Games designer and writer Chris Avellone has issued a libel lawsuit against two women for accusations of sexual assault, and 100 others for spreading those claims.
In 2020 cosplayers Karissa Barrows and Kelly Bristol (a game developer) accused Avellone of sexual assault. Barrows had accused Avellone of getting her “blackout drunk” [1, 2] at Dragon Con 2012, was taken 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.
She also accused him of approaching women “whom looked FAR younger than me in my late 20s (at the time, and I have always looked young for my age),” being emotionally abusive and manipulating his girlfriend (Barrows’ friend), and being predatory towards women since at least 2013.
Barrows had also accused Avellone of having an explosive argument with this girlfriend while heavily drunk “as always,” and 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; when 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 “Chris Avellone briefly worked with the [Vampire: The Masquerade -] Bloodlines 2 writing team early in the development of the game. Through an iterative creative process, however, none of his contributions remain in the game.”
Despite giving public apologies at the time, Avellone has now issued a public statement denying the allegations [1, 2, 3]. He accuses Barrows and Bristol’s “attack” as retaliation for a bad break up with their friend “Jackie” almost seven years ago, and that they had “even said as much.” He states he first met Barrows and Bristol nine years ago.
Avellone claims Barrows had encouraged him to hit on Jackie during Dragon Con 2013, which led to them “seeing each other” for a year (but not dating). Avellone broke the relationship off “in no small part to Karissa continually, angrily inserting herself into our relationship — which Jackie encouraged.”
He accuses Karissa being “triggered” by a video interview IGN conducted with Avellone. Barrows had replied directly to IGN’s tweet promoting the interview.
“ZERO interest in anything from a man who spent so much time preying on young women (no age check), getting them drunk & taking them to hotel rooms, showing up to panels late & wasted if at all, & treating fans/fellow industry SO badly, he was blacklisted from at least 1 big con[vention].”
“It was not the content Karissa seemed angered by,” Avellone claims, “it was my presence. Whether it was that I still had a job in the industry or believed I did not deserve the ‘attention,’ I do not know. I certainly didn’t want the attention.”
Avellone claims that Bristol “supported her with brand new claims purposely worded to be hard (but not impossible) to disprove.” Avellone reveals he had gathered evidence and witness testimonies over the past year, and has now filed “a formal response last week, not to silence Karissa and Kelly, but to encourage them to speak more.”
This would be the lawsuit (documents discovered by TheGamer and others), accusing Barrows, Bristol, and 100 “Jane Does” of six counts of libel. The 100 Jane Does are likely accused of spreading the allegations by Barrows and Bristol, though some may have made their own accusations in light of the initial accusations.
Each of the libel accusations state Avellone has been exposed to “hatred, contempt, ridicule, and obloquy,” reputational harm, lost and continual loss of employment, “shame, mortification, and hurt feelings,” and were made to do all of the above and “to vex, annoy, and/or harass Avellone.”
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.
“Other women came forward, but addressing them is easier done by first challenging Karissa’s statements,” Avellone says in his statement. “This is because Karissa’s claims were, unfortunately, echoed by others as truth, which allowed these falsehoods to spread and seem to be true via repetition. Whether this was done out of malice or ignorance doesn’t matter. They are untrue.”
Avellone also states that this will put the other claims in a new light, and that other parts of the allegations made against him are easy to prove false with research; research he accuses gaming outlets did not conduct.
The lawsuit mentions a now deleted report by The Gamer, which claimed Avellone had “drugged and assault countless women.” Barrows and Bristol never accused Avellone of using drugs, and even the body of the article makes no mention of it. The writer is likely to have used the allegation of getting women drunk as synonymous with using drugs.
Bristol also claimed in a now deleted Reddit thread that she had been doxxed after her comments made on Twitter were reported by another outlet, but that they had edited the story to remove her name “thanks to a journalist friend of mine ripping the site owner a new one.”
Barrows meanwhile had stated (in a now deleted tweet) that she (in Avellone’s words) “dictated her story to the journalists who interviewed her, criticizing Kotaku for being the only outlet that gave her any pushback.” Meanwhile, very few press had reached out to Avellone.
“To be clear, the game press don’t need to check the ‘facts’ — all they need to do is report that someone said something or fall back on the word alleged, and it’s a story. And so they did, and the clicks started rolling in. As soon as the press ‘report’ something like this, however, it carries the same validation as if it was researched and fact checked, which no press publication to my knowledge did. Either they didn’t take the time, or they may not have cared because it’s not really ‘on them’ for the truth. All they have to do is report someone said something, which is technically the truth, but it’s far from the reality of what actually occurred.”
Avellone also accuses how claims made by Christy Dena that took place during 2013 would have been impossible, as “I wasn’t even on the same continent.”
In the expanded statement, Avellone delves into each of the accusations made against him. Both Avellone and Barrows corroborate that he was buying everyone drinks for everyone at a hotel bar during Dragon Con 2012 (Barrows claiming it was via Obsidian Entertainment’s company card).
Avellone states that at the end of the evening him and two writers escorted Barrows to her room. He claims that they made out “enthusiastically” in front of her door (which she reciprocated to), and never went inside due to her roommate. “After several minutes, Karissa told me it wasn’t a good idea (to keep making out in a hotel hallway, which made sense to me), so I stopped and we parted ways.”
Avellone met up with the same group over the next few evenings (though there was no more making out), and shared an alleged image of a now deleted tweet by Barrows; both hugging each other with Barrows stating “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.
