Mike Zaimont, the chief designer of the Skullgirls fighting game, was accused of harassment and racist statements. However, the developer refused to leave the company Lab Zero Games, of which he is the sole owner. Instead, several colleagues left the studio at once. We understand the situation.
How did it all start?
At the end of June, the popular cosplayer and streamer BunnyAyu shared a personal correspondence with Mike (screenshots are still available on Imgur). She stated that after that she would no longer be able to play Skullgirls.
- BunnyAyu was the first to write to the developer, thanking him for adding a BDSM character to the game;
- Zaymont began with a very confused answer, periodically pretending to communicate with himself. However, soon the correspondence flowed into an obscene channel;
- The head of Lab Zero Games asked the girl about sexism in the Fighting Game Community (FGC for short), her sexualized image and high voice. The developer also stated that this directly affects the number of subscribers and revenue;
- in conclusion, Mike suggested that Bunny often receives such messages from “people with penises”, and decided to admit that “a lady has a brain”;
- the cosplayer found such comments in her address “embarrassing and humiliating.” According to her, if she were a man, she would never have read such words in her address.
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How did the community react to this?
BunnyAyu was supported by many FGC participants. Among them is the cosplayer Carbonbae, who shared her experience of communicating with Zaymont. According to her, the developer regularly made obscene comments of a sexual nature to her at various events.
To her questions about Mike’s behavior, everyone said that he was just such a person. However, as Carbonbae notes, the developer has not changed in any way over the past five years, and the BunnyAyu case only proves this.
Re : Mike Z in Bunny’s DMs, but also just in general pic.twitter.com/QVpf8FR4Xz
— ? Carbunny Bun ? (@carbonbae) June 29, 2020
Also, a professional player SonicFox took the side of the girls. He stated that Mike’s actions do not reflect the views of the Skullgirls players, and he hopes that the developer will face the appropriate consequences.
However, some players reproached SonicFox for hypocrisy, since he had previously supported Zaymont after a racist joke. A few weeks before the harassment scandal, the developer used the phrase “I can’t breathe” during one of the Skullgirls tournaments (these are the last words George Floyd said before being killed by a policeman — approx.).
In response to this , SonicFox said: “I can forgive a mistake, but not a habit. [In Mike’s case] it’s about habit.”
Sanctions and interim results
- The Skullgirls community called for banning Zaymont from attending tournaments for two years, as well as suspending him from commenting. Many professional players and organizers have signed up for this;
- The developer was also suspended from participating in a major Combo Breaker tournament next year.
The company’s reaction and the departure of employees
- On July 3, Lab Zero Games studio announced on Twitter that they were aware of the allegations and promised to release a full statement. However, no new information has been received since then;
- after the accusations, the artist Beezul left the studio and stated that Mike had repeatedly made racist comments about him and threatened physical violence;
- Beezul also talked about how Mike bragged about the size of his genitals in front of an employee. According to the artist, Zaymont’s behavior was never censured, and the developer continued to share details of his sex life with girls.
Internal proceedings and dismissal of Board members
Last weekend, the story was continued. The artist EU03 told what happened inside the studio after the accusations against Zaymont:
- the board members put Mike on paid leave and launched an investigation;
- Initially, Zaymont agreed to leave the company, but eventually changed his mind and fired all members of the board. This made him the sole owner and gave him full control over the studio;
- EU03 stated that, given Zaymont’s position and his unwillingness to compromise, it would be almost impossible to achieve his departure;
- this also forced the artist to leave the studio, as Mike creates an unhealthy working environment for all employees.
- Despite this, EU03 urged players to support Skullgirls, since Lab Zero Games does not own the IP rights, and not only Mike worked on the game.
What awaits Lab Zero Games in the future?
- Some players fear that the situation may lead to the collapse of Lab Zero Games;
- in light of the events, some users expect a mass departure of other employees, recalling the case of the dismissal of the artist Alex Ahad. The employee had a conflict with the company after working on the RPG Indivisible and releasing it without bonuses for backers on Kickstarter;
- Mike himself has not commented on the accusations of harassment in any way and has not yet publicly spoken about it.
Also on the topic:
- Chris Avellon was accused of harassment. Now he is suspended from working on several games
- Anita Sargsyan has opened a hotline on harassment in the gaming industry
- After a wave of scandals, Riot Games will launch its own ethics committee
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