Chris Avellone accepts 'seven-figure payment' to settle libel suit with those who accused him of sexual misconduct

Chris Avellone
(Image credit: Luna Cruz (via Wikipedia))

In June 2020 games writer Chris Avellone, best known for his work on Planescape Torment and the Fallout series, was accused of sexual misconduct on Twitter by two women. At the time Avellone was silent beyond a few brief replies on Twitter (now deleted), but the accusations led to several studios publicly cutting ties with the writer. Around a year after the claims were first made, Avellone publicly denied them and launched a libel suit in California (later re-filed in Illinois), seeking damages for lost work, emotional distress, punitive damages, the costs of the suit, and an injunction against the accusers.

This suit has now been settled, and in a manner favourable to Avellone. His accusers, Karissa Barrows and Kelly Rae Bristol, have signed a joint statement retracting their claims. Ms. Barrows has requested her previous comments to the media be retracted. 

The full settlement details are confidential, but it "provides for a seven-figure payment" to Avallone and there are public statements from both sides:

"Mr. Avellone never sexually abused either of us. We have no knowledge that he has ever sexually abused any women. We have no knowledge that Mr. Avellone has ever misused corporate funds. Anything we have previously said or written about Mr. Avellone to the contrary was not our intent.

"We wanted to support women in the industry. In so doing, our words have been misinterpreted to suggest specific allegations of misconduct that were neither expressed nor intended. We are passionate about the safety, security and agency of women, minorities, LGBTQIA+ persons, and every other community that has seen persecution in the video game industry. We believe Mr. Avellone shares a desire to protect and uplift those communities. We believe that he deserves a full return to the industry and support him in those endeavors."

The above is from Karissa Barrows and Kelly Rae Bristol. 

"I appreciate the willingness of Ms. Barrows and Ms. Bristol to work with us in addressing issues within the game community, and their advocacy is to be commended and supported," says Avellone's statement. "There are still many very real challenges that we face but am confident we can face them together.

"In the spirit of these goals, I would ask everyone to respect the privacy of Ms. Barrows and Ms. Bristol and use this opportunity as a means to listen to all voices in improving our culture and our communities."

This is quite the turnaround and vindication for Avellone, who became a pariah in the immediate aftermath of the accusations. He was fired from Dying Light 2, people demanded that companies with any association with Avellone publicly denounce him, and follow-up reporting added fuel to the raging fire, with further accusations being made and Avellone described as "fucking disgusting" by one of his accusers.

"I wanted to thank everyone on both sides who chose not to rush to judgment but instead were willing to listen and let the legal process take its course, let the facts come out on both sides, and come to a resolution," wrote Avellone on Twitter after posting the settlement statement.

Not long before these accusations surfaced in 2020, Avellone was contributing to multiple games, and most of the studios behind those projects publicly distanced themselves from him. Avellone contributed writing to Into the Breach, worked as a consultant on Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, as well as narrative design to Pathfinder: Kingmaker. Whether he will manage that "full return to the industry" remains to be seen.

March 28, 2023: This story was updated to remove an editorialization.

Rich Stanton

Rich is a games journalist with 15 years' experience, beginning his career on Edge magazine before working for a wide range of outlets, including Ars Technica, Eurogamer, GamesRadar+, Gamespot, the Guardian, IGN, the New Statesman, Polygon, and Vice. He was the editor of Kotaku UK, the UK arm of Kotaku, for three years before joining PC Gamer. He is the author of a Brief History of Video Games, a full history of the medium, which the Midwest Book Review described as "[a] must-read for serious minded game historians and curious video game connoisseurs alike."