(Throughout Act 1 you will see numbers in double square brackets. These numbers are citations which you can use in conjunction with the chat logs to confirm that I’m not fucking with you.
Throughout this doc, the names of all innocent or even arguably innocent parties are censored.)
[trigger warnings: suicide references, (in citations: abuse references)]
I had too much to drink at a karaoke bar the previous night to cope with an observation I’d made. An observation that, in tandem with countless other quiet observations made or remembered over the last couple of months, lead to a single inescapable conclusion — Zoe had been cheating on me.
I wake up hungover the next morning and look around the hotel room, but can’t find Zoe. I check my phone to find she’s sent me a message to meet in Japan Town, so I take a quick shower and order a cab, but the driver almost immediately takes a wrong turn — at which point I remember the previous night.
Wait. Right. Shit.
I ask him to bring me back to the hotel, grab all of my stuff, and have him drive me to the library instead. Eventually Zoe messages me to ask where I am and why I ditched her, and I tell her she lied. She plays dumb, and I ask her what happened between her and Nathan Grayson, and — realizing what I’m most likely to have found out — she admits that she lied about not having had sex with anyone while she and I were sort of broken up between May and June, and that she had in fact been fucking Nathan for some portion of that time.
Friggen Nathan Stupid-Red-Pants-Wearing Kotaku-Writing Grayson.
She gets super remorseful and says how awful she’d felt about it and how not telling me was the most fucked up stupidest thing she’d ever done and how sorry she is and how she doesn’t know how I can ever forgive her for this one single thing she did wrong and is so wracked with guilt about.
Except that no — this ain’t amateur hour and just because Nathan was at the same bar last night doesn’t mean I’m limited to whatever he was most likely to have told me. Fuck, we never even so much as said hello. We just stood inches from each other with dinky little mix drinks in hand like a couple of imbeciles pretending there ain’t nothing awkward at all going on there.
No, that’s not how this works. How this works is I’ve had two possible pictures in my head for the past month. One that looked like some ransom-note collage of letters Scotch-taped over a cum-covered canvas spelling out “Zoe Quinn is the best person. Best possible person. You are a bad person if you think Zoe is not the best person.” And another in the form of a precision-carved jigsaw puzzle, for which all of the pieces I wasn’t missing fit perfectly into what seemed to be a subtly-worded message to the effect of “lol, ur an idiot, she’s a jerk, flip me over for list of dates and names of people she’s cheated on you with.”
How this works is I’ve been telling myself “Nah, that can’t be what the jigsaw puzzle means. Look, this cum collage Zoe gave me says so.”
How this works is Zoe gave me one more piece at the bar the previous night, because her only other option was to risk my getting a bunch more pieces from Nathan. That piece contained some fine print which read “The cum collage may not be entirely accurate.”
So I ask Zoe what happened between her and Nathan before we were broken up, and she gives me some PR-laden “I was probably getting emotionally closer to him than appropriate. Right at the end of things with us.”
Okay: some context here regarding “at the end of things with us.” Right at “the end of things with us” she canceled the game we were co-developing and stood me up a bunch of times during the travel-free month’s worth of time we were looking forward to spending together, as a result of which I had my first ever panic attack [April 29th], because I was worried the one person I’d ever managed to fall in love with might be breaking up with me for some reason I couldn’t figure out. When I related these worries to Zoe, she assured me the relationship wasn’t in danger and that she loved me and was even happy that I cared enough to worry. This was part of a fun little emergent two player power / head game she decided to play with me. The gist of the rules seemed to be as follows:
- If boyfriend relates observations that lead to a correct belief, girlfriend is to make up false reason to explain observations. If boyfriend backs down, girlfriend wins.
- If boyfriend doesn’t back down, and notes girlfriend’s reason conflicts with other observations, girlfriend must get angry and demand boyfriend trust her unconditionally. Boyfriend must then choose between trusting girlfriend, or trusting his own ability to so much as reason clearly.
- If boyfriend chooses to trust girlfriend, girlfriend must demand he trust her about something that contradicts something else she demands he trust her about. When boyfriend cannot possibly act in any way that doesn’t violate one of her principles or claims, girlfriend must establish he is going insane. If boyfriend succumbs to additional bouts of anxiety spent questioning his own sanity — girlfriend wins: multiply points by number of hours longest panic attack lasts.
- If boyfriend does not back down, and decides instead to trust his own ability to think clearly, girlfriend must threaten to break up with boyfriend. If boyfriend backs down, girlfriend wins.
- If boyfriend continues trusting simple reasoning, girlfriend must actually break up with boyfriend (for a period of time no shorter than 1 hour and not exceeding 2 days). If boyfriend does not bring up the subject again, girlfriend wins.
- If boyfriend does not back down, and figures that since the relationship is over, he might as well try to get the universe to make sense, girlfriend must figure out some way to break up with him *even more*. If boyfriend drops the subject, girlfriend wins. If boyfriend does not drop the subject, repeat step 6 — point multiplier for number of times step 6 is repeated until girlfriend wins.
