Night In The Woods Designer Alec Holowka Dies

Night In The Woods Designer Alec Holowka Dies
Screenshot: Night in the Woods

Alec Holowka, a developer on Night in the Woods and other independent video games, died Saturday morning US time according to his sister. The news comes days after allegations began to circulate against Holowka, as multiple people accused him of abusive behaviour.

“Alec Holowka, my brother and best friend, passed away this morning,” wrote Eileen Holowka in a Twitter post on Saturday. “Those who know me will know that I believe survivors and I have always done everything I can to support survivors, those suffering from mental illnesses, and those with chronic illnesses. Alec was a victim of abuse and he also spent a lifetime battling mood and personality disorders. I will not pretend that he was not also responsible for causing harm, but deep down he was a person who wanted only to offer people care and kindness. It took him a while to figure out how.”

Eileen Holowka added that her brother had spent the past few days getting support from crisis services in Manitoba, the Canada province in which he lived. She said in recent years, her brother had become a “new person” and was “working towards rehabilitation and a better life.”

The allegations against Alec Holowka began on Monday night, with game developer Zoe Quinn accusing him of emotional and sexual abuse. On Wednesday, fellow Night in the Woods developer Scott Benson said he and his wife Bethany Hockenberry were cutting ties with Holowka, noting in an update to Kickstarter backers that there was much more to the story than just one accusation. Other game developers shared corroboration and words of support throughout the week, and on Thursday, another woman said Holowka attempted to remove her from a game they were working on after she rejected his advances.

Following Eileen Holowka’s tweet about her brother’s death, she offered a response to those who had come out to point fingers and cast blame. “And in case it’s not already fucking obvious, Alec *specifically said* he wished the best for Zoë and everyone else, so don’t use our grief as an excuse to harass people,” she wrote. “Go outside, take care of someone, and work towards preventing these kinds of things in the first place.”

This news closes out a turbulent week for the gaming world, one that began with a rape accusation against Skyrim composer Jeremy Soule and has led a number of people to share stories of sexual abuse in the video game industry.

If you or someone you know is struggling, call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or use the free services available on their site.


  • Oh man, I heard about the abuse allegations the other day, but I didn’t get a lot of context as to who Alec was.

    This is a sad story on all fronts.

  • You’re probably going to want to lock the comment section down.

    It got really nasty on Reddit with the gamergaters, Incels, The “Due Process” Brigade, MRAs, & the other bottom feeders flooding out every thread that appeared to talk about this event.

      • Don’t start.

        Same rule applies to everyone on this. If you’re not contributing to the discussion and moving it forward – ask yourself that – then don’t post. It’s already a quiet day and there’s a public holiday in the US tomorrow, so I have little time for unnecessary back and forths. The leash is very short today, so let’s all play nicely.

        • Agreed with everything you said, which is exactly why I said what I did. Noone needs to be antagonised with name-calling. It’s a shit situation that has no positives at the moment. Potential abuse that’s occurred, someones killed themselves, there’s going to be a lot of soul searching at the moment from anyone remotely involved and right now, it’s a horrible situation to be in for them. I have no iron in the fire for this situation and by god, am I glad from a purely selfish perspective. This is one of those times where quite frankly, the internet needs to ‘step off’ and not touch it with a mile long broomhandle imho.

          • Hence asking people to focus on moving the discussion forward, or at least lightening the mood.

            This situation is going to get much, much worse before it gets anything even remotely close to better. Least we can do is all individually make sure this is an intelligent, happier place for everyone to be in the meantime.

          • Absolutely. I’m hoping the family, his friends, Zoe, everyone are ok. This is going to hit everyone like a ton of bricks. Apologies if my first comment seemed a bit dickish.

    • Agree with Alex, but the initial comment wasn’t saying anything that isn’t true about reddit and the type of people who pounce on stories like this from extremist/trollish perspectives.

  • This has been an extremely unpleasant chain of events. Any of those who are attempting to cast any sort of blame at this news are a particular sort of ghoulish that aren’t even worth acknowledging. Right now, just follow Eileen’s advice and take care of someone.

  • Night In The Woods is my favourite indie game, ever.

