2015. Microsoft acquired the company in 2018.
He is best-known for his work on gaming classics like "Planescape: Torment", the "Icewind Dale" series, and two "Fallout" games.
Karissa initially said in public Twitter posts and in subsequent direct messages with Business Insider that Avellone kept buying her drinks at a convention she was attending in 2012 — eventually, she got "blackout drunk".
Avellone then forcibly kissed her, and tried to put his hand down her pants, she said.
A friend of Karissa's, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, confirmed to Business Insider that Karissa had told them about the alleged assault in 2014. A different friend confirmed to Bloomberg that Karissa had told them about the alleged incident a month after it happened.
Avellone responded to Karissa's accusations on Twitter in a flurry of tweets on June 20. He said he wanted to apologize but did not comment on specific details of the allegations.
He has not tweeted since.
He did not respond to multiple emails and direct messages from Business Insider.
'I didn't process what had actually happened until years later'
Karissa alleges that Avellone had assaulted her on the first night they met at a convention in 2012. She was attending the event.
"I was hanging out with some friends who knew him, and went with them to meet up with him and a couple others. I honestly didn't even know who he was, but I trusted my friends I was with," she said.
Avellone was buying everybody drinks, she said, and every time she finished hers, he took her to the bar for a refill.
"I drink very quickly when I'm thirsty and that place was hot and crowded. I also rarely drink, so given the speed and how many he was encouraging me to have, I didn't realize how far gone I was until I was VERY gone," she wrote in direct messages.
Along with two of Karissa's friends, Avellone took her back to her hotel room, she says, "where he pounced in front of the other guys."
She said that Avellone forcibly kissed her — "he did not ask, just grabbed my face and went for it" — outside her hotel room. She said her two companions moved to stand out of view of the couple (one later told Karissa he was embarrassed to watch, she said).
Avellone then "took me down to the floor [outside the hotel room] at some point while he was making out with me, his back was against the wall and he pulled my back up against him," she told Business Insider. "I remember he had been touching me; when he moved one of his hands from my chest down to undo my pants and slip that hand down into them, that's when I stopped him."
Karissa said she was able to stop Avellone by saying, "this isn't a good idea," and that the only reason she felt able to to do so was because she was on her period at the time. "Had I not been, I don't think I would have sobered up enough with the self-consciousness there to refuse him because of how intensely blackout drunk I was."
She said she woke up with "no recollection" of what happened — but through her own memories, talking to her two friends, and conversations with Avellone himself, she pieced together the events.
"The only reason I knew it had gotten to a point where I had to refuse him was because Chris himself told me so when I confronted him about what my friend had told me. I was shocked and offended, but didn't process what had actually happened until years later," she said.
She refused Avellone twice more during the convention, and said she was not drunk around him after the first night. She said that he did not push the issue after the two refusals — this "kept me in denial about what was actually going on," she said.
Business Insider put the details of Karissa's allegations to Avellone, but he did not respond.
A friend of Karissa's told Business Insider that they first heard of the incident in 2014, and that her recent public allegations matched up with the earlier account.
Karissa said that, at the same convention, she saw Avellone buying drinks for many other women, too.
"I personally saw him escorting three different cosplayers, all of whom were extremely petite, away from the bar area towards exits," after which she didn't see him again for quite some time. "He always eventually returned to the bar and started drinking with more women."
Another woman who knew Avellone shared screenshots from an online conversation
Two other women in the industry told Business Insider that they had been warned that Avellone was somebody women should stay away from.
One said Avellone was "someone women got warned about at conventions."
And on June 21, Jacqui Collins, the public relations lead for the video game "Valorant," posted a screenshot on Twitter from what she says is an online conversation she had with Avellone in 2014. Collins said she regularly spoke to Avellone about pursuing a career in video games.
In response to a non-sexual question, Avellone described how he wanted to perform oral sex on Collins.
"You may have to listen very hard while your hands dig into the sides of my head and force me deep into your pussy," he wrote. "Or we could just talk, too," he added, with a winking emoji.
In the same thread of messages, Avellone later apologized and said he owed Collins "a hundred million apologies."
In her public June 21 tweet, Collins said that she forgave Avellone at the time.
"I never forgot about it, though. I always kind of regretted forgiving it. I remained friendly with Chris after, I'm sorry if that in any way enabled him to harm others. I was in a relationship at the time. Chris knew," she wrote.
A former colleague of Avellone, who worked with him for several years, described him as a "ladies' man" who sometimes stepped over the line. The colleague remembered his female friends describing Avellone as creepy on multiple occasions.
On June 20, Avellone tweeted that he wanted to apologize to Karissa.
"I'm trying to apologize, but you blocked me, so I'm doing my best," he said in one reply to Karissa.
Avellone also appeared to suggest he deserved public criticism, telling a supportive fan they were "showing way too much care for someone you should be canceling, which gives me hope for human nature. That said, Please cancel me at once."
Gaming firms cut ties with Avellone after the allegations came to light
Some of the studios Avellone has worked with cut ties with him after the accusations came to light.
Avellone's recent credits include 2019's "Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order," and 2017's "Divinity: Original Sin II."
Industry giant Electronic Arts, which published "Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order", told Business Insider it had "no plans" to work with Avellone again.
"We take all allegations of harassment and abuse very seriously and the recent reports that have surfaced are very concerning. EA has no plans to work with Chris Avellone moving forward," the statement said.
Techland, a Polish game developer that's working on the upcoming game "Dying Light 2," also ended its relationship with Avellone.
"We treat matters of sexual harassment and disrespect with utmost care, and have no tolerance for such behaviours," it said in a statement published on Twitter on June 22. "This is why, together with Chris Avellone, we've decided to end our cooperation."
Karissa told Business Insider in Twitter messages that she was "horrified and sickened" by the sheer number of women coming forward.
But she was also "inspired" by their courage, and said she hoped others would come forward to help "oust" harassers and abusers.
"I hope this gives more victims the courage to come forward, as it has with those who have already shared their experiences," she said, adding: "Think of how many other predators/harassers/abusers in the industry are still flying under the radar! Every single woman I know has been at *least* sexually harassed, if they've been lucky enough to avoid assault and/or abuse. Every. Single. One."
She added that victims should feel encouraged to speak out publicly. "I would encourage those in the industry to confront anyone they hear about and hold them accountable."
She continued: "It is FAR past time to oust the gatekeepers, the harassers, the abusers, the predators, especially if they're in positions of power. They have NO place in this industry or any other. The only place they belong, as far as I'm concerned, is therapy or jail until they've made a true change in themselves.
"Get them ALL OUT."
Additional reporting by Benjamin Gilbert.
If you have been sexually assaulted, harassed, or otherwise harmed during your time in the video games industry, we want to hear from you. Contact Business Insider associate editor Samuel Horti via encrypted messaging app Signal (+447801504020), encrypted email (shortiBI@protonmail.com), standard email (firstname.lastname@example.org), or Twitter DM (@SamuelHorti). We can keep sources anonymous. Use a non-work device to reach out. PR pitches by standard email only, please.
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