Lab Zero Games has been removed from Skullgirls development. A wave of staff resignations from the development studio responsible for the long-running indie fighting game Skullgirls is the catalyst for development duties being taken away from the studio founder and abusive creator of the series. Reports going as far back as March alleged inappropriate, abusive behavior by Skullgirls co-creator Mike “Mike Z” Zaimonthas towards staff, leading to a hostile work environment that many at Lab Zero no longer felt was safe.
In the wake of Mike Z failing to acknowledge the accusations, members of the development team announced their resignation from the studio yesterday, including Art Director Mariel Cartwright, Brian Jun, Senior Animator Jonathan Kim, and more. This appeared to be the last straw, for Skullgirls publisher Autumn Games and Skullgirls Mobile developer Hidden Variable. They announced in a joint statement yesterday that Lab Zero will no longer handle Skullgirls development, nor will Mike Z continue his involvement in the series.
An official statement from Hidden Variable and Autumn regarding Lab Zero Games and the future of Skullgirls. pic.twitter.com/4qeoN9fgRj
— Skullgirls Mobile (@sgmobile) August 25, 2020
“While Mike never worked for Hidden Variable or Autumn, his behavior nonetheless directly contradicts our shared core values of mutual respect, decency, and professionalism,” says the release. “Everyone has the right to work in a safe environment, and we were disheartened to hear that this was not always the case at Lab Zero.”
Mike Z’s feet have been to the fire since June when caught on-camera during a Twitch stream making a derogatory joke about the protests surrounding the murder of George Floyd. Since then, the fighting game community has demanded action that was largely ignored by Zaimonthas. The recent wave of resignations finally pushed the publisher to act, removing the franchise from the hands of its original creator for failing to provide a safe, dignified work environment.
Autumn Games is looking to start a new studio that will handle the console versions of Skullgirls 2nd Encore while Hidden Variable continues its work on the mobile iteration. Mike Z has failed to comment on the proceedings as of yet. Autumn Games became the owner of the Skullgirls IP after the original development studio, Reverge Labs, was bought out in 2012. A Kickstarter push led to the creation of Lab Zero and the continued development of Skullgirls until Autumn Games involvement and purchase of the IP.