Weather Factory and Failbetter Games co-founder Alexis Kennedy has joined the list of high-profile people in the industry to be accused of mistreating others this week. Two people who previously worked with Kennedy went public yesterday with accusations of predatory and abusive behavior.
Red Queens co-founder Meg Jayanth, who worked as a freelance writer on Failbetter's Sunless Seas, described Kennedy in a Twitter thread as "a well-known predator in the games industry" and added she has "been warning people about him for years."
"Alexis Kennedy has used his reputation and association with prominent women + minorities - including me - as a cover for his predations and abuses," Jayanth said. "The only way I can protect people from further harm is to state this publicly and explicitly."
She added, "Alexis Kennedy has a pattern of 'befriending' young women who are entering the industry and then crosses professional boundaries with them. This is exploitative. I know this now because he did this to me, when I approached him as a young woman looking for career advice + work. This is not 'serial dating.' This is a pattern of abuse perpetrated by an older man who uses his professional, financial and social power to exploit women sexually + professionally."
Kennedy responded to Jayanth's thread, saying, "I deny this. I have had a small number of fully consensual relationships with other people in the industry. Everything else here is a malicious misrepresentation. I have taken legal advice and I am making a police complaint about what seems to be a campaign of harassment."
Soon after that denial, Failbetter writer Olivia Wood went public with her own account of Kennedy's behavior.
"I was in a relationship with Alexis Kennedy for nearly two years," Wood said. "He was my line manager the entire time. It was kept a secret from the whole company, including the board. During our relationship he cheated on me with people brought to company events, and who were wanting to work with the company. He broke up with me by messaging me that he'd cheated on me with a colleague (also his direct report) at the office Halloween party."
Wood said she requested Kennedy not be her direct manager any longer, even though he was still the head of the company. After that, she said his treatment of her changed.
"I was shouted at and sworn at in front of colleagues; I was given opportunities - only to have my work belittled. I was kept anxious and uncertain. I was made to feel that my only recourse was to leave the company, but that I would not be able to get work anywhere else in the industry."
GamesIndustry.biz has reached out to Kennedy and his legal representation about the accusations, and we understand that he denies any allegations of abusive or coercive behavior. Separately, Kennedy's co-founder at Weather Factory, Lottie Bevan, talked about the matter on Twitter when one user said Kennedy was "a predator to young women." Bevan responded, saying, "We've filed a police report for defamation. These stories are insane and untrue."
After Wood and Jayanth's posts, Failbetter Games addressed the issue through its Twitter account, saying, "We believe and stand with everyone who has come forward to speak out about Alexis Kennedy tonight. Alexis left Failbetter three years ago. We no longer have any ties with him personally, creatively or financially.
"We know that for some of you, Fallen London and Sunless Sea are irredeemably linked with him. It can be heartbreaking to love something as much as people love these games and feel they're tainted by association. We fully understand and respect that. This sort of behaviour has no place in our industry, or in any other. We can only say that we strive to be a studio we can be proud of, and that you can be proud to support."
Additionally, two of the five projects participating in Weather Factory's mentorship program have publicly withdrawn in light of the allegations.
Syphilisation developer Nikhil Murthy cut ties with the company, saying, "I am no longer associated with Weather Factory and Alexis Kennedy. I have ended my mentorship and I'm incredibly grateful to the people who spoke out about him for their bravery in making his actions public." Space Backyard has also confirmed its departure, saying, "In light of recent events we have decided to remove ourselves from the Weather Factory mentorship scheme due to Alexis Kennedy's involvement. We'd like to express our sincerest gratitude to the brave people who have spoken out during these days. We are still in shock."
Update: A third participant in the mentorship program, Small Island Games, has also withdrawn, saying, "We support the courage of people speaking out about abuses in the industry. We have removed ourselves from the Weather Factory mentorship scheme due to Alexis Kennedy's involvement."