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2019.08.31 04:28 themaplebeast End of Summer Backer Update
" Hey all. This update is going to be very difficult. Thanks for your understanding in advance. If you're in need of content warnings- there's going to be mentions of sexual abuse, abuse in general, suicide, etcI hope it was okay to share this in its entirety here. It just really felt like info I know a lot of people and fans are looking for. If it isn't okay, just let me know and i'll remove/modify.
This week allegations of abuse came to light against Alec Holowka, codecomposeco-designer of NITW. Since then several other people have stepped forward, detailing issues of varying levels of severity that stretch right up to today. As a result, we won't be working with Alec anymore. Let's talk about that. And please do read through all the way before commenting.
There's a decent amount about every life, relationship, and project that anyone who isn't involved directly will never know about. As you can imagine there's tons of things about NITW development that never made it to the internet in a post somewhere. Just like your life, or job, or family, or the things you work on. We've had a complicated relationship with Alec, one that was at times extremely difficult, but we have always cared about him, and we did some pretty great work together if I do say so myself. Sometime in the future we'll probably have to go into detail about that difficult history. I don't know if I can bring myself to do it now. But I'll just ask you to keep that in mind.
I'll keep this all brief (edit- i just finished writing and i did not keep it brief but it could have easily been 3 times as long). It will surely fail to answer every question you might have. Bear with me.
When we met Alec in 2013 he was a different guy than he is now. We jumped into this kickstarter only knowing each other for a couple brief months. We didn't expect it to change our lives and bind us into a team for half a decade. Despite us being very different people, Alec and I have always gotten along. And I really respect his work and his can-do spirit. He's just up for making things, figuring out problems, suggesting cool ways to accomplish something. And his music is great too, which is something a whole lot of people would agree on. And beyond that he was very open to Bethany and I taking lead on narrative, characters, world, art, writing, etc. For that we're grateful and we have some really fond memories of working with him.
But about a year or so into the project we began realizing that Alec was a bit unstable, often lashing out at people he lived with. We heard through him and some others that he had some pretty volatile dating relationships. Nothing that said /abuse/, just hey there's a lot of drama here. During the next couple of years Alec's instability would lead to his leaving the indie house space in Vancouver he'd been a part of for years and heading to Winnipeg. We took the brunt of this as well. Things got very bad with both him and NITW development and we were honestly making worst case scenario plans by the end of 2015. The story of how NITW was saved late that year gets very personal for me and is all too close still. I'll tell it someday, maybe soon. I don't tend to talk about my own trauma shit often. But it was then I started having very bad no-joke-actual-medical-issue panic attacks daily, which happened on and off until mid 2017, and with one exception haven't returned. Until the past week.
But beginning in this bad time for Alec in 2015 (and he's publicly talked about this, we're not dropping confidential info) he went through a good month or so of intense therapy and diagnosis. He emerged from that, honestly putting in the work, putting a lot of that past self behind him, staying up on therapy and meds. We were so proud of him. And relieved. By 2016 he was basically a new person, and we really got to be friends then I think, and we finished up NITW. Since then we've kept in touch, saying hey when we're in the same place once a year or so, and recently we've been working weekly on that backer game, which we were all very excited about (more on that later). We were just relieved what with how rocky things had started that we'd all made it out of this with a game we could be proud of, and also that Alec was doing well.
In the past couple of years he got his own game studio thing going with various great people, making games that from what I've seen look very cool. He's been really interested in making good shit with good people. I was honestly just so happy and proud of the guy. I still am, for the ways in which he actually did change, and for the work he's made.
This all came crashing down recently, culminating in this week.
I'm not going to root through everything in there and give a line by line analysis, but I'll say that enough of the allegations are extremely plausible and just about all of it we've corroborated with other sources. I'm not going to list those out here, this isn't a trial, and we don't /owe/ the internet a comprehensive accounting of why so many people who have known Alec for years have looked at the accusations and believed them.
Seriously, what you see on twitter isn't representative of real life. It's just what makes it into posts. When people who have years-long real life experience with the guy, people who knew him in different situations, locations, ages, and contexts, all say the same thing, you can assume there's more to this than you'd know from outside the situation, taking it in 280 characters at a time.
Whatever happened years ago, this week a contractor working for Alec, whom we know and trust, has come forward with her own experiences with Alec.Others have talked about how Alec's conduct towards women was something whispered around at game events. A woman I've known for a while got in touch with us this week talking about how she's been told many times not to be alone in a room with him. Men have gotten in touch about working with Alec and the things that happened to them there. There are other things, things from people we trust, things you'll probably never hear about. But honestly just being a really shitty boss, as detailed by Albertine, is probably enough for us to separate from him alone. To say nothing of the far more serious allegations out there. Multiple people are afraid to run into the guy at different conferences. We were with him at some of those conferences. Now knowing that people were afraid to approach us and say hello eats at me.