Both Avellone and Barrows state he escorted her to the train station at the end of the convention. Barrows claims that despite being “drunk off her ass,” Avellone accepted her refusal (at 4:30 a.m.). Avellone claims their last kiss was at 5 a.m. at this time.
Avellone claims he and Barrows continued to meet at conventions over a year and a half, and (as aforementioned) she encouraged him to hit on her friend Jackie. “Enthusiastic correspondence” between Avellone and Barrows featured plans to meet each other at conventions, and “helped her out with interviews for her friends and networking favors for her.”
Avellone theorizes the relationship breakdown with Jackie occurred because neither could commit more time to it (due to living far apart and Avellone’s work hours). He also believes Jackie gave a different interpretation of their interactions to her friends- Barrows and Bristol. This is allegedly where their accusation of being Jackie’s boyfriend came from.
Barrows allegedly became increasingly hostile after relationship issues began to develop between Avellone and Jackie. By September 2014, Avellone had elected to no longer speak to her, as she had become hostile even in texts. Barrows’ “insertion” into their relationship also lead to arguments between Jackie and him.
The pair split up not long after, despite the fact Jackie “indicated she still wanted to continue to see” Avellone. Despite still talking to Jackie, Avellone never spoke to Barrows again after this point.
June 2020 is when the first of Barrows’ accusations came. Avellone denies he got her drunk to sleep with, used the “company dime” to buy drinks for everyone, and more. The motivation for Avellone to counter these claims now was being made aware that Barrows was deleting over 60,000 of her past tweets.
This allegedly occurred a short time after some of these posts “contained conflicts with her original accusations.” Many of these have allegedly been “recovered and stored.” This lead to Avellone being concerned she may do more, and led to him discovering a pattern from the tweets that had been saved.
One of these deleted tweets by Barrows in 2014 (archived here [1, 2]), prior to Avellone’s relationship with Jackie, states her 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.”
Barrows stated in her accusations that she had realized what had happened to her the next morning after being informed by someone else. While “still in denial” about what happened, her “breaking point” came after the alleged argument in the restaurant between Avellone with Jackie.
This lead to her informing two individuals from Dragon Con about what had happened and getting him blacklisted. In her initial accusations against Avellone- in the comment to the IGN interview- she notes Avellone had been “blacklisted from at least 1 big con.” This means, if true, the restaurant argument and blacklisting cannot have happened any later than 2014.
Avellone states how it is tweets such as these that undermine her claims and were deleted, along with those showing friendly correspondence between them. “Setting a friend up with someone you believe to be a sexual predator is an unusual way to treat a friend,” Avellone highlights. “It is not something I would do to any friend of mine.”
He claims that Barrows was motivated by his relationship with Jackie, and even after they broke up she would continue to “attack” him. The IGN interview, showing Avellone’s influence and success in the industry, gave her a new avenue to attack, leveraging the “social climate” to make it impossible to defend Avellone from such damning and numerous accusations.
Bristol’s accusations are also addressed. Avellone claims he does not remember meeting her. He also finds it strange how she did not inform Barrows at the time- who both by their own admission would have had a negative view of Avellone at the time. He claims Bristol had joined in with Barrows accusations to aid her friend.
“Karissa and Kelly’s accusation of predation is untrue, as were a number of the other falsehoods Karissa accused me of — and make no mistake, Karissa accused me of everything she could, for which I have no explanation beyond she hoped at least one of her false accusations would trigger someone to believe her — and if even if they did not believe her explicitly, perhaps she hoped to trigger someone who believed strongly in taking a stand against the broader subject of what she was claiming, regardless of what had occurred.
I have never violated consent with anyone, ever. Even Karissa’s story of the two of us making out outside her hotel room was consensual. It didn’t matter, though, the result of her accusations were the same.”
Avellone also denies having worked with either Barrows or Bristol, and that he had bragged about where he worked for his own gain (or at all). His attempts to reach out to Barrows was shot down, being told, “in essence,” he did not deserve an answer, an that Barrows owed him nothing.
In addition, Avellone notes he was cut off from every studio he was working with at the time, despite them conducting no investigation to his knowledge. The timing of the accusations also meant the companies would have had to address them on a Saturday.
Avellone notes that he did not fight these allegations at first because he did not wish to harm friends working at the studios; in case they were also “cancelled” due to hesitating to act against him.
“Cancel culture being what it is, the companies can’t fight it either, or else they are attacked, too. Companies can’t even ask for time to “look into it” without coming across as not believing the accusations, as unfounded as they are, because even the hint of a delay or wanting to find out more will be judged and will get them canceled, too. And no one wants to get canceled, even if it means turning your back on someone else getting canceled, even someone you’d worked with in the trenches for years.”
As such, Avellone holds no ill will to Techland or Gato Studios; despite how painful their statements were to read. While he had considered “more drastic step,” support from his family and loved ones provided stability.
Avellone also notes that his friends and colleagues had advised to never apologize, and allow the law to prove his innocence or guilt. Both of which Avellone felt were contrary to his nature. Having seen how his apology to Jackie for their break up was warped into an admission of guilt and apology to Barrows, he understands the former.
“I spent the last year trying to persuade myself that these acts were done out of a misguided sense of self-righteousness,” Avellone concludes. “I have tried to correct the record, dispel misconceptions, allow voices to be heard, but it is clear I was wrong; the attacks against me were made from malice. I’m ready to defend myself, and setting the record straight is the first step.”
Avellone promises “more, much more to come.” We will keep you posted as we learn more.