- If boyfriend calls bullshit on the whole thing and breaks up with girlfriend, boyfriend wins. This is the only winning condition for boyfriend.
We played this game quite a number of times [up until around May 29th], and she won in every conceivable way the game allows. With any luck, knowing the rules in advance will be helpful to the next contestant; I had no such advantage.
In effect, what Zoe preferred to just telling me the truth, was to convince me I was going insane [], pretend she had no idea why, say she just didn’t have time to hang between work and the three friends from Texas she was letting crash at her house for a week [May 4th – 10th] and ostracize me for the duration of her newly truncated stay in Boston — all the while Facebook-messaging me nightly to tell me how much she loved me and was concerned about me — unless I tried to figure out anything that would make things make sense again, in which case: see game rules above.
What the jigsaw puzzle says, is that she made two of the friends up, and only Nathan was staying at her house that week. And she made every effort to avoid seeing me so she didn’t have to be in the awkward position of hanging out with both her boyfriend and the guy she was cheating on him with. But we’ll get to that.
I press her and ask what happened physically. She says “we got kinda cuddly.”
The story so far then is that she avoided me for a week to have a guy sleep at her house, and they got “emotionally closer than appropriate” and the only result was that they “got kinda cuddly.”
At this point I remind her of how just a few weeks ago she brought up the topic of trust, and went on for some time about how she would never be so irresponsible as to lie in a relationship, because, she said, a single breach of trust could break the whole thing.
So now I ask her why she would go so far as to even start that conversation if she had in fact been lying to me almost constantly for months, and all she can respond with is “I don’t have a good answer for that.”
I figure that reminding her of this thing she said would make her less likely to lie again, and ask her “who else?”.
Okay, there goes that.
I ask her again.
“no one else.”
What in the actual fuck? WHAT IN THE ACTUAL FUCK HOW HAS SHE NOT CAUGHT ON THAT I ALREADY KNOW AND AM GIVING HER A CHANCE TO COME CLEAN. I make it clear and tell her we can’t fix this if I can’t trust her, and she finally seems to get it.
Okay good who el– wait, what the fuck? Robin? Robin Arnott?? HE’S NOT ON THE JIGSAW PUZZLE LIST WHAT THE FUCK MAN I LIKED ROBIN! I showed him how neural nets worked at IndieCade back in February. What the fuck Robin, why you gotta be like that? You knew we were dating the least you could’ve done was tell me.
I poker face and ask her “who else?” I tell her to list them all, not one by one so she can determine which ones I do and don’t know about. I ask her to do it because she wants this to work between us. She ignores that and continues listing one at a time.
“Blue, once during the break, while we were drunk.”
“Turquoise, during the break”
Blue and Turquoise were on the jigsaw list. She definitely did both of them way more than once [throughout mid May to June], but in any case their names get censored because they presumably only had sex with her during the break, so unlike Robin Arnott, Joshua Boggs and Nathan Grayson, they weren’t slimy enough to sleep with someone they knew was in a relationship. Though to be clear, Zoe and I agreed (minimally for STD concerns, but also because we both just kind of wanted the assurance) that we would tell each other if we slept with anyone during this break — Zoe however, thought it would be more fun to spend it playing a new game. Here were the rules:
- Player must convince ex-boyfriend that player can’t even entertain the thought of having sex with anyone but him. []
- Player must bring up strong principled stances to prevent player’s ex-boyfriend from sleeping with anyone but player.
- Player may secretly have sex with as many people as desired.
- Player gets one point for every person player secretly has sex with.
- Point multiplier per hookup for each time player misleads ex-boyfriend into having unprotected sex with player (by telling him player has not had sex with anyone else).
- Point multiplier per hookup for each time player goes on a long vocal tirade about how unethical that sort of thing would be.
- Point multiplier per strong principled stance brought up to convince ex-boyfriend not to sleep with anyone else.
She won the hell out of that game — but I want to take this opportunity to point out that we’re not talking about some remedial course high schooler still figuring out how to not treat people like turds here. Zoe’s 27 years old, and has 19 thousand twitter followers and her own wikipedia article touting her as a voice for all that is right and just and good in the world. And she’s fucking smart.
“Who else? Everyone.”
Joshua Boggs was also on the jigsaw list. Joshua Boggs knew she was in a relationship. Joshua Boggs is her boss. Joshua Boggs is married. Joshua Boggs is a total dick.
“Everyone. List them”
“I think that’s everyone.”[]
. . . what? She thinks that’s everyone? How does that even? What? Was she just being skeezy so nonchalantly that she’ll just forget a few people here and there? Like, for whatever reason she just remembers those five guys?
And I keep thinking back on this and I’m like “Five guys. Man. she cheated on me with five guys? Five guys.”
And now I can’t stop mentally referring to her as Burgers and Fries.
But it’s okay, I will likely get past it so long as I remember it was very very probably considerably more than five guys. Thank god for that.
(There’s some confusion on this point. To be clear she cheated on me with 3 people while we were in an exclusive relationship, and 2 people while we were sort of on a break, during which she claimed we were functionally still exclusive.)
