Mike Z has laid off everyone from Lab Zero, the studio he helped run to work on titles like Skullgirls. But now, that all seems like it’s going up in smoke. This week, the studio seems to be no more. But first, we need a bit of background to understand what’s happening.
In June 2020, multiple allegations of misconduct came from within the studio, accusing Zaimont of very inappropriate behavior. The allegations included inappropriate sexual comments towards multiple members of staff. The board at Lab Zero Games announced an investigation, and upon completing it pushed for him to resign from the company. Zaimont straight up refused, making demands that Lab Zero senior art producer Brian Jun called “unrealistically high and potentially illegal”.
Zaimont then moved to effectively dissolve the company, and due to his ownership, was able to remove the board from the equation. This move triggered the obvious backlash, and it’s frankly justified. In late August, Kim, Jun, and Mariel Cartwright, Lab Zero’s lead animator, resigned from Lab Zero Games. This left a few staff at the company, seemingly with a very uncertain future.
And now Zaimont has revealed the true form of his scummy behavior, firing the remaining staff with no severance or plan to deal with the issues he caused. The really scummy part is that we only found out about the dismissals through a tweet. So where does that leave their two games?
Since Skullgirls is owned by Autumn Games, development on the main game—as well as Skullgirls Mobile—will continue on without involvement from Lab Zero. The same cannot be said for their self-owned title, Indivisible. Released last year, the game is now left with a very precarious future ahead of it.
And this isn’t the first time Zaimont has landed in hot water either. The developer made a rather offensive comment on Twitch about the death of George Floyd. During a run of Skullgirls gameplay on Ryan Price’s Twitch channel, a caster commented that one player was “suffocating” their opponent. In response, Mike Z said “Would it be fair to say that, you can’t breathe?”. This direct reference to the death that helped spark the ongoing BLM protests was in extremely poor taste, and was received as such by many in the industry and across the web. That was back in June 2020, and now we have this latest mess.
Mike Z issued an apology for that, but it looks like pretty much everyone has forgotten about that because they’re justifiably mad about this latest nonsense.
“I hope the rest of my actions in life are a testament to that,” he said at the time. Well, it certainly looks like these latest actions paint a very clear picture of the kind of person we’re dealing with. I sincerely hope that everyone who was affected by Zaimont’s indefensible behavior finds a better situation within or without the industry, and I wish them luck.