Two of Night In The Woods's creators have announced they are "cutting ties with" Alec Holowka, the third co-creator, following allegations of abusive behaviour and sexual assault made against him this week. "We take such allegations seriously as a team," Scott Benson and Bethany Hockenberry said in Wednesday's statement. They have now cancelled one unknown "current project" and are postponing NITW's planned physical release.
"This week, allegations of past abuse have come to light regarding Alec Holowka, who was coder, composer, and co-designer on Night In The Woods. We take such allegations seriously as a team. As a result and after some agonizing consideration, we are cutting ties with Alec," the game's official Twitter account said in a multi-tweet statement.
They say the NITW boxed release coming from Limited Run Games is postponed, while the iOS version "is being handled by an outside company and supervised by [publishers] Finji and will remain in development." Beyond that, they don't know.
"Going forward, Night In The Woods will be handled by Bethany and I," Benson wrote. "We're not sure what that all means yet. This stuff takes time."
The two already founded a new studio, The Glory Society, with Wren Farren--and without Alec Holowka--back in March.
Night In The Woods is a tale of growing into adulthood in a Pennsylvania-ish rural town, funny and warm and bittersweet and tragic. Also, all the people are animals. And it has a knife-fight purely for funsies, which I'm always game for. We called it one of the best PC games of 2017 and had a glowing review too. It's meant a lot to me, a total trash mammal.
Benson also tried to provide context for players who might now be second-guessing their relationship with the game. He explains that he was the "artist, lead animator, co-designer, co-writer, and the guy who wrote almost all of that dialogue in the game," while Hockenberry was "co-writer and researcher." While Holowka undoubtedly played a huge role in the game, a lot of its stories are from these two.
"Much of Night In The Woods is pulled pretty directly from our lives. Bethany is from a tiny valley in central PA. I've lived out here in Western PA for about 20 years. The characters are us, and people we've known. The places are ones we know.
"Thousands of people have connected with Night In The Woods in a very personal way. We can't tell you how to feel about any of this. Whatever you're feeling is valid. Your experience with art is yours. What it means to you is yours, regardless of anything else."
We contacted Alec Holowka for comment this week following the allegations and have not yet heard back.
Holowka is one of several people in the games industry this week accused of inappropriate and abusive behaviour, professionally and personally, primarily by female and non-binary developers. Coming in in the wake of an initial accusation made by Tetrageddon Games creator Nathalie Lawhead against composer Jeremy Soule, it reminds me of Hollywood's #metoo movement. As actors opened up about abuse in the movie business, allegations they had kept secret for fear of professional reprisal, it emboldened yet more to speak up. We have to be cautious in how we report on these.