Alexis Kennedy, the developer behind indie games Fallen London and Cultist Simulator, has responded to recent allegations of sexual and emotional abuse leveled against him, stating that “all allegations of abuse, including any I haven’t yet seen, are false.”

The allegations against Kennedy surfaced during the recent storm of similar allegations against high-profile game developers, including Skyrim composer Jeremy Soule and the late Night in the Woods co-designer, composer, and coder Alec Holowka, being first brought to public attention by an anonymous Twitter account known only as “IndustryAbuse” who claimed that Kennedy was “recruiting, gaslighting and abusing people for your own gain after all.” (Related: Several High-Profile Game Developers Accused of Abuse and Sexual Assault)

Cultist Simulator Developer Alexis Kennedy Responds to Accusations of Sexual and Emotional Abuse - IndustryAbuse Twitter Accusation

The “IndustryAbuse” account has since been deleted.

Following this initial accusation, three women came forward to share the stories of alleged abuse suffered at the hands of Kennedy, including 80 Days writer Meg Jayanth:

Fallen London and Where the Water Tastes Like Wine writer Olivia Wood:

And Sunless Skies and Where the Water Tastes Like Wine writer Emily Short:

These accusations led Failbetter Games, the independent game studio founded by Kennedy which he left in 2016, to make a public statement in support of the accusers:

Kennedy has denied the accusation leveled by the anonymous IndustryAbuse account and told video game news outlet RockPaperShotgun that he had never “even hinted that someone would get professional benefits for personal benefits” and that he was “absolutely confident that I have never been involved with anyone whose consent was anything less than clear and enthusiastic.”

After the allegations against him surfaced, Kennedy went relatively silent across social media. On September 16th, Kennedy returned to the public eye to defend himself in a blog post titled “What Actually Happened.”

“I’ve spent the last few weeks recovering and reflecting, and now, I’m ready to talk about what I actually did and didn’t do; and then I’m going to talk about what I think happened here.

All of this was a really nasty shock, but not a complete surprise to either Lottie or me. Since 2016 we’ve heard, repeatedly, that one or more people have been determinedly spreading ugly but non-specific rumours about me, and this seems to be the culmination of that. At least now we have some daylight on it, I can respond.

The rest of this post goes into a lot of detail about my private life. I don’t like that at all, but I can’t see any other way to respond to these vague, horribly damaging allegations except being extremely damn open about it all. And I want to be able to post this and then just link to it any time in the next ten years that someone asks about it.

But that means the post is going to be really long. So here are the headlines.

– I haven’t engaged in any kind of abuse or predation, ever.

-I did have a romantic relationship with Olivia Wood while we were working together, and while I was her direct manager. This was a real mistake on my part. I owned that at the time and I own it now.

– But the circumstances were very different than Olivia has publicly suggested. We started a relationship over a year before we worked together. She suggested that I hire her. She explicitly requested that the relationship be kept secret. All of these facts are provable.

– Again, all allegations of abuse, including any I haven’t yet seen, are false.”

In the post, Kennedy admits to having been in an inappropriate workplace relationship with Woods (though claims the circumstances are vastly different than those presented by Woods):

“First, the relationship began in summer 2013, a very long time before we ever worked together, when Olivia was in a completely different industry – as an on-off, casual, explicitly and consensually non-monogamous relationship that was purely platonic for long periods. I didn’t initiate or engineer a relationship with her while she was my report, as she implied. I only became Olivia’s line manager in March 2015 and the relationship unambiguously and completely ended in October 2015.

[…]

About the secrecy of our relationship. Olivia specifically asked me not to reveal the relationship to anyone, because (she said) she didn’t want anyone to have the impression she’d slept her way into the job. After I ended things, she made it explicit that she still didn’t want the relationship to be public knowledge, to avoid giving that impression. So I didn’t reveal it.

[…]

I do want to own up to a couple of significant mistakes.

First, of course I should have unambiguously and permanently cut off any sexual element to the friendship when she became my direct report. But before I was her line manager, she started working with Failbetter as a freelancer, on one day a week, and freelance work didn’t seem enough reason to either of us to end things. Then over the next couple of months she did a little more work, and ultimately we offered her a permanent role.

[…]

It wasn’t predatory or abusive, but it was an irresponsible blurring of professional and private boundaries, and it was my mistake.

[…]

Secondly, Olivia had always been definite that we were friends first and we could just ‘delete the aspects that were datey’ if we went back to being just friends… but her one clear condition was that I didn’t get involved with anyone else at work. And as the whole world now knows, what happened next is that Lottie and I fell hard for each other, and I embarked on an emphatically monogamous relationship with Lottie (and changed the line of reporting straight off, because I wasn’t going to make that mistake twice). We’re still together, four years later. I broke things off quickly and clumsily with Olivia, and I broke my explicit commitment not to date anyone else at work. Both of those things were wrong. But that’s my business and Olivia’s, not Twitter’s.”

