Two Women Accuse Skyrim Composer Jeremy Soule Of Sexual Misconduct

Jeremy Soule (Image: 2018 Virtual Medicine Conference, YouTube)

Two women, an independent game developer and a vocalist, on Monday night accused famed video game composer Jeremy Soule, best known for his musical work on games like Guild Wars and Skyrim, of sexually predatory behaviour and, according to the game developer, rape.

Soule denied the game developer’s accusations, calling them “outrageous” in a message to Kotaku today, and when asked about the vocalist’s accusations, told Kotaku he does “not agree with her point of view.”

Both women described Soule pressuring them into romantic relationships while they were in vulnerable positions professionally, socially, and financially in their respective fields. They said they felt like Soule took advantage of them, offering advice and professional support. Yet when these women turned down his romantic advances, they told Kotaku, Soule thwarted their professional opportunities in what the women saw as retaliation.

Jeremy Soule is one of the most celebrated game soundtrack composers of all time, having helmed the soundtracks for The Elder Scrolls, Guild Wars, Stars Wars: Knights of the Old Republic and dozens of other games over the past two decades. In recent years, however, he’s been the subject of controversy. In March 2013, Soule raised $US121,277 ($180,071) from over 4,200 fans on Kickstarter for a new album, but over six years later, he has still not delivered it in full.

Yesterday, the album’s publisher, Materia Collective, announced they “terminated our working relationship with Jeremy Soule” and are “no longer involved in any aspect of” the album. Three women who spoke with Kotaku, including one of the accusers mentioned above, said they were offered work on that album, but that the deals fell through after they turned down romantic advances from Soule. Soule did not respond to Kotaku’s request for comment about these specifics.

Nathalie Lawhead, a veteran developer best known for making small independent games like Tetrageddon, wrote a lengthy blog post on Monday night accusing Soule of sexual misconduct. “He made advances on me and I explained that I didn’t want this and wanted a friendship. He was very threatening, and didn’t listen,” she wrote. “He made it clear that it’s ‘him or bust.’ He raped me.”

Soule denied Lawhead’s allegations Tuesday in a text message to Kotaku: “These 11 year old allegations are false. I am shocked and saddened that these outrageous claims have been made.”

In an interview with Kotaku on Wednesday afternoon, Nathalie Lawhead described how she met Soule at a Christmas party in 2008 while working at Smoking Gun Interactive, a game studio in Vancouver, Canada. Having just started at the studio, Lawhead said, she was having trouble with her visa and struggling at her job, which she attributed to “poor management.”

The two bonded over art and their creative processes, and she said Soule immediately expressed his desire to help advance her career. Soon, they started seeing each other more often on the weekends, she said. “He acted like he was going to help me. He was something of a mentor.”

Lawhead said Soule began exhibiting behaviour that startled and upset her early in their friendship. In her blog post, she wrote:

“As things went on, he started to become more misogynistic and sexist.

He talked about the mystical power women hold over men with sex. How men are helpless and they need sex. How he needs sex, and a relationship, so he can write his music. He talked about how composing is sexual, and how he will write about sex as inspiration in his music. He talked about how performing music is very sexual. He wrote songs about women that he had relationships with this way. What he does to women, is what inspires his music. The work he composed for video games is based on this. . .

He made advances on me and I explained that I didn’t want this and wanted a friendship. He was very threatening, and didn’t listen. He made it clear that it’s ‘him or bust.’ He raped me. Throughout this time Jeremy acted like a victim, and blamed women he was in relationships with (or forced relationships on) for what he was doing.”

Lawhead said to Kotaku that Soule continually pushed her boundaries in his attempts to make their relationship physical, despite her saying she only wanted a friendship. One day in 2009, Lawhead says that she and Soule were hanging out at his place when he began making physical approaches. “I said no and I told him the friendship meant too much,” she said. “When we were on the bed, we were talking and he started prying about why I don’t want to have sex with him. He starts making another approach and opened my pants and I said no. I froze up.”

Without any friends in Vancouver, and “afraid of consequences because of my visa situation,” Lawhead said she did not go to the police and immediately went back to work. Lawhead said she did not publicise what happened because she was “mortified of what would happen if this exploded and cost me this job. I was afraid. I tried very hard to ignore what happened and just keep going. I would go to the bathroom during work hours to cry, pull myself back together, and just keep working on this trashfire.”

