Murder by Media? How Cyberbullying Led to Game Designer's Suicide

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Quinn, Holowka

Just short of two years ago, Zoe Quinn was being celebrated as having overcome online harassment to go on and become a game designer on a hotly aniticipated indy game project with Chuck Tingle. (Editor's Note: The crowdfunded game has yet to be delivered and is currently over two years late in fulfillment.) She was the model of the underdog who wouldn't give in to online trolls.

Six days ago, Quinn recalled sexual abuse details from an old relationship with fellow game designer, Alec Holowka. Instead of taking these details to the police for investigation, Quinn chose to air the accusations through her Twitter account, @UnburntWitch.

The following day, the studio that developed NIGHT IN THE WOODS, of which Holowka was a co-designer, cut their ties with him over the allegations.

Tweets ensued.

On August 31st, Alec Holowka took his life. In response, Quinn has deactivated her Twitter account.

It would seem there was enough heat that the UnburntWitch may have finally gotten singed.

There is plenty of pre-existing speculation supporting the idea that Holowka had issues with abuse. However, speculation does not replace the rule of law, and weaponizing social media and loading it with the #MeToo bullet is tantamount to vigilantism. Doing an end-run around due process is execrable, and the responsibility for Holowka's death can be shared among Holowka, Quinn, online fans, and the Twitter platform itself.

That this online targeting originated from once-noted troll beater Zoe Quin isn't merely ironic, it's a travesty.