The things that Alec did during the bad times were worse than we knew, and he's still being abusive in other ways to those around him. We didn't know. We feel like idiots. We feel betrayed. We're sad and angry. We put in the work with him during those really bad times. It's hard to talk about, and everyone really wants us to talk about it. They want detailed accountings of every aspect. Some people want to know exactly what we knew and when so they can figure out who around him is most complicit. Some people want us to give them hard evidence, as if such a thing was even possible, or as if it would appropriate to give them in the first place. Some people randomly doubt all of this because nobody had Alec arrested, which shows a weird understanding of the reality of human relationships and abuse that I can only assume comes from experience of the world via online chatter and a list of how things should work. The idea that there's a foolproof system in place that can stop this, can riddle it out, can tell us exactly who is and isn't guilty, a system which can set all this right. But it doesn't work like that in real life. Some of the demand for more info stems from the idea that if something is put out in public then any interested party is owed as much information as they want to work out their own stance and to judge ours. But at least for us the only reason we're working this out in public is because we have to. It was out there, and we've had to respond to it. Like we have to tell you now. And it's been like stabbing myself in the stomach every day to have to type words like this. To sum up- this isn't some "guilty til proven innocent" or "social media mob" thing for us. There's years of real life context to this, involving lots of people who aren't even online or public about this, and the fact that some folks just found out about it this week doesn't mean it began there. It's just when it became public.
If I sound grouchy about that aspect of things, it's because all week I've felt awful about this and I've had more than enough people yelling at me that we've flippantly decided to ditch Alec, simply because they're clueless about the larger situation here and unable to accept that their vantage point on the thing is extremely limited. It wasn't just a callout post that made this happen. More people than us are destroyed about this situation this week. It isn't some "sjws vs gamers" war thing for us, no matter how many people online might make it that for themselves. We weren't duped by some grifter and then went on to suddenly dump a long-time collaborator. We aren't trying to prove a point or appease a mob or show we're great. Whenever someone has praised me for Taking A Stand or whatever this week I just feel gross. None of this feels good. There isn't one good thing about this. I don't feel brave or honest. I just feel horrible. A real life friend and coworker did some really bad shit, years ago and now, and all of us in the blast radius are just heartbroken. We've got a right to be angry, to make decisions, and to grieve.
But that's the rest of the internet. Just about all of you we've been in touch with this week have been wonderful. And for that I can only say I'm beyond grateful. We've needed it.
So here are some questions and answers:
Did you fire Alec?
No. Infinite Fall isn't a company, it's a name we adopted for our team. There's no salary to cut. There's no Infinite Fall bank account, not Infinite Fall HQ. Our merch operation is already something that just Bethany and myself do, aside from sales of the soundtrack digitally and on vinyl. It's more like a band broke up or something.
Did you not-fire him over baseless allegations?
No, it was a combination of a lot of things from several parties and our experiences going back years. It sucked. You just saw some of it on twitter, or on here. I hope I've been clear enough about that.
Don't you know (whichever accuser) is a LIAR?
Well I guess you'll be happy to know this is more complex than any one person's accusation. At this point it's a much larger thing. It sucks. I hate this.
Does Alec get money from the game?
Yes, from game sales and soundtrack sales. That's all we can say for now. We'll update you when and if thing change. But we're not like unilaterally cutting off Alec's revenue share or something.
How can you work on NITW things just by yourselves?
If you want to get all legalese about it, I have since the start owned the NITW IP. Our work with Alec was for the game. When people email us wanting to buy the rights to a movie or tv show (which has happened!) it's Bethany and I that say no. When Tom Delonge's business partner gets in touch wanting to make NITW merch for Hot Topic (which totally happened!) it's Bethany and I who say no but still tell the story whenever we get a chance.
What did you each do on the game?
We've gotten this question a lot this week, which I understand. Alec was coder, composer, and co-designer. I co-wrote the story with Bethany, who was also our researcher. Her hometown experiences in rural Central PA were a big part of the story, along with mine in the 20 years I've lived in Western PA along the Rt 22 corridor from Altoona right on to Pittsburgh. From that stuff sprung a lot of the world of Possum Springs. Additionally, I did art, character design, area design, wrote just about all of the dialogue, and co-designed the game with Alec. I can't code though so all credit Alec for making this monster of a thing work. Em Halberstadt was sound designer. Jon Manning worked on our dialogue tool Yarn Spinner and did some other crucial work since. I am probably forgetting some people. It's been a long day.