He denies that there was a coercive or predatory element to his relationship with Jayanth:

“The only person besides Olivia Wood who has claimed that I abused her is Meg Jayanth. I can’t actually find any specific allegations of abuse from Meg, only vague claims of general predatory behaviour, and the fact that we had fully consensual sex. We did have sex; there was nothing coercive or abusive about the relationship.

So here’s our whole sexual history: I slept with Meg twice, in 2011, during my first separation from my ex-wife. Both times were casual and good-natured. She is or was in a polyamorous relationship with her partner, and I understand he was aware of our encounters.

For what it’s worth, I wasn’t ‘senior’ to Meg in the industry. By a quirk of fate, we’d both started out in mid 2009, two years before – that was why we started talking. By 2011, she was a BBC games producer and I was running a struggling startup of four people. Our careers have generally paralleled each other since then.

We remained friends, and kissed perhaps twice more over the ensuing years; she and said partner invited me to their ceremony of commitment (not a wedding, but like a wedding); eventually when she tried to kiss me, I demurred because I was back with my now-ex-wife at the time, and that was the end of it. Then I introduced her to Lottie. She’s done a couple of bits of freelance work for Failbetter, both before and after I worked there, but that was long after we slept together.”

And discusses his confusion regarding the accusations by Short, as Kennedy states that he never had “even a hint of anything remotely sexual or romantic” towards Short and that upon learning that she was uncomfortable and attempting to discuss the situation, Short did not respond or engage in the discussion:

“The last set of allegations that I’ll mention are Emily Short’s. She’s accused me of behaving in a way that isn’t abusive or predatory but that made her feel uncomfortable.

I don’t think this is a fair accusation. But when someone says, of conversations five or six years ago, that you made them feel uncomfortable, it’s a really difficult thing to respond to. So I’m going to try to talk about the context, and then to respond.

Emily did bits of freelance work for me, on and off, for six years. We often saw each other socially – the last time, months after I’d left Failbetter, was when she and her husband came to a dinner party at my place. I never had any authority over her at all.

For all this time, from my perspective, there was never even a hint of anything remotely sexual or romantic. For years I profoundly admired her work and talent, but in an undeviatingly platonic way. She was an early creative influence on me, and my talks and blog posts all through that time are peppered with references to her work. I liked, and was a little intimidated by, her.

But in 2016, I thought I had begun to sense a chilliness in the tone of Emily’s emails. I asked her (over email) if something was wrong. She didn’t say anything about the allegations she’s made now, but she did say among other things that she thought I found her ‘mockable’, mentioned a couple of (emphatically non-sexual) things about our interactions that she hadn’t liked, and asked for ‘a greater distance in our interactions for the time being’. I sent a mortified and apologetic response assuring her that I found her anything but mockable, and I never contacted her again. I hoped I’d hear back from her, but I never did.

Then over the next three years I started getting similar chilliness from people who’d started to work with Emily. All non-specific, none of it anything I could respond to or talk to anyone about, but it looks now like I really wasn’t imagining it.

I know men sometimes do things that make women uncomfortable, and I know it can be difficult for women to say that to men, and I think it’s fair to expect men to examine their behaviour. But I also think it’s fair that if you have a six-year friendship with someone, if they’ve met your child and eaten at your table, and you email them and ask really carefully whether there’s a problem, it’s reasonable to expect them to raise it.

So the only guess I can make is this: in 2016, someone told Emily something untrue that made me sound irredeemably dangerous and vile, and she re-interpreted everything I had done in light of that. I don’t understand what has happened, but that is the closest I can get to making sense of it.”

Kennedy concludes by stating that he was not “forced out of Failbetter by the current board because of some sort of cloud related to all this business,” that he is “not planning to sue anyone,” denied any unaddressed accusations “confidently and pre-emptively,” and noted that “For four years no-one has said anything to the woman most at risk from me if I were actually a predator. Not a message, not a whisper, not a single anonymous email.” He then asked, “If the purpose of this is to defend women, why has no-one ever approached my partner Lottie, ever?” Though Kennedy does not know what motive could have led to these accusations, he decries the effects of social media mobs and asks his readers to not “be horrible to anyone on social media or elsewhere.”

“It will take a long time to recover from what just happened. My reputation is shredded. I’m angry, I’m sad, and I’m still in a pretty fragile mental state. If you’ve read this far and you’re sympathetic, you have my sincere thanks. But nothing good ever comes from a social media shaming. So please, if you sympathise with me, please don’t be horrible to anyone on social media or elsewhere. Good people in mobs do bad things, and Lottie and I want to take the high road on this as much as we can. This has been a hideous waste of life for everyone involved, and this is where it should stop.”

 

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About The Author

Spencer is a contributing reporter for Bounding Into Comics. Unabashed anime fan, life-long comic book reader, avid video game player, and in need of a separate house for all of his figures. Trying to sift through the noise to bring the readers the facts.

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