Multiple devs from Lab Zero Games, the studio behind Skullgirls and Indivisible, have left the company due to the behavior of founder and owner Mike Zaimont. For some time now, Mike Z has created what a few employees are calling an “unsafe work environment” and has routinely been involved with racist jokes, allegations of sexual misconduct, and general abusive behavior. Just yesterday, numerous former staff announced their departure on Twitter with brief messages to fans of the company’s work.
We can’t list every single one, but the statement from art director/lead animator Mariel Cartwright above echoes a lot of the same concerns these former employees had. In their words, Mike Z is unremorseful for his actions and has never directly apologized for his comments. The most recent case came back in June of this year when Mike made a rather inappropriate comment on a stream following the death of George Floyd. Lab Zero Games was seemingly not allowed to issue a public statement and that became the boiling point for staff members to examine what was wrong with the studio.
Art producer Brian Jun shines a light on how Mike Z is the sole owner of the company, so forcing him to leave would be difficult. While negotiations with the board of Lab Zero started off smooth enough, Mike performed a figurative table flip and assumed full control. This is what caused many of the employees to step away.
Publishers Hidden Variable and Autumn Games (both of which worked on the mobile port of Skullgirls) have even issued a statement distancing themselves from Mike. As they explain, Zaimont was never directly involved in the development of the mobile port and has no control over that particular version. While he still runs Lab Zero, Skullgirls is owned by Autumn Games and can continue to be updated and iterated on without Mike’s involvement.
Quite what this all means for Lab Zero is unclear. It seems like only a matter of time before the rest of the staff leaves and possibly founds their own studio to continue work on Skullgirls and Indivisible. Mike Z may not want that, but he’s created a very disheartening situation for everyone.
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