(CW: rape, sexual assault, gaslighting, emotional abuse)
One of the women to respond to Nathalie Lawhead’s blogpost was TTRPG (table top roleplaying game) content creator Adelaide Gardner. She opened up in a Twitter thread about the abuse she experienced from Splash Damage senior tools programmer Luc Shelton during a birthday trip to London in January of 2018. For part two of our series, I approached her through that same platform to ask her a few questions about her experience, relationship with Luc Shelton, and what she hopes the response to testimonies such as hers will encourage in the gaming community.
Ashley Mowers: I know you make TTRPG content, but I heard the BBC interviewer say you also used to work in eSports for a number of years as well. Could you just clarify for me what work you did in eSports? I couldn’t find mention of it elsewhere, except for you excellent commentary on eSports boys, lol.
Adelaide Gardner: LOL. Yeah, been there, done that. Ex is a shoutcaster in the UK. I was predominantly social media, although I did some admin/referee and talent management as well. Been out of the eSports industry for over two years now.
AM: Must have been such a relief to get out of that part of the industry.
AG: Honestly I was treated very, very well by the UK group I mostly worked with. I’ll say it sucked to literally never hear from any of them ever again just a day after my breakup. He worked for the same company, and I was only freelance. Lesson learned, lol.
AM: Oh wow. That’s…that’s horrible. I’m so sorry that was their response.
AG: It definitely sucked! I’ve moved on from it, but at the time it was my dream job, and I know they were all really pleased with me. I get why they had to stick with their full-time guy, but I was in another country away and continuing working with them wouldn’t have been awkward or really a problem at all for me. Oh well.
AM: Were you at least able to go to them for letters of reference for future employment? Or was it scorched earth?
AG: I literally was never able to get in contact with them again. Found out my email had been disabled after a few weeks if not days. Nobody really unfriended or blocked me, but nobody would respond to my messages. Welcome to eSports, lol. Let’s just say I’ll never date someone even remotely connected to my career field / hobbies that entail networking ever again.
AM: Was your time in London in 2018 the first time you had met Shelton, or had you known him previously? (Online, through work, etc.) How would you have defined that relationship? Friend? Acquaintance? Colleague?
AG: Thanks for asking.
He and I vaguely knew each other as acquaintances through UK eSports, it’s a really small world over there. Had been friends with him on Twitter but he only reached out after my breakup in I want to say August or September 2017. Started talking long-distance then and we fell into a loose relationship. He would never fully commit, which was generally fine, but loved to play games of pushing me away if I got too close, but pulling me back in and dangling the idea of commitment if I began to see other people like he was already doing. Flew out to see him early November 2017 where everything was honestly perfect. I had had a few warning signs from my friends beforehand, but wasn’t really aware of them until much later.
Continued talking, but around December I had met someone else and became more involved with them. Both relationships remained casual, but Luc was clearly not very happy with me being interested in someone else. I decided to see him again (which would be the last time) that January as a birthday trip and because we still had feelings for each other.
I immediately knew the relationship had changed once I arrived. He hadn’t communicated with me in about 12 hours since the night before and I couldn’t get in touch with him once I had landed. SUPER distant and clearly pissed off about anything in general, I’ve still got screenshots from talking to the same friend I originally told about the assault of just feeling absolutely miserable and unwanted from my arrival. He would accuse me of things I didn’t do, like touching his computer, or acted offended when he came home and I was wearing one of his shirts after a shower. Kept mostly to himself aside from when he wanted to have sex.
I made plans to leave five days earlier than I had planned and continue on with the rest of my trip, and had thought about just packing up and leaving without notice while he was gone one day, I felt that unwanted. I’d have to check on train tickets of exactly when I left, but it was no more than two days after the sexual assault I described. We honestly barely spoke the entire time I was there.
AM: In your BBC interview, you stressed the need for men to participate more in these conversations, and hoped to see more women come out with their experiences, if they have testimonies to give. How do you hope the gaming community, particularly consumers of gaming content, will respond to these testimonies? I.e. if a gamer hears the dev of their favorite game has participated in unethical/immoral behavior(s), what would be their ideal response to the news be? Should they continue to appreciate the game the way they have? Should that appreciation change/adapt in some manner? Should they boycott?
AG: Whew, that’s a dense one.
In a perfect world? That we take these claims seriously and with the respect that they deserve. But I don’t have hopes for that. Gaming is definitely a more progressive environment than most, but it’s not there yet, and I’m not sure it ever will be. It’s going to take a lot more than words of support and belief for survivors than to make significant change when disbelief and victim-blaming is endemic in gaming culture today.
Frankly, I’m not totally sure I’m in favor of blanket boycotts. Larger companies have plenty of women and people of color and LGBTQ folk that need a paycheck, and it’s hard to potentially punish them for the actions of one person that corporate isn’t willing to take responsibility for. I think with games like Night in the Woods (which is a game that also deeply affected me), it’s hard not to let what happened taint those memories. But the fact is that bad people can create beautiful things, and it’s nobody’s fault if you’re moved by something without knowing the bad shit on the other side of the wall.
I still love NitW. For me, it’s simply become Scott & Bethany’s game, versus attaching Alec’s name and legacy to it. You’ve got to do what you’ve got to do, if a piece means that much to you. I think we all have a duty to call out wrongdoing when we see it, though, and ensure that people are held accountable for their actions. If doing your part means signal boosting on Twitter or never buying a game from a company ever again, that’s your choice, so long as you’re doing your part.
While Adelaide has since distanced herself from the video gaming industry, she still creates and publishes original TTRPG content. You can see her in The Purloin Code with other professional gamers, a live play of the Evil Hat Production’s Scum & Villainy, and support her through her Ko-fi.