'BattleTech' Developer Accused of Sexual Harassment, Resigns

At least six women came forward over social media to share stories about Tyler Carpenter, who said people should "believe every accusation."

|
Jun 7 2018, 8:50pm

Image courtesy of Harebrained Schemes

In the past few days, Harebrained Schemes designer Tyler Carpenter has been accused of sexual abuse and harassment by at least six women on social media. The allegations range from inappropriate groping to repeated expressions of romantic and sexual interest after repeatedly being told to stop. Carpenter, who recently worked as a systems and missions designer on BattleTech, told Waypoint via email he’s resigning over the allegations.

“My bullshit is not the kind of thing HBS [Harebrained Schemes] stands for or tolerates, and HBS had no idea any of this happened,” Carpenter told Waypoint in a statement. “Because of that, for the good of HBS and my victims, I've resigned from HBS effective immediately. There doesn't need to be any inquiry because, frankly, everything is true.”

Carpenter’s Twitter account is currently locked, but he allowed me access, in order to verify his identity and recent comments.

Harebrained, who was recently acquired by strategy publisher Paradox Interactive, confirmed Carpenter was no longer with the company, calling it an immediate dismissal. They also released a statement on Twitter.

“There has been communication between Paradox and Harebrained Schemes on this matter and it has already been dealt with internally,” said the companies in a joint statement. “Tyler Carpenter has been dismissed from the company with immediate effect. All of this took place prior to the acquisition deal between Paradox and Harebrained Schemes being finalised, so therefore Paradox have no comment to make.”

Carpenter has been at Harebrained for more than three years, according to Linkedin.

“This person repeatedly stated that he had romantic and sexual feelings for me, even after I asked him to stop,” said Lauren Bond, a cosplayer and streamer known as RandomTuesday online and who worked with Carpenter on various role-playing streams, on Twitter. “He openly flirted with me in front of my girlfriend.”

Besides Harebrained, Carpenter was a gamemaster and host for various streams, including Death From Above, a playthrough of a homemade BattleTech game, and Games of Divinity, where a group of six played Exalted, a high fantasy RPG with a mixture of mythologies.

Sally Jordan was one of the people who played Exalted with Carpenter, and said from the moment she met Carpenter, he regularly engaged in sexual harassment. Jordan shared an email she sent to Geek Space TV, the production company that hosted the Exalted stream, in which she detailed various encounters she’d had.

Shadowrun: Hong Kong, one of the previous games from Harebrained Schemes.

It started as “creepy behavior,” in which Carpenter would spam her Facebook inbox with messages and leave comments on photos saying “cute butt.” Then, it escalated. Carpenter became fixated on Jordan. At a social gathering for folks involved in various RPG streams, he made an in-person comment about her body which Jordan called out. Carpenter, however, “laughed it off,” and said he was in an open marriage.

“I was floored at how he completely wrote off me telling him straight up that I didn't like him commenting on my body,” she wrote in the email, “suggesting it wasn't about how it made me feel personally but simply that I was worried about his own personal life.”

Jordan said that, like most women, she was uncomfortably used to men treating her poorly, but it was complicated with Carpenter; he was the kind of well-connected person who could, in theory, affect her career. She tried to convince herself his actions weren’t a big deal, and focused on the work instead.

“Because this was someone who worked at the same place as me, in a 'field' I was trying to move up in, “she wrote, “and he was friends with people I very much enjoyed, as well as people who could be hugely influential on my career, I just continued ignoring his advances and creepy messages, hoping he'd eventually 'get it' and stop, allowing me to maintain a cordial acquaintanceship without having to make it an issue.”

Until Exalted, Jordan and Carpenter hadn’t worked on a project together, they’d merely been in the same space and came to know one another, due to sheer proximity. She was hesitant to join Exalted, but the situation snowballed, and she ended up in the cast.

When the stream was announced, there was a private cast party at someone’s apartment. Towards the end of the night, Carpenter approached Jordan and physically grabbed her butt.

“My immediate knee-jerk reaction was loudly saying, ‘No, I don't like that,’” she wrote. “He laughed and said, ‘Too bad, it happened.’ He left shortly after that.”

“I was floored at how he completely wrote off me telling him straight up that I didn't like him commenting on my body, "suggesting it wasn't about how it made me feel personally but simply that I was worried about his own personal life.”

Moments later, Jordan shared what happened with the group, sparking a larger discussion about Carpenter’s behavior, and what he’d been saying in private about Jordan and others.

“I went home and cried,” she wrote. “But again, I convinced myself not to press it further. If I did, I would ruin the show for everyone.”

His attention towards her continued, but she remained silent. What changed was #MeToo, and the growing conversation about sexual harassment women regularly experience each day. She decided to seize the moment, write down what happened, and tell someone.

(In our conversation, Jordan repeatedly emphasized her time with Geek Space TV was otherwise enjoyable. She considers it a company that takes sexual harassment seriously.)

After the email was sent, Carpenter was dropped from the game. Hyper RPG, the channel that hosted Carpenter’s Death From Above stream, issued a vague tweet about how it “does not and will not work with people accused of physical or emotional abuse in any form.” Zombie Orpheus Entertainment, the video production studio that's taking over Death From Above, was much more pointed and called Carpenter out by name.

“Believe every accusation,” Carpenter told me. “I don't recall each one, and some I have a different recollection of, but obviously the sheer mass of shared experiences means that I'm the one who's got a faulty memory, not them. I hurt, emotionally manipulated, and wrong [sic ]every one of those accusers due to my own selfishness, thoughtlessness, and need for validation.”

And as Carpenter’s comment suggests, Jordan was not alone.

“When he crossed the line, I pushed him away,” said Guild Wars 2 writer and editor Elan Stimmel, who previously worked on Shadowrun: Hong Kong at Harebrained, on Twitter. “I stopped talking to him. He got angry. He would flip back and forth between ‘it's okay you're not talking to me’ and ‘don't you care about how I feel?’ Sent me emotionally manipulative messages for months.”

Stimmel said she’d “lived in fear of him for years,” even after she started pushing back. Though Stimmel told Carpenter “no over and over,” he’d “repeatedly test my boundaries.” She remained silent out of fear it might impact her career in games, a common refrain for why individuals who experience harassment in video games—and society writ large— choose to remain silent.

She eventually stopped hanging out with certain people in her life, folks who were in Carpenter’s social circle, because she was afraid this might lead to another encounter.

But as women broke their silence, more came forward, one after the other.

“I'm so glad someone finally named him,” said Jessica Price, a writer and editor on ArenaNet’s narrative team, on Twitter. “because I haven't been able to talk about this because none of the victims (AFAIK) had gone public. This guy is a gaslighting, assaulting, harassing abuser and people need to be warned.”

On a now-locked Twitter account last weekend, he issued a broad apology about doing “some pretty unforgivable things to quite a few people, but one in particular.”

He told me this was in reference to Jordan, the woman he touched inappropriately.

“I harassed and abused a friend of mine for a variety of shitty reasons,” he wrote, “and I don't want anyone making excuses for me. The things I did should not be excused by anyone.”

In January, after realizing “something was deeply wrong with how I was relating to people,” Carpenter began seeking professional help. He hasn’t reached out to any of the women who’ve made allegations against him, and has considered a revised apology.

It’s unclear whether an apology, sincere or not, would make a difference.

“I feel vindicated and also terrible at the same time,” wrote one of the accusers yesterday.

Follow Patrick on Twitter. If you have a tip or a story idea, drop him an email: patrick.klepek@vice.com.

Have thoughts? Swing by Waypoints forums to share them!