The following article discusses suicide and references to sexual assault and abuse. If you are considering harming yourself or someone else, please call 1-800-273-8255 in the United States or use these resources if you are outside the U.S. For more information on mental health and resources, please visit TakeThis.org
The following article contains spoilers for the game Night In The Woods.
The past weeks have been a nightmare on the Twittersphere. Encouraged by the recent posts of others that called out their abusers within the videogame industry, Zoë Quinn posted a statement on their twitter describing abuse and sexual assault by Alec Holowka. Shortly thereafter, Scott Benson of Finji released a statement saying they would no longer be working with Holowka. On Saturday, August 31st, Holowka’s sister Eileen Mary Holowka tweeted that her brother had passed away that morning, and the implication was that he had died by suicide. Since then, Benson has published an article describing his working relationship with Alec Holowka during the development of Night In The Woods and describes much of Holowka’s behavior as abuse.
I’m having to hype myself up to actually write the rest of this piece because of the emotional weight of that paragraph.
That week I was shocked and conflicted. Few people enjoy hearing bad things about others, and even less like to hear that those bad things are now associated with art that they love. Night In The Woods is probably my favorite game of all time. When I finished it at 3 am one night, I immediately wanted to text my friends how much they meant to me and how much I loved them. My memory had an oily film on it now; a bad taste I couldn’t rinse out. But then I saw the news of Holowka’s death, and I only had expletives to describe my feelings. Now, I can say I am absolutely heartbroken.I reach to stories to give myself direction and purpose.
In times of complicated pain, of horrendous social mess, of hurt that is beyond healing, I reach to stories to give myself direction and purpose. I think most of us do. We try to find a deeper meaning and ask, “Why?” We expect things to make sense. We attribute cause and effect, even as spectators, and decide we can place fault.
The stories I reach for in times of awfulness are not the ones unfolding before me. They are the ones I have etched into my heart. The ones I would like to share with you today are ones that point to what could have been, rather than what is. Alec Holowka didn’t have to die. There is a hope within me that promises that no matter what I have done, I can be forgiven. I am promised healing no matter what has been done to me—at the hands of myself or at the hands of others. Sometimes, this is my only comfort. Thus far, it has sustained me. Here are a few of those stories.
King David of ancient Israel is one of the most famous. Killed Goliath, wrote many of the Psalms, “the man after God’s own heart.” But he also decided he could sleep with whomever he wanted since he was king. He sent people to bring Bathsheba to his palace while her husband Uriah was out fighting in David’s army. If she cared about Uriah’s safety and her own, she didn’t have a choice. When she got pregnant, David sent for Uriah to come home from the army in hopes he’d sleep with Bathsheba and they could all pretend the baby was his. But Uriah was such a loyal person that he wouldn’t go home to his wife out of solidarity to the rest of his soldiers. So David sent him directly to the front lines, then told the rest of the army to pull back and have Uriah slaughtered. What David did was unspeakable, and everything he tried to do to cover it up only made it worse. It was only when God convicted David of this atrocity that he sincerely repented and tried to make things right. Not only did God forgive him, one of the sons of David and Bathsheba would be in the direct bloodline of Jesus. That’s forgiveness far beyond my understanding. And that forgiveness is offered to every one of us.I am promised healing no matter what has been done to me—at the hands of myself or at the hands of others.
The prophet Elijah had been given twenty-four hours to live by Queen Jezebel. He was on the run, completely alone in the desert, and ready to give up. Not only that, he asked God to kill him. “It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers.” (1 Kings 19:4b) God listened to him, and instead let him sleep, fed him, and gave him a new purpose. He didn’t rebuke Elijah for feeling that way. Instead, he took care of his physical needs until Elijah was ready to have his emotional and spiritual needs met as well. When he felt like he was completely alone, worthless, and better off dead, God showed Elijah otherwise.
To some of you, these stories are hollow. Because of what’s been done or said to you, anything related to faith comes, at best, with an oily film or a bad taste. So here’s a different story—one incredibly close to this entire ordeal.
Towards the end of Night In The Woods, Mae has a conversation on the couch with either Bea or Gregg (depending on your choices) about why she’s called “Killer,” describing a past mental breakdown that resulted in her becoming violent. Mae says, “Something broke. In my head. In my life.” Her friends don’t push her away. Instead, they listen and respond with support and offer to help her see a professional. But it’s still not enough for Mae. She feels like she has to bring it all to an end. Mae stumbles out to the mine where she’s felt a force in her head calling her. She is ready to take her own life if it means she will be free of that darkness. But her friends come after her. They help her pivot her focus from herself to her world, without discounting the way she’s feeling. Mae tells the darkness there, “I get it. This won’t stop until I die. But when I die, I want it to hurt. When my friends leave, when I have to let go, when this entire town is wiped off the map, I want it to hurt. Bad. I want to lose. I want to get beaten up. I want to hold on until I’m thrown off and everything ends. And you know what? Until that happens, I want to hope again. And I want it to hurt. Because that means it meant something. That means I am … something, at least.” She goes on, “I know this won’t save me in the end, but I don’t need it to save me forever. I just need it to save me now.”
I want you to know, dear, dear reader, that there can be life after something horrible. Despite what you’ve done, despite what’s been done to you, you can continue to live. There is life after this. You can be forgiven. You can find a new purpose. You are loved and you are worth fighting for.
I would like to say that it’s time for grief, but much of the internet decided that this incident will be a touchstone of one cause or another, and that angers me. We don’t have to ignore what Holowka was accused of to grieve him. We don’t have to celebrate his death to be horrified at the accusations. It is okay to simply grieve that a life has left our world, flawed like the rest of us, and unnecessary in the manner of its passing. I would like to express my deepest condolences to the Holowka family and friends. While many of us will not experience a loss like this, there are some of you reading that have lost a family member or friend to suicide. There are some of you reading who yourselves have survived a suicide attempt. I cannot imagine what this is unearthing inside you. Thank you for being here.You are loved and you are worth fighting for.
If you are considering harming yourself or someone else, please call 1-800-273-8255 in the United States or use these resources if you are outside the U.S. For more information on mental health and resources, please visit TakeThis.org