    Alec Holowka was always totally up-front with his struggles with mental illness and depression, and the authenticity of that experience shines through in his games.

    Sadly, people struggling with mental illness don’t always make the best of choices, but in my view this shouldn’t take away from the brilliance of their creations.

    And regardless of any allegations, none are serious enough to warrant a death sentence.

    RIP Alec Holowka, today is a sad day.

  • All this tells me is that there really is a need to improve or overall the proper reporting channels for these types of serious allegations so victims feel supported and believed, and the accused don’t feel the wrath of a social media fitestorm.

    • It’s not clear that taking the allegations to the police would have necessarily led to a better result. Either the allegations would have become public anyway leading to the same results on social media, or they would have been buried and potentially left him free to repeat his behaviour.

      When people are warning women against being alone with the man, then perhaps keeping things quiet is actually harmful.

      • That said I have little doubt that high profile reporting of the allegations contributed to his poor state of mental health. Whether you believe that matters or not or was deserved is another issue, but people posting explosive stuff on Twitter and having it taken as a self evident truth certainly doesn’t help someone with fragile mental health.

        • Cancellation of the project and whatever private conversations took place over the last few days – particularly with family – undoubtedly would have hit really close to the bone.

          Cannot imagine what his sister is having to go through right now.

        • There really aren’t any good outcomes here. Reading Quinn’s posts that brought this into the open, she clearly wasn’t over what had happened to her. Bottling everything up and avoiding it wasn’t helping her either emotionally or professionally.

          Some abuse victims find speaking publicly helps them heal. It’s horrible that it ended in a suicide in this case, but I don’t think we should take to mean victims have a duty to remain silent.

          • but I don’t think we should take to mean victims have a duty to remain silent.And I don’t suggest that they should, but it’s clear that the trial by social media that so many seek these days also has a significant burden on those accused – who are so often assumed guilty and have no real way to clear their name (because nobody wants to hear it, or are afraid of hearing it lest they be called misogynists too).

            It’s a salient reminder that this isn’t mere words, there’s a human on the other side of the line. It had better have been worth it to make the accusations. Not commenting on the merit of this case in particular because I have no idea whether it’s true or not. Merely noting that when we drag these things out into the public arena and stoke the fires of internet outrage, we’re going to have to examine whether it’s really ‘justice’ for them to be driven to suicide, whether the accusations have demonstrated to have merit or not.

      • We need to get over this idea that something is either reportable to police or it’s, presumably, okay.

        It is possible for someone to be an arsehole and yet not be a rapist. It doesn’t mean that we should stop calling out people for being arseholes.

  • My condolences to all involved. Mental illnesses are always tough for everyone involved and sometimes you do things you regret but the nature of the world is that everyone sees things from their own frame of reference and doesn’t always understand. If there’s one thing I want people to learn out of this it is to be slow to anger and don’t be so quick to judge and make personal attacks.

    If it involves you, talk it out. If it doesn’t involve you, butt out or limit your conversation to expressions of disapproval of the actions, not of the person.

  • First and foremost, @alexwalker, if you feel the contents of this post will make the comments section volcanic, I perfectly understand if you remove it.

    There is no denying that any form of assault (not just sexual) is bad. And yes, some will delay going to the authorities for their own reasons.

    However, that does not excuse Quinn’s actions.

    She put the word out there. And she got her attention and support. She is allowed to. That is the modern form of meeting a close friend or equivalent and finally opening up about what happened.

    However, with all that support, Quinn didn’t take the next, correct step. Going to the authorities.

    I am in the camp of innocent until proven guilty but to ride the disclosure for over a week? That makes me skeptical and even with that aside it weakens one’s case.

    Nevertheless, Holowka did not deserve the death he got. At the end of the day, we may never know if the claims were true. It will remain circumstantial to the end of time now.

    Innocent until proven guilty requires evidence of the accuser for a reason. It is to try and prevent abuse of the system itself.

    Granted, I know this always doesn’t work.

    But look at Twitter and look what happened with Holowka where clearly innocent until proven guilty is not at play.