Later, Lawhead would move to another studio with which Soule was affiliated called Interdimensional Interactive. She says that when the conditions of her job went downhill and her relationship with her colleagues atrophied, Soule was “involved in turning things against me.” (The co-founder of Interdimensional Interactive, Gregory MacMartin, denied this, telling Kotaku in a message, “That does not pertain to us. Jeremy’s only involvement with our studio has been composing some music for our games,” although Lawhead says they were “close friends.”)

On Twitter, Lawhead said she decided to come forward after searching Soule’s name and “seeing person after person gushing over his music.”

A second woman, vocalist Aeralie Brighton, who is credited on games like Minecraft, Ori and the Blind Forest and LawBreakers, wrote a post on Facebook Monday night saying that she had “personally fallen prey to Jeremy Soule as well back in 2014.” She said Soule sent her a video of him masturbating and that when she told him she “only wanted a professional relationship I was blocked and removed from a project I was proposed to work on.”

She said that nothing physical had happened. When sent a copy of Brighton’s post by Kotaku, Soule responded, “I don’t agree with her point of view, and I’m not at liberty to discuss.”

Brighton said she met Soule in 2014 when she had just moved to Los Angeles in hopes of launching her vocalist career. She was living in her car and searching for contacts, Brighton said, when a mutual friend introduced her to Soule.

“I had my heart broken. I idolised this guy. It felt like a fairy tale,” Brighton told Kotaku in a phone interview on Tuesday. “I looked up to him. My goodness — this is the Skyrim composer and it shaped my early gaming days!”

Brighton says she and Soule developed a professional relationship, and that Soule said he believed in her ability to make it as a vocalist and offered her gigs in a music video and in his Northern Lights symphony. “He said I can be someone in the industry, but I needed to lose weight. He was giving me diet tips,” she says. “I believed him. I was in awe he was paying attention to me.” Once, she says, Soule invited her to his apartment late at night to test microphones.

Transcripts of text conversations between Soule and Brighton that Brighton shared with Kotaku paint a complicated picture of their relationship. In these conversations, Soule and Brighton both exchanged flirty and sometimes sexually explicit messages. Soule appeared romantically interested in Brighton, and at times, Brighton appeared to reciprocate.

However, she said, after accepting his invitation to do vocal work in his recording studio after hours one night, “I wasn’t liking what I was seeing.” She added: “He was bashing other vocalists and talking about how everyone wants to sleep with him. It was uncomfortable.” Shortly afterward, she says, Soule sent her a video of him masturbating, which she says she found “disgusting.”

Brighton says she later compared notes with another vocalist, who she says told her that Soule attempted to get involved with her romantically, too. After that, Brighton says, she realised that she wanted nothing to do with him. The other vocalist also wrote on Facebook that Soule “wanted to send me this video as well,” adding that “he was pushing both our boundaries beyond what’s acceptable.” That vocalist declined to speak on the record when reached by Kotaku.

“He made it clear that he had the power to make or break people’s careers,” said Brighton, “so I was like, ‘Well shit, I’m never gonna work again.’”

In the wake of these accusations, several other women in the games industry have come forward this week with their own allegations against people who they say abused them in some capacity. Kotaku is dedicated to investigating any allegations against powerful people or companies in the world of video games and can be contacted securely and confidentially here or via SecureDrop here.


Comments

    There has been a lot of people coming forward recently with accusations of some appalling behavior from people that had power over them.

    I hope one of the biggest things that come from it is that a lot of creators and mentors take a step back and looks at the power dynamic between the person they are interested in romantically in the future. If you are in a situation where you can dictate someone's career, then you have too much power over them, and you should back off, or at least mediate the relationship through a third party like HR.

      If only it were the simple. From personal experience, in some industries you can be sexually propositioned for three years straight, go to HR, and then they will make it "go away" by making you go away. This happened to me once on a government contract. My boss was a married man with five kids who incessantly propositioned me for three years whenever we were alone. By the time I decided I had enough of just laughing it off/saying no repeatedly and went to HR, they gave me two interviews to get details and the cancelled my contract (luckily I assumed this would be a poosible outcome and secured a better contract with an IT gig). Point is this: You are not safe from these people ANYWHERE.
      And the people who are supposed to protect you (like HR) aren't always there for the victim.

        Stories like this never get easier to hear (nor should they), despite coming out of that situation in a better position, I'm sorry you had to go through it at all.

        At this point, all I can hope for is that the more people stand up and call out bad behaviour and the more support those people get, the more people in power will start to second guess their behaviour before it gets to an abusive level.

