Alex Birlo on September 6, 2020
This week we will talk about the “Skullgirls” studio head’s harassment case, the new “Summit” mode for “The Division 2”, and how Twitch “trolled” everyone to believe that they were revealing news about the PlayStation 5.
For the past two weeks, major developments occurred in a case regarding the studio behind the “Skullgirls” games – Lab Zero.
Throughout this year the head of Lab Zero – Mike Zaimont was involved in several “accidents” – let us call them that – in which he was making inappropriate and demeaning comments towards members of the “Skullgirls” community, streamers and prominent cosplayers like Bunny and Carbon Gray.
These individuals started revealing the unsettling private message exchanges that Zaimont had with them and this got the attention of the public and the employees of Lab Zero.
In one case, a Skullgirls commentator and tournament organizer Sheila “DaPurpleSharpie” Moore, after an awful stream she shared with Zaimont, brought together many tournament organizers to ban Zaimont from “Skullgirls” tournaments for two years and from commentating – indefinitely.
As it was known prior to this troublesome situation, Lab Zero was in the process of transferring to an employee-owned company structure, where the workers of the studio would have equity in the company.
While everything was being arranged, Mike Zaimont was supposed to remain as the sole owner of the company only for a short while.
But the situation concerning Zaimont’s behavior prompted members of the studio to launch an internal investigation of sorts into the matter of the studio head’s behavior, and the findings were unsettling.
During it, they discovered that these were not simply isolated, awkward social situations, but a systematic pattern in his behavior.
As a major animator from Lab Zero – Jonathan “Persona” Kim, said on Twitter in his official resignation announcement “Almost every employee had a story where Mike abused his position of power to put his coworkers in uncomfortable stressful situations for years”.
Amongst all the stories there were indeed many cases of extremely inappropriate behavior by Zaimont.
These cases range all the way from frequently mentioning his genitals in conversations, to using very private information about his coworkers in order to make them comply when things did not go his way.
As a result, the members of the studio tried to ask Zaimont to resign from his position.
After refusing to comply with the demand, in retaliation, Mike Zaimont halted the process of transferring the company to being employee-owned and gave everyone who are not satisfied with his work, until August 31st to leave the studio.
Back then, several key employees left the studio and last week Mike Zaimont had still fired the entire remaining stuff with no clear statement in regards to severance!
In an email answer to Kotaku, Zaimont stated that the layoffs were a necessary action because the company was not able to “meet the payroll obligations” anymore and that it is not “a decision he made lightly”, that not paying his workers “is the last thing” he would ever do and that they are currently exploring ways to get these people back in.
But from the words of his former colleagues we get an entirely different picture. And without severance pay, the studio members are currently helping each other raise money and survive the tough time.
In a bit of good news, “Autumn Games” – the official owners of the “Skullgirls” IP, and “Hidden Variable” – the studio behind the mobile port of “Skullgirls”, have released a joint statement on Twitter, concerning the future of the franchise.
In this statement, Autumn Games and Hidden Variable, extended their support to the members that are leaving Lab Zero and stated that they do not support the kind of behavior that Mike Zaimont exhibits.
The two companies will continue to work with the talented workers that left Lab Zero in order to continue making content for “Skullgirls” and newer entries in the franchise “for years to come”.
I only what to add this – that in any corporate environment these things are bound to happen sooner or later. As it is quite a disjointed system of – people who toil and feel deeply about what they create, and – people who are so far from the creative process that they no longer know anything but the profit margins.
And so, when something like this happens it means it was in someone else’s interest, to remove said director, or rearrange the company in a different way.
But there is no way on earth we could know for sure all the details and heavy emotions these people had been through.
But facts are still facts: people who are unable to handle themselves and public communications like this – cannot lead and be in charge, destroying the good faith people have in the company.
In more uplifting news, Ubisoft revealed a new mode that will be added to The Division 2 in the upcoming update 11.
The mode will be called “Summit” and last week in the latest “The Division 2: State of the Game” developers Massive Entertainment explained all about it.
This mode will be a PvE focused mode, where players will be faced with a skyscraper that has one hundred floors.
Each floor will be with increasingly stronger enemies as their tier rises with each floor passed.
On each level the players will be faced with randomly generated floor layouts, enemy types, placements, and objectives to complete each time they attempt a new game.
Each three floors there will be an elevator that acts as a temporary check point for respawning in case your entire team is killed.
Each ten floors there will be a random boss, and after coming out victorious your team’s progress will be saved and that floor will become one of the Rally Points. These floors will act as permanent check points and players will be able to start their next run of the Summit from there.
This mode will be free for all players who purchased the “Warlords of New York” expansion.
A mode like this one was long awaited by old fans of the game, me included. You see, the Summit is The Division 2 take on the “Underground” expansion that was in the first division.
And is essentially an endlessly replayable, end-game mode, that constantly swaps objectives and enemy factions from the core game – keeping each playthrough as fresh as possible.
To finish up this article, let us quickly talk about a funny misunderstanding that happened last week on Twitch.
On Thursday, August 3rd the “Chat’s Choice Awards” stream was underway, as viewers started noticing that there is something that looked like an actual PlayStation 5 standing in the background.
The hosts probably realized viewers have noticed it and said they will talk about it – but later.
The official Twitch Twitter account also added to the entire situation by posting a tweet saying “Wait – what’s this about the PS5? The Chat’s Choice Awards is teasing… something”.
People probably rushed in even greater numbers thinking an actual, unexpected announcement is going to happen there. But to everyone’s disappointment, it was not the case.
Mari Takahashi, one of the hosts for the event, later went to bring the mysterious PlayStation closer to the camera – and following with the joke that everyone were thinking it is an actual PlayStation 5 console – she took a katana and cut the PS5 revealing that it actually was just a cake that was masterfully shaped like the console.
As Jordan Gerblick, from Games Radar+, reported – almost instantly, the stream lost around ten thousand viewers.
I guess not everyone liked the joke…
The Division 2: State of the Game #169: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a69OwAu3B4U&feature=emb_logo
Games Radar+ on Twitch’s PS5 Troll: https://www.gamesradar.com/twitch-teases-ps5-news-and-then-reveals-everything-is-cake/
Kotaku on Skullgirls Case: https://kotaku.com/skullgirls-developer-lays-off-everyone-who-hadnt-alread-1844948877
Hidden Variable and Autumn Games Statement: https://twitter.com/sgmobile/status/1298105337593991168