At least four people were allegedly “roofied” at a private party for gaming industry professionals at a Downtown San Francisco karaoke bar Thursday, the event's organizer and attendees said.
The event followed the annual Game Developers Conference, a massive gaming industry gathering that was held at San Francisco’s Moscone Center from March 20-24.
One game developer who attended the party and spoke with The Standard on the condition of anonymity said they believed their drink was spiked around 1 a.m. and that by 1:45 a.m. they were starting to feel unwell.
“I was having a hard time talking and staying conscious,” the game developer said.
The developer made it home safely but said they still felt inebriated around 10 hours after they had stopped drinking. By Sunday afternoon, an enduring brain fog that led them to believe they were drugged had finally gone. They did not get tested.
Guy Blomberg, who co-organized the private party at Pandora Karaoke & Bar, acknowledged that drink-spiking is common at game industry events.
“I'm furious this not only happened, but that it tends to happen so frequently that it's become almost commonplace. It's NOT fucking ok or acceptable,” Blomberg tweeted Saturday.
We've been informed of multiple folks that were roofied last Thursday night in SF, most probably at the karaoke event we hosted.— Guy 'Yug' Blomberg (@YugSTAR) March 25, 2023
Thankfully they had friends who looked after them and they're ok all things considered.
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The party at Pandora Karaoke & Bar was not affiliated with any video game company or association, but was organized privately by Ty Taylor, director of independent game developer Quantum Astrophysicists Guild, and Blomberg, founder of Games Industry Gathering, a membership group for gaming industry professionals, they said. Pandora Karaoke & Bar on Mason Street was contacted for comment, but did not immediately respond.
Taylor said four people had their drinks spiked at Pandora Karaoke & Bar Thursday, and said he knows of two other people who had their drinks spiked at two other industry-affiliated events elsewhere, one on Thursday and one the following night. The Standard has not been able to verify the reports but spoke to several sources who claim to have knowledge of the incidents.
Here is an update answering a handful of questions that Guy and I have gotten about our karaoke party Thursday night. Since posting, we've now been reached out to about multiple drink-spiking instances at multiple parties and venues over multiple nights last week (W-F).— Ty Taylor (@IMakeIndieGames) March 27, 2023
Taylor also tweeted that it’s possible people may have snuck into the party and that plus ones were admitted who were not named on guest lists.
The game developer who spoke with The Standard said that the karaoke bar opened to the public at 1 a.m., so by then anyone could have entered the bar and spiked their drink.
“It very well could have been a non-industry member,” the game developer said.
Taylor said the victims he had been in contact with all made it home safely.
“All four of the victims from our event have been in touch with either Guy or I,” Ty said. “This is an enormous issue in the game industry at our events, and it sickens and infuriates me. Reading the Twitter remarks of how many women and marginalized people are afraid of attending events at all is deeply troubling, and things absolutely need to change immediately.”
The game developer who alleges they had their drink spiked said that the incidents can go unreported for fear of survivors being “doxxed” or blamed by others.
“Someone could say, ‘Oh, that person drinks a lot.’ People want to stay anonymous for fear of being criticized for other reasons,” the game developer said.
An out-of-state police station confirmed a report was filed Monday relating to a case number provided by the developer The Standard spoke to, but no further details about the report were provided. The Standard is not naming the location of the police station to protect the victim’s identity. San Francisco Police Department could not find any incident reports relating to Thursday night at the karaoke bar.
‘Exhausting and Infuriating’
Following the event and announcements of the allegations on social media, further accusations of drink-spiking at gaming industry events surfaced. Multiple accounts said they had been spiked at game industry events or knew others who had.
“Can we seriously talk about the spiking going on at GDC over the last few years? One lassie had been spiked on both visits and no longer attends,” tweeted Kim MacAskill, who works for PlayStation. “This isn't a one-off. This is continuous, growing and being allowed to do so.”
Can we seriously talk about the spiking going on at GDC over the last few years? One lassie had been spiked on both visits and no longer attends.— Kim MacAskill (@kimmacaskill1) March 26, 2023
This is where games has yet to find the maturity of measures needed to protect our own. If this was TV or Film, their backlog of...
“As women / femme presenting people, we shouldn't have to prepare for the worst, especially by peers who we should feel safe around. It's exhausting and infuriating,” tweeted Julie Elven, a freelance vocalist who says she frequently works in the gaming industry.
Fucking infuriated by how many years in a row harassment, assault and drink spiking happens at #GDC. The results are traumatic and also retraumatize those of us who experienced assault and harassment before. For accessibility the bare minimum of "a safe environment" should exist.— Julie Elven 🎶 (@JulieElvenMusic) March 25, 2023
The Game Developers Conference said they were not involved with the event at Pandora Karaoke & Bar where the alleged drink spiking took place Thursday, and condemned alleged drink-spiking and assault at game industry events.
“We are very upset to hear that some people, especially women, reported concerning experiences during the GDC week at off-site events, including assault and drink spiking. This is outrageous and unacceptable; everyone has a right to feel safe,” the GDC said in an emailed statement.
Taylor said that in an effort to identify who may have spiked drinks during the event at Pandora Karaoke & Bar, he and co-organizer Blomberg are cross-referencing guest lists from another party where someone reportedly had their drink spiked and are trying to get video footage from the karaoke bar.
Taylor said over email that he plans to be much stricter about guest lists and security at the door for future events he organizes, and plans to buy disposable drink covers and testing strips in bulk.
“If we find the person(s) responsible we're not going to be subtle or quiet about it—no matter who they are, they will be held accountable,” Taylor tweeted Monday.
Garrett Leahy can be reached at [email protected]