UPDATE: We have updated this story with additional information from the prior article.
A former associate of Chris Avellone has provided alleged evidence that Karissa Barrows made false sexual assault claims; showing her on more than good terms with Avellone after the alleged incident.
As previously reported, Barrows (along with supporting claims by Kelly Bristol) accused Avellone of getting her “blackout drunk” at Dragon Con 2012. Avellone then allegedly took her back to her room and “pounced on her” in front of other men. One of these men allegedly told Barrows what had occurred the next morning, as she had no memory of the event.
Barrows also accused Avellone of being emotionally manipulative and abusive towards his then girlfriend Jackie (a friend of Barrows), being predatory to other women, and approaching women “whom looked FAR younger than me in my late 20s (at the time, and I have always looked young for my age).”
While “still in denial” about what happened, her “breaking point” came after an alleged “explosive” argument in the restaurant with Jackie while heavily drunk “as always;” leaving her alone in a major city while she went looking for him. Bristol had accused Avellone of repeatedly groping her buttocks at a convention despite her refusal, while his girlfriend was not looking.
Two then-current employers, Techland with Dying Light 2, and Gato Studios with The Waylanders announced they were no longer working with Avellone. Paradox Interactive told GameSpot that he had briefly worked on the writing team for Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines 2 early in development, and “through an iterative creative process, however, none of his contributions remain in the game.”
Despite giving public apologies at the time, Avellone later issued a public statement denying the allegations. He believed the allegations were “triggered” after Avellone appeared in an video interview with IGN; the first published as a Twitter reply to IGN’s tweet. He further states that very few press reached out to him, nor did research that would have proven the claims as false.
Avellone claims that he and Barrows made out “enthusiastically” in front of her door (which she reciprocated to), and continued to meet at conventions for over a year and a half. During that time, Barrows encouraged him to hit on her friend Jackie, and asked Avellone for help with “interviews for her friends and networking favors for her.”
During his own investigation (and the motivation for Avellone refuting the claims), Avellone discovered Barrows had deleted tweets where she described him in a positive light, and even friendship.
These included a photo the day after the alleged incident, with Barrows hugging Avellone with the caption “One of the few gentlemen left in the world (that still drink).” There is also another photo of the two on good terms allegedly from PAX East 2013.
In deleted 2014 tweet [1, 2] (prior to Avellone’s relationship with Jackie) Barrows states surprise that she had not experienced any abuse or harassment as a female gamer and cosplayer; when such incidents seemed to be “rampant.”
“I’m always taken a little aback when my fellow fem gamers/nerds have story after story of abuse/harassment,” Barrows tweeted, “because I just DON’T have my own.” Barrows even notes “And, strangely enough, when it does, it’s USUALLY another woman.”
Avellone issued a libel lawsuit against Barrows and Bristol for accusations, and 100 “Jane Does” of six counts of libel. Avellone’s lawyers are asking for “prayers for relief” including general, special, punitive, and emotional distress damages, costs of the suit, and equitable relief in the form of a positive injunction.
Now, Red-i Creative Studio owner Jeff Johnson has release his own statement to defend Avellone; casting more doubt on Barrows’ claims. Johnson clarifies he was not even aware of the allegations against Avellone until he read a report by Forbes on his libel lawsuit.
Johnson claims that while working on Marauder Shields (a webcomic rewriting the Mass Effect series), Barrows had been brought on as a volunteer for the podcast interviews. When speaking to Barrows online on September 13th, 2012 (taking place 10 days after the end of Dragon Con 2012), Johnson and the Koobismo team discussed Barrows’ connections with industry people for interviews.
Barrows allegedly stated she knew a lot of people through conventions, and partied with them (in Johnson’s words) “at every convention.” She joined the Koobismo team on September 25th 2012. During this time, Barrows stated she could connect Koobismo team with Avellone and David Gaider, having partied with them at Dragon Con 2012.
Barrows allegedly stated that she had “made out with Chris the first night there.” In alleged screengrabs of Twitter DMs between Johnson and Barrows from October 30th, she uses Johnson’s description of Avellone as a “con-boyfriend,” and describes him in complimentary terms. She yet again describes Avellone as a “complete gentleman.”
When Johnson recommends to “keep the conversation going,” Barrows states she will also keep the “alcohol flowing.” After texting Avellone, Barrows allegedly stated she told him “You must [go to PAX East]!! Who will walk me back to my room if you don’t go?”
Johnson proposes that Barrows had no negative feelings for Avellone, and was “clearly” seeking a relationship with him. He also notes that on November 23rd, 2012, his group interviewed Avellone on Skype with Barrows and other present.
Johnson states that “During this call you can clearly hear Karissa’s affection and attraction to Chris.” At this time of writing, one of the YouTube comment states “Had someone spiked the woman’s drink in this interview or something?” though the exact context may have meant something other than affection. Johnson states he will also be releasing relevant unreleased audio soon.
This allegedly positive relationship continued to at least February 2013, when Johnson lost touch after moving to Arkansas. He notes that on top of Barrows never saying anything negative about Avellone she “would at most sound jealous that we lived in Southern California and could meet up.”
“At no time was anything negative mentioned by Ms. Barrows about Mr. Avellone. She would talk about hanging out with the BioWare people and getting drunk with them. Getting drunk and partying with people at conventions was (and may still be) common for Ms. Barrows. As you can clearly see in her own messages about Mr. Avellone, she wanted to keep “the alcohol flowing”. Nowhere in any conversation either documented or undocumented (phone calls, video chats, etc.) was anything negative ever brought up about Mr. Avellone. Every conversation was about what a “true gentleman” he is and how fond Ms. Barrows was of him.”
If all the above screenshots and audio are genuine; Barrows would need to have been “still in denial” since Dragon Con 2012, and least up to August 2016; when Johnson began his Marketing & Advertising job at Sunrise Motorsports in Arkansas. This would also include the period where she tweeted in 2014 that she had not experienced any harassment or abuse.
The restaurant argument that was her “breaking point” could then have happened after August 2016, prior to the first allegation on June 17th, 2020.
Barrows stated after this was when she informed two individuals from Dragon Con about what had happened, and got Avellone blacklisted. In her initial accusations against Avellone- in a Twitter reply to the IGN interview- she notes Avellone had been “blacklisted from at least 1 big con.”
If Barrows’ 2014 tweet about not experiencing harassment was true, then this means the argument that broke her denial must have occurred after 2014; but also that Barrows gave no indication to Johnson or his colleagues about what should have been negative feelings towards Avellone from then until he lost contact in August 2016.
However, we must emphasize that if Barrows’ allegations are true, she may have not discussed what had occurred with others even after divulging what occurred to Dragon Con staff. While the public nature of her accusations would suggest she would have not hesitated to do so earlier, it may be that she believed she would not be heard until the IGN interview presented an opportunity.
Johnson’s allegation that Barrows had strong feelings for Avellone would also reframe why she was involved with his relationship with Jackie; and Avellone’s allegations she contributed to them breaking up despite the fact Jackie “indicated she still wanted to continue to see” him. Then again, both Barrows and Avellone both state that it was Barrows who encouraged Avellone to hit on Jackie.
Nonetheless, Avellone and Johnson have both provided evidence that shows Barrows may have described Avellone in highly positive ways after the alleged incident.
“Unarguable truth has now been presented,” Johnson concludes. “As a culture we should always wait to find out the facts before casting judgment on someone. What if this was you or a loved one? This goes beyond politics, beliefs, or life choices. This is about right and wrong, truth and lies.”