Can you remove Alec's work from the game?
No! And we wouldn't if we could. Alec did amazing work, and we made something cool together. Whatever he did outside of the game, his work is his. We feel pretty strongly about that.
Can I get a refund due to all of this shit?
No, it's been 6 years, game's been out for 2.5 of those years.
What about the last backer rewards??
I'm finishing the book, it's cool. It's square! There's talk of a print version later? Really thinking about doing that, which would be exciting during any other week. Because of cutting ties with Alec we can't deliver the short backer game we were working on. This kills me. We were actually working with Albertine on that one too. Wren from our new studio as well, we were scheduled to get into concept work this week. Everyone is pretty depressed about that. That being said, we do have an epilogue in us, which is what the game was turning out to be. There's an excellent chance that will see the light of day in a different form.
Why can't you just get someone else to do Alec's part on the backer game?
Because it's Alec's too. Our design work together is basic to what these games are. And his music. We can't just hire some random person to fill that role. Nor do we want to.
What form will the epilogue take instead?
I don't know. We have some rad ideas. Like the book, they'd probably be exciting to me right now if not for this week. It'll be exciting again. Soon.
Are updates still going to happen?
Sure! At least until a lot of what's going on gets figured out and put to bed. What with that book and epilogue... thing... there's more to talk about.
How should I feel about Night In The Woods?
We can't tell you how to feel about it. Or about any of this. Night In The Woods's story, characters, ideas, and world came from a very personal place for Bethany and I, and a lot of what's in the game is pulled pretty directly from our lives, from ourselves, and from the people we know. And this has connected with thousands and thousands of people. That's a good thing. That's one of the best things, to be honest. And you helped that happen. You can be happy about that. I'm happy about that. What you experience when you experience art is yours. Nothing can take that away. It's not owned by us. You may not care about any of this, and that's fine. This may have ruined the whole thing for you. You may be able to separate out the elements that other people worked on and still feel a connection to those. Whatever it is, that's valid. The game still means the world to us. It was a personal thing we never thought anyone would care about, and yet they did. I'm sad that one of our collaborators turned out to be so abusive, but life isn't always what you want it to be. I'm still very proud of what we made, and I hope it continues to connect with people for a long time to come.
How did Alec do all of these things to multiple people over several years and it never went public?
Well, most things that happen in the world don't get written about on the internet. So there's that. But also the nature of abuse is often such that each person feels like they're the only ones receiving the abuse at any given time, and when the abuse stops happening to them they can easily believe it stopped altogether, because most people aren't sitting around comparing abuse notes. And often when multiple people ARE being abused in some fashion, there are extenuating circumstances keeping the abuser from being held accountable- finances, a job, a living situation, fear of retaliation or personal loss, etc. And abuse can often just catch people off guard or wear people down to the point where they don't fight back in the ways that a Logical Outside Party might see as common sense. This is why there are abuse counselors and people who specialize in this, because this shit is complicated in 1000 terrible ways and most abuse never gets made public in any setting. Often the abused will just feel ashamed. Or alone. Or helpless. Or straight up terrified and at risk. And a lot of times the abused will still really care about the abuser. Another thing that happens with a lot of abusers is they, consciously or not, farm out responsibility for their actions to someone else. So for example if an abuser threatens to kill themselves and places the responsibility for stopping that on someone else, a lot of people will do anything to help the abuser. It becomes your responsibility to fix the situation, your fault if it all goes wrong.
I have spent much of the past week fighting the urge that I am somehow, somehow, responsible for all of this.
Beyond that, often people will know about the abuse and cover for the abuser, for a variety of reasons both understandable and downright evil. Whole networks of abusers cover each other's asses. Sometimes people profit off of the abuse of others. There are any number of reasons why so much awful shit that people do to other people isn't visible until maybe someday it boils over and you suddenly find out that you and a dozen other people talk about the same person at therapy.
Are you depressed?
I am very depressed right now.
What happens now?
Things are still happening with this whole godawful situation. Regardless, Bethany and I will continue working on our NITW things. I'll be back here with updates as things happen. Mostly right now we're just really torn up. We're angry, we're sad, we're worried about basically all parties involved, we mostly just need a nap.
I'll be checking the comments here for the next few days but try to remember we're pretty rattled and raw right now.
Thank you for understanding, and for your support over the years. I'm going to be a dork and ask for your support now.
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