Game writer Chris Avellone files libel lawsuit over sexual misconduct allegations

A lawsuit and two Medium posts published by Avellone over the last few days mark his first significant comments on the sexual misconduct accusations made against him in June 2020.

Chris Avellone, a prolific game writer known for work on games like Fallout: New Vegas and Tyranny, has accused multiple people, including 100 unknown parties, of libel over allegations of sexual harassment made against Avellone last year.

That libel lawsuit and two Medium posts published by Avellone over the last few days mark his first significant comments on the multiple accusations of sexual misconduct made against him in June 2020.

Within those posts, found here and here, he argues that the libel lawsuit against Karissa Barrows, Kelly Bristol, and 100 unknown parties aims to elevate their voices rather than silence them, and maintains his earlier comments that the duo's remarks are retaliation for a "bad break up" with Barrows' and Bristol's friend seven years prior.

"Often, the legal system is used to silence others. I do not believe any good ever comes of this," writes Avellone, both in his Ending Silence blog and in a Twitter thread. "I do not want to silence anyone — I want the opposite. I want Karissa’s and Kelly’s story to be not only heard, but elevated, and I want them to speak more about what happened."

The language in the lawsuit takes a noticeably more abrasive approach, with each of the six libel complaints ending in a variation of a request for "an award of punitive damages in an amount appropriate to punish or set an example of [Barrows/Bristol] in an amount to be determined at trial."

In the complaint, found here, attornies representing Avellone outline the events they believe constitute libel. That includes six charges in total, four against Barrows and two against Bristol. All six apply to those 100 unknown parties, represented within the document as "Does 1-100", which is meant to represent individuals whose "true names are unknown to Avellone. Avellone will seek to leave to amend this complaint to allege the true names and capacities of these Defendants when they have been ascertained."

As with Avellone's Medium posts, the lawsuit walks through his 2012 interactions with Barrows from his perspective, and makes a point to argue throughout that what Barrows described as coercion and sexual assault was a consensual encounter that ended when Barrows objected and led to a "friendly relationship" in the years that followed.

Barrows original allegations against Avellone can be found here for context. Her account describes an encounter where Avellone "got me blackout drunk on Midori Sours," accompanied her back to her room along with two other men, "where he pounced in front of the other guys." She also adds that she witnessed a similar pattern to Avellone's interactions with other women throughout the time they knew one another.

Each of the individual libel counts levied against Barrows centers around how she shared her recollection of events on social media in 2020. All emphasize sections of her social media posts where she described Avellone as a predator or described actions as predatory behavior including the following Tweets (with emphasis added by Avellone's legal team).

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].

While we’re at it, here’s another man to add to the gaming industry predator garbage pile. Yesterday was the fist time I said something publicly about this, and I’m done being silent, despite that fuckstick in the reply telling me to shut up. I WILL NOT. Thread:

I didn’t bother blowing this up until today due to work being insane all week, but I’ve got time now. Chris Avellone is an abusive, abrasive, conniving sexual predator. People tried to get him help. He refused it and continued. Stop glorifying him.

For each, the lawsuit argues that the statements made by Barrows are false and "libelous on their face", that each implies Avellone purposely gets young women intoxicated with the intent of engaging in non-consensual sexual contact, and that Barrows "failed to use reasonable care to determine the truth or falsity" of her tweeted recollections. Each also includes the note that Barrows' accusations expose him to "hatred, contempt, ridicule" and professional harm, and that the statements were made "with the intent to vex, annoy, and/or harass Avellone."

Much of the same language is used to rebuke Bristol's claims against Avellone. Her own accusations say that Avellone groped her and made unwanted advances at her a 2014 event, and that "He [Avellone] knew exactly what he was doing. You didn’t see it because he was just that practiced at it." Most of the lawsuit (and Avellone's Medium posts) focus on comments from Barrows. In that post, Avellone notes this is because he doesn't remember ever having met or spoken with Bristol.

As noted above, the lawsuit seeks damages from those named as defendants, including damages for emotional distress and to cover the cost of the lawsuit.

However, as game industry-watching lawyers have suggested on Twitter, Avellone's lawsuit could easily fall under the SLAPP, or Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation, umbrella. That term largely refers to lawsuits filed with the intent of using legal pressure and costs to silence individuals that speak out on certain controversial topics (like sexual misconduct allegations in this case).

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