    • However, with all that support, Quinn didn’t take the next, correct step. Going to the authorities.
      Because her going to the authorities with the death threats and abuse really made a difference.
      Until the authorities take these crimes more seriously and you can get justice in a less traumatic way I don’t blame people for not doing it.
      A victim has no requirement to relive that experience and have somebody try to break them down and make them feel horrible for it in a court. And when there is no benefit for them in doing so why bother.

    • There is no “next correct step”, please think twice before you tell abuse victims how they must correctly act.

      • I get your point, and I think your post is merely worded badly, but victims don’t have free reign to do as they please merely because they’re victims.

        • It’s a strange world you live in where a victim talking about their perspective is “free reign to do as they please”. What’s the alternative, that they just keep their mouth shut? The way you phrase things, it’s almost as if a victim’s gone all Punisher on someone’s arse.

    • Ugh. I’m in two minds about it. I’m leaving this on the table for now, but if things quickly become unmanageable, then hopefully everyone understands why.

      There’s some context about what Quinn said that’s been lost here: namely that Holowka apologised to her for the actions, and that it wasn’t exactly about the assault: it was the part that she was still afraid, which is a huge reason why she never spoke out to begin with. Adding onto that was the Kickstarter update from Holowka’s brother which directly responded to why they’d cut ties with him. It’s super long, but can be read here. I won’t quote it here, because that’s guaranteed to send everything to shit here. There’s too much context there anyway that should be absorbed as a unit.

      There’s a couple of things about what you’ve said that misses why people speak out to begin with, so I’ll just touch on them. Obviously talking to the police sounds pretty logical.

      But what if you get deported before the results of that investigation ever come to fruition? How can you have any guarantee that authorities will follow up the claim to begin with? There’s a reason why a lot of sexual assault is underreported, amongst both men and women.

      What do you do when the correct step doesn’t work, or it costs you your job and home even when it does? Is it still the correct step for the person in the centre of it all?

      There’s the redemption element too. Holowka supposedly reached out and apologised years later after much therapy and introspection, which matches some of what his sister said of his character. That doesn’t excuse what happened, or mean that it shouldn’t be public (especially if there was still an active whisper network ongoing to protect people, which Holowka’s brother mentions in the Kickstarter update).

      Does the prosecution process ruin all of that? Probably. Is it still the best option? I’d argue it would be, still, but it’s easier to say because I’m not in that position. I’m not dealing with those pressures and having to weigh up the factors on my personal life.

      The point is that it’s deeply, deeply complicated. Nobody comes out of this happier. Certainly not Quinn, absolutely not Holowka, his family, or anyone looking on. It’s a heartbreaking mess, none of which anybody wants to happen to even their worst enemies.

      I don’t know what happened for sure, so just want to make sure that people understand I’m not stating anything factually here. As you mention, we might never know precisely what the motivations or intentions were – but the least we can do is catalog what has been said and try to understand and keep the picture, for all its horrors and complexities as we understand it, in the frame.

      You and I know that sure as hell won’t happen in this climate. The least we can do is make sure everyone here tries to uphold that ideal, though.

      • I couldn’t see anything written, but did Quinn know Holowka had mental illness? I feel like this would be very important information in a time when we’re trying to be more understanding and supportive of people suffering of this.

        • “I feel like this would be very important information”

          I feel like it would be completely irrelevant. Actions are actions.

          • Actions are actions, you are correct. Wouldn’t things be a lot easier if the world was this black and white? xD

      • Ugh. I’m in two minds about it. I’m leaving this on the table for now, but if things quickly become unmanageable, then hopefully everyone understands why.

        As I said in my first post, I perfectly understand if my post disappears. And by extension, the thread as a whole.

        Before getting to your post, I’d like to attend to the other responses.

        There is no “next correct step”

        Correct is clearly not the right word I should have used, @snoweee. That I will take on the chin.

        Until the authorities take these crimes more seriously and you can get justice in a less traumatic way I don’t blame people for not doing it. A victim has no requirement to relive that experience and have somebody try to break them down and make them feel horrible for it in a court.

        There is no denying that cross-examination and will be continued to be abused. But how can that be changed, @tigerion?

        For example, we can’t just exempt the victim if the accused is self-representing.

