CS:GO Co-Creator Pleads Guilty to Sexual Exploitation of a Minor

Jess Cliffe, co-creator of Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and long time fixture at Valve, pled guilty to charges of sexual exploitation of a minor in King County Superior court last week. The charges stemmed from the testimony of a then 16 year old girl that Cliffe, 36, contacted her and paid her in exchange for performing sexual acts on three occasions during the summer of 2017.

According to Seattle PD’s statement of probable cause, Cliffe contacted the victim through the dating site SeekingArrangement.com, which has a reputation for cultivating sugar daddy/mama style relationships. Cliffe paid the victim roughly $300 per hour on each occasion. The victim also revealed that Cliffe recorded their last sexual encounter without her consent, placing Cliffe in possession of child pornography.

Cliffe was first implicated when the victim was referred to police by Seattle Child Protective Services. An analysis of his SeekingArrangement.com profile linked Cliffe’s address and name to the phone number in question. Phone records acquired by King County investigators revealed call and text logs between the two parties that verified their relationship.

More credence was given to the accusations when the victim was able to identify the location of Cliffe’s West Seattle home, provided a layout of his home per her recollection and picked his photo out of a lineup. She also provided investigators with a detailed account of where Cliffe would pick her up and led them to his home via the route he would normally take during their encounters.

King County investigators made Cliffe aware that he was named in the investigation on Jan. 31, 2018. Cliffe agreed to speak with investigators and met with them later that evening. When questioned, Cliffe correctly described the victim’s physical appearance despite stating he didn’t recognize a photo of her. He also denied knowing she was underage to investigators, saying she “appeared to be 23 years old.”

Despite his denials, Cliffe went on to corroborate details regarding one of their meetings, including the location where he picked up and dropped off the victim, and personal information about the victim, including her history of drug use and employment. This knowledge gave investigators enough information to establish probable cause and detain Cliffe that evening. He was initially denied bail, Cliffe was released after posting a $150,000 bail on February 2.

A date for Cliffe’s sentencing is yet to be set.

Prior to his arrest, Cliffe was a mainstay of Valve’s development sector. His work co-creating the original Counter-Strike initially brought him to Valve’s attention. Cliffe worked on many seminal titles during his time with Valve, including Half-Life 2, Portal 2, Team Fortress 2 and Left 4 Dead 2, before building the FPS giant CS:GO. Valve suspended Cliffe when news of his arrest was made public and he has remained on suspension throughout court proceedings. Valve is yet to issue a public statement regarding Cliffe outside of confirming his suspension.