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Night in the Woods devs cut ties with collaborator accused of assault

<em>Night in the Woods</em> gets extremely real despite its cartoonish look.
Enlarge / Night in the Woods gets extremely real despite its cartoonish look.

A physical release for indie darling Night in the Woods has been put on hold as two of the game’s creators are cutting ties with a third following allegations of abuse and sexual assault.

“This week, allegations of past abuse have come to light regarding Alec Holowka, who was coder, composer, and co-designer on Night In The Woods,” developer Scott Benson wrote in a thread on the game’s Twitter account. “We take such allegations seriously as a team. As a result and after some agonizing consideration, we are cutting ties with Alec.”

Earlier in the week, indie developer Zoe Quinn publicly accused Holowka of a pattern of assault, isolation, and abuse while the two were living together in Winnipeg. Holowka has not publicly responded to the allegations.

In their statement, Benson and co-creator Bethany Hockenberry said a planned physical release of Night in the Woods through Limited Run games has now been postponed, though an iOS port “handled by an outside company” is still moving forward. An unnamed “current project” the trio was working on has now been canceled. Benson and Hockenberry continue to collaborate on The Glory Society, a video game “cooperative” they started in March.

A growing movement?

The allegations against Holowka are part of a wave of similar reports of abuse being aired by many across the game industry this week. The catalyst for the movement was a blog post by indie developer Nathalie Lawhead accusing Skyrim composer Jeremy Soule of sexual misconduct and rape. Vocalist Aeralie Brighton later posted on Facebook to say that she too had “personally fallen prey to… Soule” in 2014.

“These 11-year-old allegations are false,” Soule told Kotaku earlier in the week. “I am shocked and saddened that these outrageous claims have been made.”

In the wake of the allegations, music label Materia Collective said it has “terminated our working relationship with Jeremy Soule” and is “no longer involved in any aspect” of a planned album with him.

Autumn Rose Taylor, now head of marketing at Vacation Simulator creator Owlchemy Labs, also aired misconduct allegations this week against Oculus co-founder and former Chief Software Architect Michael Antonov. In a series of Twitter threads, Taylor accused Antonov of inappropriate touching while she was “essentially blindfolded” by a virtual reality demo.

Antonov, who left Facebook earlier this year, has not responded to those allegations. Current Facebook VP of AR/VR Andrew Bosworth said on Twitter that “these stories are sickening. I’m sorry it happened then and that you have to face the trauma again now… I do not accept this behavior. I’ve asked to understand how the situations were handled that have been brought up.”

While Bosworth said he couldn’t share confidential details of the company’s investigation, “harassment isn’t tolerated or ignored. We investigate every claim, every time… I care deeply about building a safe and inclusive team, and your voices matter. You can hold me accountable if that’s not what you experience with Oculus or AR/VR at Facebook today.”

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