Multiple developers who were responsible for bringing Skullgirls to life have left studio Lab Zero Games over the alleged behavior of lead designer Mike Zaimont.
The exodus of developers began on August 23rd when Lab Zero Games art producer Brian “EU03” Jun announced that he was “leaving Lab Zero Games.”
Alongside the announcement, Jun also posted a statement that explained the decision. Saying in part, “Mike Z creates an unsafe work environment for everyone. He is the sole owner of Lab Zero Games, and removing him is difficult. He originally agreed to leave, but is unwilling to make a reasonable compromise, so I’m taking my exit now.”
A longer statement was attached to the Tweet as well:
According to Jun, following the public exposure of an awkward interaction Zaimont had with popular streamer BunnyAyu, that left the entertainer feeling uncomfortable, “the board and the rest of the employees decided the best thing to make the workplace safe again was asking Mike Z to leave Lab Zero.”
However, negotiations for Zaimont’s exit stalled due to the sentiment that “the board and employees would not stand for someone to be handsomely rewarded with his ill behavior.”
Zaimont then “removed all members of the board to assume full control of Lab Zero.”
This reasoning was echoed by other Lab Zero members who also announced their resignations.
Announcing that he had “resigned from my position,” Senior Animator Jonathan “Persona” Kim provided a statement that explained how he could “no longer continue working at a company where Mike Zaimont has any part.”
Zaimont’s behavior allegedly included “frequently mentioning his genitals, forcing unwanted physical contact, making sexual comments about himself or about employee’s bodies, insulting coworkers privately or openly in front of other coworkers, [and] using very personal details to threaten or demean coworkers when they didn’t go along with what he wanted or act in a way he wished.”
“Mike refused to listen and has decided that everyone in the company, including people he’s victimized, are wrong,” said Kim.
A resignation statement from fellow Lead Animator and Art Director Mariel “Kinuko” Cartwright cited how Zaimont had, “apologized for his behavior and said he would [leave the company], but has now turned around and said he won’t, all the while continuing to intimidate and bully employees.”
This was a driving force in her departure according to her statement:
Lab Zero also lost Senior Artist Jessica “Nami” Allen, who stated that the situation had presented “a stressful last few weeks.”
Lead UI/Graphic Designer Brady Hartel also announced he was leaving the company.
Hartel stated, “This is extremely sad for me because I was a founding member and have spent close to 10 years of my life there. I don’t really have a statement or anything, other than I stand in solidarity with my fellow coworkers and believe them.”
Skullgirls Mobile and developers Autumn and Hidden Variable would issue a joint statement.
It begins, “Autumn Games and Hidden Variable Studios fully support these employees who have chosen to stand by their principles and leave in light of that behavior, and we find their allegations to be credible. As such effective immediately, we will not longer be working with Mike Zaimont or Lab Zero Games.”
They add, “Although Hidden Variable has worked on Skullgirls Mobile since 2015, we are a 100% independent studio from Lab Zero Games. Our formal relationship is with Autumn Games, who are the official IP holders for Skullgirls.”
Despite their exit from the studio, the devs have asked fans to continue supporting Skullgirls and Skullsgirls Mobile, as “[Zaimont] or Lab Zero does not own the IP; Autumn Games does.”
Cartwright would , “Please continue to support Skullgirls! Autumn and Hidden Variable are committed to it, and there are so many wonderful people that work on it.”
As of writing, Zaimont has not publicly responded to these developments and allegations.