The conversation continues (paraphrased):
“And how long did it go on?”
“With Robin it was once during game jam [late March]. Everything was fucked up and I was drunk and lonely and fucking miserable. Josh was a few days later. Similar reasons”
“What was the nature of the relationship with Josh? How long did it go on?”
“A few days because he told me he had a wife”
“you’re failing here.”
“you are lying.”
“it’s over I’m sorry”
“What?? wait shit no I was misremembering. It started during GDC before you arrived I think? As well as later in LA” [March 16th – June 2nd?]
Okay first: the last two quotes are verbatim and the “I was misremembering” line is hilarious. []
Second: I got to GDC just the day after she did. Which means they had sex the night before I arrived. Which means she probably blew him like 12 hours before I kissed her. Which — I just don’t want to think about — but in any case, when she casually introduced me to Josh at a bar that night, he actually struck me as precisely the type of person with no reservations about sleeping with someone’s girlfriend given the chance. Though at the time, I hadn’t realized he’d been given that chance, and took it, just the night before.
Third: Holy shit hypocrisy — after we got back together [June 26th], Zoe more or less forbade me from associating with a female friend I’d been discussing some problem I was having trouble with (not even personal; about mapping vector fields onto non-orientable manifolds in n-space or some shit), who vaguely showed a tentative interest in me during our break-up.[] Zoe was afraid that this friend, an immunocompromised fellow nerd with trauma problems, would try to sleep with me. On her own end, though (again, after we got back together), Zoe had no problem continuing to be friends with Robin and Nathan, both of whom not only showed an interest in her, but she actually screwed while we were dating. And — despite her strong principled stance against guys who cheat on their wives — she had no problem working for Josh after she found out he had a wife.
Fourth: At first I’m thinking “How was his having a wife the motivating factor in terminating that affair? How is that more important to her than her own boyfriend?” Then I’m thinking “Oh, it had nothing to do with me, she just didn’t want to do anyone skeezy enough to cheat on their significant other. Okay, yeah, I can totally relate to that. I can relate very well to that, actually.”
(In advance of any trilby-wearing e-sleuths, allow me to save you some time — yes, that means she was having sex with Josh Boggs right before he hired her. No, that doesn’t mean anyone’s going to risk their game’s success on an unqualified narrative designer for side benefits. Zoe is in fact a pretty solid narrative designer. And if there’s any significant fault to find in her narrative design, it’s that she never stops doing it.)
Anyway, amidst a lot of lying and a lot of being backed into corners and a lot of shows of remorse, she goes on to admit that she also cheated on me with Nathan way before we broke up [Apr 1st – 6th], and that right at the end of things with us [May 4th – 10th] they did considerably more than get cuddly, and she did in fact ostracize me and convince me I was going crazy simply so that she could fuck Nathan and that she did in fact make up the other two friends staying over her house that week so it would look less suspicious.
Yeah all of that stuff is super fucked and I should cry about it later — but seriously who the fuck just makes two people up??[]
Just — what?
Somehow, her reason for all of this was that I had told her I’d never been in love with anyone before, and that while she told me she was in love with me two months into the relationship [February 15th], I didn’t say it back until a month later. And when I finally did, apparently I used the wrong tone []. So yes, obviously that means she should cheat on me with three guys for that month [she had sex with Josh, Nathan, and Robin throughout mid March to early April], and then continue adding guys to the roster every month thereafter. That’s obviously the thing someone should do.
I ask her if she even meant that argument she made about consent, and she says she did. I ask her how she could agree with that and do THIS (a ton of times with a bunch of guys), and she says she’s going to barf [].
I don’t let her know how disgusted or disgusting I feel — it wouldn’t be a worthwhile conversation — and at this point I don’t know if she actually cares; or at least I’m certain she didn’t care enough to not do it.
I ask her how she could be willing to have sex with me without protection despite sharing my concern about STDs, how she could be selfish enough to do that guy after guy simply because she didn’t want me to find out. I try to figure out how all this could have come from the unflinchingly righteous and honest person I thought I fell in love with.
She tells me she got tested.
I ask how she got tested in the timespan between having sex with me at GDC, and Josh the previous night.
She admits she didn’t get tested[]. And says I never deserved any of this.
I ask her how she can say she believes all of these things. How she can say that convincing your partner they’re going crazy just to enable your own fucked up behavior is intolerably painful — and then go on to do just that. []
How she can talk about how horrible being ostracized was for her as both a child and an adult — and go on to ostracize people whenever it suits her interests (she did this to Nathan as well).
How she can be so vocal about something as important as sexual consent and establish that infidelity violates it — and then go on to cheat.
How she can talk about how confusing and awful dishonesty can be — and lie through an entire relationship, to enable all of the other behaviors she criticized.
How she can keep lying even as I’m giving her the chance to fix what she now says is the most important thing in her life.
She says she doesn’t know how she can live with herself. She says she just tried commit suicide, and I tell her I’m coming back to the hotel to keep an eye on her. []
Citation Images: VERY LARGE.
Also do not open if you don’t want a giant wall of chat logs.
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