        We do, the accused will easily claim a mis-trial. We force council on the individual to act as a buffer and we still have the same problem.

        What do you do when the correct step doesn’t work, or it costs you your job and home even when it does? Is it still the correct step for the person in the centre of it all?

        Again, Alex, I clearly chose the wrong word here. And I think it best if I take that on the chin.

        I don’t know what happened for sure, so just want to make sure that people understand I’m not stating anything factually here. As you mention, we might never know precisely what the motivations or intentions were

        That is the saddest part, Alex. Even if Holowka was tried posthumously the two main outcomes are not favourable.

        If he was found guilty then Quinn would have been vindicated (and given how graphic the detail was she had some very serious claims) but the sentence is still meaningless because he is now deceased.

        If he was found innocent that too matters little as he’s still deceased.

        Administering the law is not perfect. You even gave an example of this where doing so will still ruin an individual or the individual is no longer thus complicating the matter.

        But I still feel that a trial by social media, as what has happened here, is no substitute despite the real world complications. Holowka is just another example of how terribly wrong it can turn out.

        And this is where I do apologize here. To you, @tigerion and @snowee. The biggest mistake he is I should have just kept to the “no substitute” claim rather than going into detail on what Quinn did.

        Despite not being intended, my post has started to distract from what is important in this discussion.

        • I was blunt in my initial response and I think you’re owed further explanation on my thoughts.

          Coming out with these statements is often not “Hey look at that guy, here’s what he did, everyone get him”, it is much more often “I’m at a place of strength that I can finally talk about what happened to me and not self-shamed into silence”. I do agree with you that outsiders’ responses to these statements should only be supportive towards the survivor and to start hurling abuse at the named abuser only does harm, not good.

          Often survivors don’t want legal recourse taken against their abusers, whether it’s because they don’t want to have to relive those events for investigations or because they have made peace with their abusers and believe that they are attempting to reform their life. We shouldn’t judge any of these decisions, even if they don’t make sense to us.

          Finally, it has been mentioned above, but is worth repeating Not all abuse is illegal, many of the acts of emotional and financial abuse that zoe in particular mentions are nothing you can take to the police, but are nonetheless classed as abusive behavior.

        • Why are you singling Quinn, though? If you read the post by Holowka’s collaborator you’ll find out that Quinn was not the first and absolutely not the only one to suffer from Holowka’s actions. Should we single her because she was the first one who dared to speak? The one who “took off the lid from the pot”? Rather, shouldn’t the fact that she bravely did this be remarked positively taking into account that it immediately allowed other victims to realize that they were not isolated occurrences and that patterns in behaviour existed that made that person a veritable danger for present and future associates?

          It is sad that the whole thing ended in tragedy. That will do very little to fix the wrong that was done and has the potential to cause more, as people have already been harassed and threatened resulting from this. But under no circumstance should the moral of this sad story be “victims should shut up”. Yes, going to the relevant authorities is an important step, but if you have been paying attention to life at all, you’ll see that those who have the power to harm others and mostly get away with it fro a reason or another, are often able to also leverage that power (whether economic, social, political, etc.) to get a favourable result in the courts of law. Even something as “normal” as settling outside the court is usually a negative development as it only produces relief for a given victim while allowing the perpetrator to freely keep piling up new victims, having pretty much bought the silence of the previous victim.

  • Ah geez, this is a lot to take in and covers such a broad range of issues over a long period of time.
    I see a lot of people online looking to quantify it all and trying to figure out where to stand on all this.
    While I understand almost everyone’s point of view I don’t think this is a situation that can ever be settled on.

    It just goes to show that the things we say and the things we do have lasting effects on those around us, sometimes becoming more tangled and far reaching than we can ever perceive beyond ourselves.
    Everyone did something wrong and everyone did something right but sometimes we can’t fix everything and sometimes we can’t just make everything ok.

    I hope everyone involved can eventually find some measure of peace and I can’t help but think deeply about the call to go outside and try to make something better rather than trying to make it worse.

    • This is a clear cut example of life.

      Things aren’t always easy, things don’t always make sense, it’s not always black and white, right and wrong, winners and losers.
      Sometimes it’s just what it is.

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