        It sucks that you had to go through that experience, I'm sorry. The unfortunate truth is HR exist to protect the company, not you. In a lot of companies, that means doing the quiet thing over the right thing, because protecting the company's reputation is worth more to them than protecting low level staff.

        That's awful. I'm sorry to hear of what had happened to you. You should never had to go through with that experience and that man should have suffered from that ongoing harassment. I am glad to hear that you're in a better role elsewhere, and I hope it is a safe environment for you and all staff involved.

        I have never been sexually harassed in the workplace, but I have been bullied, and I know for a fact that HR departments are not helpful. It feels like they are only there to protect the company and its executives, and not the actual staff, the turning wheels of the business.

        My manager was frequently bullying me and when I contacted HR, with written documentation of several incidents (including dates, times etc.), they eventually told me that my manager is doing "what he feels is best for the business unit" and the case was concluded.

        Jokes on him. Several years later, he got caught for corruption and eventually resigned because he couldn't take the "toxic environment" - and I didn't have to do anything about it.

    There's been stories for years about how... difficult Soule is to work with, so this doesn't actually surprise me all that much.

    It's sad, because I love a lot of the music he's made over the years and it will be hard to keep listening to it now.

    you guys know HR job its not get people fired, it to help you and the other person you have dispute with work together again, thats all they are ment to do....they not an authority, tell the police, its there job.

      As Streets of Rage 2 tells us: "Only trust your fists: police will never help you."

      The justice system isn't equipped to deal with this kind of behaviour, in part because the justice system was set up by the kind of people who used to see this kind of behaviour as their privilege.

      The Australian legal system is particularly bad - there's a reason why #MeToo only really got Don Burke here. Australia's defamation laws put the burden on the defendant to prove the abuse happened, and it's trivial for the abuser to leave no trace. Australian's adversarial court system encourages abusers to hire a trained professional to demolish the credibility of the witness - and abusers tend to pick victims who don't have support networks to warn them and who won't be believed if they speak out.

      The Australian justice system is barely able to handle the science suggesting that eyewitness testimony is incredibly unreliable. They're nowhere near being able to handle sexual assault cases with tact.

        Yes this innocent until proven guilty thing does get in the way.
        It sucks at times, but everyone is entittled to a fair trial.

      I've seen firsthand how the police handle complaints like this. They inform you that if you aren't in a situation that can investigations can take a long time and often go nowhere. They also say that if you aren't mentally strong enough to go on the witness stand for the defence lawyers to completely rip your life apart and make you relive the abuse over and over again until they find an inconsistency that makes you an unreliable witness, you're better off just dropping the whole thing.

        As being a jurer on a rape case. I will say first hand, that's not how it happens.

      The HR department is responsible for ensuring the company complies with state and federal laws and regulations relating to employment and staff behaviour, including harassment and bullying. It is their job to prevent an unsafe work environment from forming, and to intervene fairly and appropriately when the company's obligations to protect everyone from staff misconduct.

      So no, dispute resolution is not 'all they are meant to do'. And yes, they are an authority within the company structure with respect to behavioural matters.

        Amazing, and (at my workplace) it's all handled offshore :)

          Some companies do that, yeah. Smaller ones moreso, because it's a risk: contracted HR services have less accountability if they're negligent and cause the company to get in trouble.

        As being an ex, HSR and employee rep (non unionised). Bern through things like that before. Thats exactly it.
        HR, WHS officers, etc etc. Just ensure compliance with the laws, they are not judges nor juries, just compliance officers.

    My usual stance here is wait until something more substantial occurs. it's rather a dubuious situation when after so many year flood gates are opened and accusation rush in. this time though there is in fact something that has caught my eye.

    apparently one of them recieved unwelcomed adult videos. now regardless of whether it was deleted or not, the carrier would likely still have records and metadata to corroborate things.

    basically if the video does exist then there is a pretty solid claim this time around.

    again though, I don't like damning people immediately without any proof so hopefully there is some if he actually is guilty.

    So innocent until proven guilty is no longer a thing now?

    I'd rather this person (If guilty of these accusations) face actual justice. Otherwise this among others is setting a dangerous precedent where people can just post any accusations and potentially ruin someone's life based on potential lies (Not saying this is the case with this accusation)

    Its happened before with Chris Hardwick and Andy Signore. Both of these people were accused of heinous things but it eventually turned out both were innocent of the accusations and provided evidence to back up such claims.

    I want people punished in a court of law, Not a court of twitter. Otherwise, you risk diminishing these accusations to the point where people no longer believe them. As demonstrated in the tale of the boy who cried wolf.

