A Week of Confronting Nerd Culture's Horrible History of Sexual Abuse

A Week of Confronting Nerd Culture's Horrible History of Sexual Abuse

Last week was busy.

pocru by pocru on Jun 28, 2020 @ 01:43 AM (Staff Bios)
If you’re on this site, there’s a good chance you’re someone who pays attention to gaming news.

And in that case, it would be impossible for you not to notice that the games industry – hell, games culture – is currently going through something like a reckoning. In the past week, over ten high-profile, powerful men in the nerd sphere have been accused by multiple women (not the same women each time, of course) of sexual harassment, misconduct, infidelity, or even outright rape.


Here’s a TL;DR of just some of the crap that came to light this past week:
  • Game writer and wordsmith behind Fallout: New Vegas, Pillars of Eternity, and countless other RPG’s Chris Avellone has been accused by multiple women of being a sexual predator, having been accused of everything to sending explicit texts to pouncing on women he’d gotten drunk.
  • Wizards of the Coast artist Noah Bradley, who’s worked on over 100 Magic: The Gathering cards, and who reportedly pressured women into having sex with him at industry events, manipulating them with his “in” in a very competitive industry.
  • Assassin’s Creed Valhalla’s Creative Director, Ashraf Ismail, was caught sleeping with fans and employees for over a year after lying about his marital status.
  • One of the co-founders of Cards Against Humanity, Max Temkin, had several employees accuse him of making sexist comments, creating a toxic work culture, and generally being a massive dick.
  • In the comic book industry, writer Warren Ellis has been accused of using his position in the industry to manipulate women into having a sexual relationship with him, positing as a mentor figure and an “in” that would morph into something predatory. Over 60 women have accused him of this.
  • Also in the comic book industry we have Charles Brownstein, former Executive Director of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, who apparently perpetrated sexual assault back in 2005.
  • CEO of Online Performers Group Omeed Dariani, who was responsible for handling business deals for top streamers and generally being a “networking guy”, was accused by Overwatch community development lead and former streamer Molly Ayala of being a sexual predator when he suggested she sleep around to get ahead in the industry, starting with him.
  • Two influential streamers, Tom “Syndicate” Cassell and Lono “SayNoToRage” – the former of which is also the guy behind the infamous CSGO Lotto incident – have been accused as well. Tom was accused of being sexually abusive in his many affairs, going so far as to rape ex-girlfriends, whereas Lono, a married Destiny 2 streamer, was accused by six different people of sexual misconduct.
That’s… a big list, incomplete as it is. Even one of those would be headline material on a normal week, but for some reason the month of June, from the 21st to the 27th, was when all of this information just… surged forward. It reminded me a bit of the #MeToo movement, where one brave woman publicly confronting her abuser inspired countless other women to come forward with their own accusations and stories, which went on to inspire a movement that took popular culture by storm. For a while. Until it was more-or-less forgotten by the mainstream news cycle, not unlike, say, COVID-19, which is still around, and the protests to defund the police, which are still happening. And global warming, in case you forgot we’ve still got the end of the world to look forward to.

There’s more good news to come from it too: unlike in the past, where accusations were occasionally disregarded or even outright ignored, it seems (most) of these men have owned up to their mistakes and are accepting the consequences of their gross actions:
  • Chris Avellone has broadly apologized to a number of the accused women and said he was “listening and being aware”. However, that didn’t stop his contributions from being stripped from Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines 2 and Dying Light 2, as well as his writing for the upcoming RPG The Waylanders being put to review, and likely removed.
  • Noah Bradly posted “a long overdue acknowledgment & apology” on Twitter, where he admitted he was “terrible to women”, “preyed on them” and called himself “one of those shitty, creepy sexual predators you hear about”. He has also been fired from Wizards of the Coast, and his work will be replaced – although it will take time to do so.
  • Ashraf Ismail is stepping down from his role on Assassin’s Creed Valhala and issued a broad sort-of apology (“the lives of my family and my own are shattered”). Ubisoft has generally refused to comment and hasn’t taken any action against him.
  • Max Temkin has left Cards Against Humanity, which will now hire an outside organization that will lead workplace training for the remaining employees. Apparently, however, employees who claimed he fired them vengefully won’t be getting compensation.
  • Warren Ellis acknowledged how he was unaware he had power over women and apologized for his mistakes. At time of writing, neither of his biggest employers, DC or Netflix, have commented on the issue, but DC has quietly pulled one of his stories from their shelves.
  • Charles Brownstein has stepped down from his role, and while he hasn’t apologized directly at time of writing, the CBLDF has commented on his resignation and their commitment to being better in the future.
  • Omeed Dariani has resigned and apologized, saying he believes the accused, although he initially denied any wrongdoing. A number of OPG’s clients and employees have also left the company in protest to the man’s actions, including their chief technology officer.
  • Cassell, being a full-time piece of crap, denied everything.
  • Lono put out two apology videos – in the first one, he called himself a victim, and in the second, he apologized for the first, but also said he didn’t remember everything that he was being accused of.
  • Twitch finally got its crap together and started handing out permanent bans to its most problematic users, including IamSpoon, Warwitch TV, and most surprisingly, Dr. Disrespect. We have yet to see if these permanent bans stick though.
Is it perfect? No. Apologizes and resignations are all well and good, but some of these gentlemen didn’t just breach good taste, but also the law, and could probably stand to go to trial for what they’ve done. Some, like Warren Ellis, haven’t quite given up their positions of privilege within the industry, and will likely just try to ride out the storm of their own design. And others, like lifelong douche drain Cassell, will continue to be a dick and cultivate an even bigger following for it. This is known as the Trump defense and it works maddeningly well.

But the vast, vast majority of these men, however flawed and evil they might be, did ultimately swallow their pride and accept accountability for their actions. Some did it better than others, as we previously mentioned, but most all of them did it in some form or another. I don’t want to celebrate that – it’s really the lowest bar, and it would have been great if they weren’t sexually harassing people in the first place – but I do want to point out how it represents a sort of tidal shift in the politics of the gaming world, at least.


I mean dang – take a look at the real world, and when you’re done flinching and crying, you’d see just about everything is damn political these days. Face masks? Political. Wanting to keep the earth habitable? Political. Race? Political. Police killing unarmed black men? Political. More and more lines are being drawn in the sand, and the reason those lines exist is because there are people out there who definitively believe some of the most awful things a person could believe. There would be no “debate” about police brutality if there weren’t a depressingly sizable portion of the population who believes that the problem is either exaggerated, or simply not a problem at all. And people take refuge in that mob of like-minded thinkers, and use them as a sort of human shield to protect them from the court of popular opinion.

Apparently, that human shield doesn’t exist in the geek industry. There’s no “politics” debate on if we should believe these women or if their accusations are dependable or even meaningful. No one’s saying “so what if he grabbed her leg without her consent – he makes me laugh!” – everyone worth considering has taken these women’s side, and the accused know they have to either own up to their mistakes and apologize for them, or they have to face down the righteous anger of the entire culture by themselves. And so far, only Cassell, a paper Mache dildo made from Mien Kampf, has decided it’s worth it’s worth fighting that. And hopefully it’s an enormous mistake for him.

Other than that, I’m not sure I have much else to say on the subject. It sucked that it happened, but it’s good that everything came to light – and hopefully, it inspires other women to come forth with their own stories so we can uncover all the nasty little skeletons from geek culture’s collective closet.

Because not to be a negative Nancy or anything, but I really doubt this is it.


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