Early Tuesday morning, gaming developer, writer, programmer, and artist Zoë Quinn shared a lengthy series of allegations against famed Night in the Woods developer, Alec Holowka. Preceding the allegations, Quinn says they have been silent about them for “almost [their] entire career” because they feared speaking out against an industry giant. Night In the Woods is a BAFTA Award-winning narrative game that raised over $200 thousand on Kickstarter in 2013 and has since been made available across multiple platforms and systems.
Quinn’s allegations detail sexual and verbal abuse. You can read the entire account in their tweets below, though discretion is advised. This piece also discusses Quinn’s allegations, so read with caution.
— zoë “leonardo doujinshi” quinn (@UnburntWitch) August 27, 2019
In what amounts to six screenshots of iOS Notes spread across two tweets, Quinn states they were “vulnerable” following a previous sexual assault in Toronto, which happened before they got involved with Holowka. Quinn writes that, in this period of severe suicidal depression, insomnia, and fear, they felt the fellow developer “had [their] back” in the game industry. Flirting was exchanged and Quinn agreed to visit Holowka in Winnipeg, on the condition that Quinn pay for the flight there and Holowka pay for the flight back after a two-week visit.
During that visit, Quinn claims Holowka became verbally and sexually abusive, and repeatedly put off ordering their return ticket to Toronto: “he screamed at me for over an hour once because of the tone in my voice when I said hello… About the sexual assault, he blamed me. He claimed he was jealous of me, to be wanted like that. He’d bring it up during sex, where he’d regularly be mean and violent… His moods would shift and he would throw things and hurt himself seemingly at random and blame me. He would jam his fingers inside me and walk me around the house by them when I told him it hurt.”
”A lot of that month hiding from him in the bathroom,” Quinn writes. They say they were only able to return to Toronto with the help of their roommate, who grew concerned after a period and asked if Quinn needed help getting out. After their return to Toronto, they say they wrote a “cordial and friendly breakup email” to Holowka.
In response, Quinn alleges that Holowka banned Quinn from “an indie games community he ran,” prior to banning himself, before going to “other industry legends asking them to help him kill himself because [Quinn] was a bitch.” Quinn also claims Holowka blacklisted them from important industry events and essentially destroyed their career, which worked “to a degree.”
As the thread continues, Quinn talks about how, for the better part of a decade, they have feared the Night in the Woods developer. They reference the past scandal “GamerGate” in which their ex-boyfriend alleged they had given sexual favors to achieve success, putting Quinn in a vulnerable position where they were repeatedly doxxed and threatened. Part of Quinn’s fear of speaking out, they say, comes from having already spoken openly about these experiences.
“I’ve gone through so much publicly, like people will just roll their eyes and ignore me as if there’s some karmic limit on how much bad shit can happen to someone before people stop listening,” they write. “I’m afraid that people will care more about their love of Night in the Woods than they will about the safety and truths of women and non-binary people in games.”
Coming to a close on the original statements, Quinn goes on to talk about how they have avoided events out of fear of seeing Holowka, especially when he is celebrated and applauded by others in the industry who are aware of his alleged abuses. Quinn says there are complacent figures who said, “Oh well that’s Alec what can you do,” during one of his early outbursts regarding Quinn.
The majority of the comments below the initial tweets are filled with sympathy, topped with gratitude from Quinn as well as claims that others have begun reaching out with their own stories of Holowka’s abuse. Quinn says they chose to come forward about these allegations after reading those of fellow indie game developer Nathalie Lawhead accusing Jeremy Soule (The Elder Scrolls, Guild Wars, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic) of sexual assault.
At the time of writing, Alec Holowka’s twitter account is private. The Beat is unable to verify whether he has made a statement regarding Quinn’s accusations.