    And just to reiterate, I'm not saying these people are lying. Nor am i defending the dude accused of this stuff. I just want it done properly.

      Exactly - he sounds like a right piece of shit and I actually don't doubt some of the accusations, but they're just that - accusations. People don't like this but an accusation alone isn't proof of guilt. The whole point of 'believe women' is to believe that the accusation has merit and to investigate - it doesn't mean 'assume guilt'.

      Legal systems aren't built for handling sexual assault cases. Never have been. Your model of let the courts handle it is tantamount to doing nothing. We should continue holding alleged abusers to account in social terms until we can do so legally.

        Wait...

        holding alleged abusers to account in social terms until we can do so legally.

        So you're ok with destroying a person's life on the chance that what they did is true? Yes the justice system needs to work out a better way of handling such things... But really.

        An excerpt from a very recent false accusation from Sydney, you may actually remember hearing about it.

        Days after his act of kindness Mr Basic was facing serious sexual charges and spent two weeks behind bars in Silverwater Prison.

        He also lost his job and is now going through a divorce because of the false charges.

        https://www.msn.com/en-au/news/australia/good-samaritan-spends-two-weeks-in-a-maximum-security-prison-after-woman-whose-car-he-helped-fix-falsely-accused-him-of-indecent-assault/ar-AAAYhxW

        So you're ok with this? A family has been destroyed and a man's life completely ruined because he was held accountable in "social terms"

          What has this case of a horrible vendetta got to do with holding alleged abusers to account in social terms?

          All the repercussions from this event manifested from interactions with the authorities and justice system: the accused was fired from his job and served with divorce papers in the process of formal charges. None of this has anything to do with social accountability, does it?

          Instead, it's a very clear case of the authorities and justice system going through their motions. As a result, the individual who instigated this series of events has been sentenced to nine months in jail for her actions.

          With all of that information clear and present, I will gladly say that I'm okay with the police pursuing charges for sexual assault against individuals and having those charges followed up in court. Additionally, I would obviously prefer courts were empowered with a sensitivity to navigate sexual assault cases in a manner that does not see abusers let off--that speaks to the broader point.

          Your beef is with false with allegations and is tangential to my beef. There's no point in continuing this line of discussion.

            You want twitter to act as judge jury and executioner without any consequences or questioning of accusations.

            You want to turn society into one where people can just accuse people of heinous things and attack people who dare question such a society.

            Democracy and western society holds the ideal of Innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

            Instead, you want Guilty until proven innocent because woke twitter thinks they are above the law.

            You don't get to throw out accusations like these and not have them examined or challenged.

            Your whole basis is off the fact that everyone accused is guilty. I just showed you that your line of thinking is dangerous and gave you a clean example of how it can be dangerous.

            The fact that you are happy she got 9 months for utterly destroying a person's life is abhorrent.

            He lost his job and his wife divorced him because he was held "socially accountable". He was not found guilty in the eyes of the law before he was fired and his family ruined. By the time "justice" was served, his life was completely ruined.

            My "beef" is that your line of thinking is dangerous and leads to things such as the example I provided.

            You're right, there is no point in continuing this line of discussion. Pearls before swine

              Instead of having a conversation, you've created an entire subtext that does not exist. You're being silly.

        So it's now guilty untill proven innocent?

        You can hold these people accountable. It's called a civil lawsuit.

        Bet you would change your tune if someone accused you falsely.

          You've gone from wanting sexual assault cases to proceed through the currently insufficient criminal justice system so that abusers may face an appropriate penalty--a totally perfunctory response--to a Spongebob meme of It'S cAlLEd a CivIL LaWSuIt. Just pick a position and stick to it.

            I think my position is quite clear.

            Innocent untill proven guilty in a court of law, not a court of Twitter.

              The courts are for legal culpability, naturally. Social culpability is something different though. Maybe someone deliberately steals their friend's dream job prospect, or some douche catches a baseball intended for a kid in the front row. Nobody broke the law, courts have nothing to do with it, but people will definitely judge them both for it.

              There needs to be care with both kinds of judgement, but I don't think pushing for legal culpability to be the sole arbiter of whether social culpability is acceptable is the right solution.

                So you dont see any issue at all with people throwing out accusations, Ruining someones life and there being no accountability what so ever.

                Innocent
                Until
                Proven
                Guilty.

                  Chris Hardwick and Andy Signore were both accused of heinous things. Both were found to be innocent. Yet they had their careers damaged and the people accusing them have faced no punishment what so ever.

