Update: Since the original publishing of this story this morning two more former employees have announced their retirement from Lab Zero Games. These employees are Mariel Cartwright, former artist, and Jonathan Kim, former senior animator. The public comments released from these two reflect a lot of the same themes and information shared by Brian Jun but also expand further on the inappropriate behavior of Mike Z and reveal an ultimatum delivered to the staff of Lab Zero Games.
Both Cartwright and Kim's comments refer to Mike Z's over eagerness to talk about his genitals or put coworkers on edge making inappropriate comments about their bodies or shaming them for what they were wearing that day. Cartwright expands more on the lewd advances that Mike Z would make at her over their 10 year working career. As many of the coworkers at Lab Zero Games began talking they realized none of these occurrences were one off but show a trend that lead a lot of employees to decide that "Mike is not the person we thought he was."
While Cartwright lifted the curtain on the horrific attitude and behavior of Zaimont it was Kim's tweet that revealed that after taking 100% control of Lab Zero Games Zaimont issued his employees an ultimatum. That they can continue to put up with his toxicity at Lab Zero Games, or leave by August 31st. With this deadline a week away it's likely that we will see more employees sharing their own stories about Zaimont and announcing their departure.
Original Story: Mike Zaimont, owner of Lab Zero Games, has backtracked on an agreement to leave the company and has instead removed its board, taking full control of the studio. Employees are leaving the studio and citing Zaimont's behavior as the reason for their departure.
What's going on at Lab Zero Games?
According to a tweet by now-former Lab Zero artist Brian Jun (tweeting as @EU03), Zaimont - who goes by Mike Z - "creates an unsafe work environment" for his employees. The Lab Zero board had originally asked Mike Z to leave the company after allegations of sexual harassment (thanks, Kotaku) were made by multiple employees earlier this year. Jun says that Mike Z "sometimes made me feel unsettled" and that he exhibited a "clear pattern of systemic abuse and a lack of empathy".
I'm leaving Lab Zero Games.— EU03 (@ClickAgain) August 23, 2020
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. pic.twitter.com/Uk4GjMt62k
Zaimont was put on paid administrative leave and the board entered negotiations with him, but Jun says that Zaimont's demands were unrealistic. The board rejected his terms, so Zaimont reversed his decision and removed the board, as the sole owner of Lab Zero Games. According to Jun, this was never the plan for Lab Zero. The original intent was to offer employees equity shares after transferring ownership from previous co-owner Alex Ahad, who was let go for being "increasingly hostile" and hard to work with. Jun says that Zaimont is "in direct opposition to the health of the employees" and no longer has any desire to "negotiate with any sensibility".
It's not just Jun, however. Indivisible lead writer Brandon Sheffield also came forward to share his story about Lab Zero after reading Jun's account. Sheffield says he "absolutely cannot forgive or shrug off" Mike Z's inappropriate behavior. He specifically cites sexually harassing DMs sent to Twitch streamer BunnyAyu and cosplayer Carbon by Zaimont, as well as a joke made on a Twitch stream shortly after the death of George Floyd earlier this year. Sheffield says Zaimont is "going to keep making comments, which is going to keep reflecting on the studio".
I was trying to wait for lab zero to get more internal resolution on this before I went public, but now that @ClickAgain has started talking about it, I'll share with you the statement I made in the company slack when I cut ties with lab zero almost two months ago. pic.twitter.com/meV0q8ijmQ— brandon sheffield (@necrosofty) August 23, 2020
What happens to Lab Zero now?
It's not entirely clear. The studio has been radio silent on Twitter since July. At that point, the team said that it was "aware" of allegations made against Zaimont and was "listening", with a full statement forthcoming. Given Zaimont's apparent coup, it's unlikely that this will be happening any time soon, at least not in the form Lab Zero may have originally intended. Zaimont himself has been similarly quiet since June. We'll bring you more on the ongoing Zaimont saga as soon as we get it.
How do you feel about Brian Jun's story? Let us know in the comments below!