Mike “Mike Z” Zaimont became the subject of multiple rounds of controversy earlier this year, and it appears that nothing at Lab Zero Games has changed since he was accused of inappropriate behavior by multiple members of the community and a former co-worker.
Multiple employees from the Skullgirls developer, including lead animator and art director Mariel Cartwright, who has been with the team since 2012, have resigned from the company due to the lack of action against Zaimont.
Since his inappropriate behavior towards the community and co-workers came out, along with making a joke about George Floyd’s final words live on stream, Zaimont and the team at Lab Zero had several internal talks about his behavior. This led the remaining employees and the board to leave the company.
The board started negotiating terms of separation for Zaimont, as he is the sole owner of Lab Zero, after he originally agreed that it would be best if he left because of everything going on. He was placed on paid administrative leave during these negotiations, but according to several employees, his terms were “unrealistically high and even potentially illegal.”
“What he was asking for was absolutely unacceptable and undeserving for someone who wronged so many people for so many years,” art producer Brian EU03” Jun said in his own resignation letter. “The board and employees would not stand for someone to be handsomely rewarded with his ill behavior, and we rejected the majority of his terms.”
After that exchange, Jun says that Zaimont completely reversed his stance and said he would no longer be leaving the company. He also removed the board entirely in order to take full control of the company, before reportedly trying to re-engage in negotiations a few days later, with little to no changes in his terms.
Cartwright also brought up some of her own inappropriate interactions with Zaimont, which included multiple sexual comments about her body, clothes and both uncomfortable hugs and unwanted jokes.
“He once suggested that I masturbate when I told him I couldn’t sleep, and on another occasion suggested I ‘help’ him with his unfulfilled sexual needs,” Cartwright said. “I made a complaint about him during my time at Reverge Labs back in 2011. I did try to talk to him about how I was uncomfortable in 2017, and in return he called me a hypocrite and blamed me for how I dressed. He said he didn’t want sexual harassment training. If I wanted to keep my job, I felt like I had to just deal with it.”
With his stance clear, multiple employees resigned from the company, posting their own messages to the community on their individual Twitter pages. Outside of Cartwright and Jun, this also included senior animator Jonathan “Persona” Kim and senior artist Jessica Allen.
The Skullgirls community has rushed to support the people who worked so hard to create and give them the game, even though they were working in such awful conditions. Community figures like top fighting game player Dominique “SonicFox” McLean have also spoken out, with promises to help those ex-Lab Zero employees in any way possible.
The ex-Skullgirls developers still urge players to continue supporting the game despite everything going on, because Zaimont and Lab Zero do not own the IP for it or Indivisible, another game developed by the studio. Autumn Games and 505 Games own the rights, while Hidden Variable Studios continue to update the mobile version of Skullgirls.