                  And woke twitter still treats their accusers as victims even in the face of irrefutable evidence to the contrary.

                  I don't think you read what I posted, or you'd have the answer to your question already.

                  The ability to make an accusation is not only not a problem, it's a protected right. There is accountability, both legally and socially, if someone makes a maliciously false accusation. But like I said, what's important is ensuring judgement is careful, not denying the ability for people to make social judgements altogether.

                  My problem is that people treat these accusations as gospel truth and case closed.

                  Im not saying treat all accusations as being false. Far from it. I want accusations treated like they are in a court of law. Allowed to be challenged and not wielded as a weapon to destroy someone's life.

                  As i mentioned above, both Chris Hardwick and Andy Signore were accused of heinous things. Found to be innocent.

                  Yet their accusers are still treated as being victims by the #MeToo brigade, Even after their claims were proven false and malicious.

                  I agree that some people are too quick to judge. I've been on the receiving end of that kind of thing once before, so I have some personal experience with what it's like to be falsely accused of something. Even so, I still firmly champion listening to and believing accusers. My position, even during that ordeal, was 'believe but verify'.

                  I can't speak for the Signore story, but I followed the Hardwick one. So we're on the same page, he was not proven innocent. The case was not heard in court, nor investigated by authorities. It was the subject of a private investigation by AMC, which concluded that it was okay for him to return to work. I think you should be careful of accusing Dykstra of making a malicious accusation, because she hasn't been found guilty of that and she deserves the same assumption of innocence your standard grants to Hardwick as well. There is no conclusion to that story.

                I will listen to and support an "accuser", but I will not believe them "just because", that's what lead to the witch trials.

                Benefit of the doubt MUST be given, otherwise, like we have seen previously, these accusations can be used as a weapon (which can be seen in family court, for instance).

                If you don't like someone, all you'd have to do is point your finger and accuse them of something, and whether or not it is true, that person's reputation and life can be made forfeit. How is that acceptable? Benefit of the doubt must be given.

                  You can believe someone without passing judgement. I think that's the fairest mindset, personally.

                You know as well as I do, that that's a pipe dream though.

                  It's a mindset that's worked fine for me for years. All I can do is advocate positively for it, I can't control what other people are or aren't comfortable with or who they engage or disengage with, as long as they're not breaking the law.

          An issue that I see whenever this point is "innocent until proven guilty" is raised in this sort of circumstances is that real victims of sexual violence are conflated with slanderers, simply because there's a chance (minimal, if you look the rape numbers against the slander ones) that an alleged victim is lying.

          Think of this: both rape and slander are crimes that have serious repercussions in the life of a person: they are having their lives destroyed at the whim of another one. Both issues are best solved in a court of law, but making them public help stop the criminals from saving face by quietly settling out of court or some other of the many ways people get away with stuff, just to then proceed to make another person a victim.

          Imagine you hear the case of a man who posts on social media that a woman is attempting to slander him. Now imagine commenters say "lol sure, I bet the truth is that you raped that woman". Wouldn't you criticize such commenters who, due to their biases, suggest that the man is a criminal instead of a victim? I know I would.

          Now, let's go back to the point that slander is a crime. As with every crime, it carries the risk of being caught and punished by the law. So if you feel concerned that a woman claiming publicly that she was raped is lying instead of taking it to the relevant authorities (which by the way, they do in addition to posting about it on social media) all I can tell you is: if she's slandering that man then he should take it to a court of law and solve it there, which is your very own advice. If the woman is saying the truth, the industry and other people associated with the aggressor will be warned of the kind of person he is. If she's lying, she's a criminal and by blasting her lies publicly, she can be sheared for damages in a court of law.

            Speaking of making it public.

            That sure went well this week.

              Context, please? I'm on a constant lag of a couple of days behind news and developments due to newborn.

              Nevermind the other message, I have caught up.

              That sad, messy latest development is lamentable but it changes my position expressed above in no way whatsoever.

        So i assume your a fan of the robodebt collection system by centrelink, where you have to prove you don't owe money.

          I'm a fan of people being able to make remotely accurate inferences instead of saying dumb shit.

        We should continue holding alleged abusers to account in social terms until we can do so legally.

        In what way are you any different to those far-right groups who go out and patrol the streets looking for immigrants to beat up under the pretend cause of being "Vigilanties protecting the streets"

          While we're discussing completely unrelated shit, in what way are you different to a pleasant blossom on the first day of spring?

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