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Several people leave Skullgirls devs Lab Zero, accusing owner of inappropriate behaviour

Former staff speak up

Several people have publicly resigned from Lab Zero Games, the studio behind Skullgirls and Indivisible, saying they could no longer tolerate the the behaviour of its owner. Three posted public statements explaining their departures, accusing Mike Zaimont of inappropriate sexual and hostile behaviour in the workplace. They claim the team had tried to get Zaimont to leave but he wouldn't, so they decided to leave instead.

In June, not long after Zaimont had made a ghastly joke referring to the killing of George Floyd on a Skullgirls stream (for which he apologised), several members of the fighting game community accused him of inappropriate sexual comments and behaviour.

"We are aware of the allegations made about Mike Zaimont," Lab Zero said in response on Twitter on July 3rd. "We are listening and we'll make a full statement soon." They did not.

Last night, Lab Zero Games creative director Mariel Cartwright, animator Jonathan Kim, and artist Brian Jun announced their resignations with public statements on Twitter. Between them, they explain that Lab Zero began an internal investigation after these allegations, which they say is when people who had unpleasant experiences with Zaimont found out they weren't the only ones. They variously describe controlling, abusive, and sexual behaviours in the workplace.

"It's not just 'Well, Mike is kind of a jerk but he's not a bad guy,' anymore," Cartwright said. "It's 'Mike is not the person we thought he was.'"

Their accounts say the board had asked Zaimont to leave, but because he fully owns the company he could just dig his heels in. And they say he did. They claim he would not change his behaviour or leave, Jun says Zaimont has removed the board, and Kim says he told employees to leave by August 31st if they're unsatisfied. And some have.

As well as the three who issued statements, former Lab Zero CEO Francesca Esquenazi and artist Nami announced their resignations yesterday. And Indivisible lead writer Brandon Sheffield has said he cut ties with Lab Zero two months ago due to Zaimont's behaviour.

Autumn Games, who hold the Skullgirls intellectual property, have issued a joint statement with Hidden Variable, who make Skullgirls Mobile.

"[We] fully support those employees who have chosen to stand by their principles and leave in light of that behaviour, and we find their allegations to be credible," the two companies said. "As such, effective immediately, we will no longer be working with Mike Zaimont or Lab Zero Games." They noted that they do still "plan to work with the many talented individuals who are leaving Lab Zero to build new Skullgirls content moving forward", with new content headed to both the home and mobile versions.

Lab Zero have still not publicly commented on June's incidents, seven weeks after they said they would, let alone these departures.

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Alice O'Connor avatar

Alice O'Connor

Associate Editor

Alice has been playing video games since SkiFree and writing about them since 2009, with nine years at RPS. She enjoys immersive sims, roguelikelikes, chunky revolvers, weird little spooky indies, mods, walking simulators, and finding joy in details. Alice lives, swims, and cycles in Scotland.