Update: Infestation ’88 has been officially renamed Infestation: Origins following blowblack over its references to Neo-Nazi ideology. In a statement to IGN, Nightmare Forge Games reiterated that the original name was meant to reflect the year “1988,” adding, “Unfortunately, at the time of its announcement, we were unaware of any additional meanings the number ’88’ has. Through feedback from the community, we learned it did, and therefore made this name change ASAP.”
We want to apologize for our ignorance on this topic and appreciate that it was brought to our attention so we could address it. There is no intentional use of Nazi symbolism in our game nor studio, and we’ll continue to address any concerns as they arise. We strongly stand against Nazism and hate in any form.”
The original story continues below.
The developers behind the game announced as Infestation 88, a new Mickey Mouse horror game announced shortly after the character entered the public domain, are responding to claims that it contains Neo-Nazi references and other problematic content.
In separate interviews with Motherboard and Kotaku, the developers at Nightmare Forge Games, who declined to reveal their identities “for the sake of maintaining privacy,” claimed that the references to “88” — a common Neo-Nazi dogwhistle — were unintentional. The developers also responded to claims of asset flipping and AI-generated voices, which have been in the news recently amid controversies like The Day Before.
“Our game is set in the 1980s, with the year 1988 being chosen simply for its symmetrical design in our game’s artwork,” a developer spokesperson told Kotaku. “Therefore, the 88 strictly represents the year 1988; no additional connotations are intended. We are in the process of revising this artwork to clarify the abbreviation, as shown in the image below. Should there still be concerns, we’re open to changing the game’s name.”
The numbers “14” and “88” are commonly used as code by Neo-Nazis to signify their ideology. The “8” stands for the eighth letter in the alphabet, making it “HH,” a historic Nazi salute. The pairing with the name “Infestation” was enough to raise eyebrows in some circles, though there’s currently no concrete evidence that the dev team actually harbors Neo-Nazi sympathies.
In a post on the game’s Discord, a studio spokesperson apologized for the “current lack of moderation” and promised to ban users engaging in hate speech following screenshots of anti-transgender comments.
A studio spokesperson added in a statement to IGN, “While working on rebranding our game name and focused on other tasks, the game’s Discord server was flooded with users posting hateful and Nazi rhetoric, which we once again strongly stand against and have no association with our studio. We should have had better moderation in place prior to setting our Discord live, so we also apologize for the lack of preparation on our part. We’ve temporarily halted chats, cleared discussions, and are working on bans while we set up better moderation.”
The updated name was stylized as “Infestation ’88” to further accentuate the reference to the year 1988 before being fully changed to “Infestation: Origins.”
In addition to questions about the name, Infestation: Origins appears to make use of pre-existing assets acquired from the Unity Store. In its story, Motherboard pointed to the similarities of enemies in Infestation 88 to WereRats in places like the Unity Store. The trailer voice-over also appears to be generated through ElevenLabs’ AI-driven text-to-speech service, with the text block being just short enough to be free.
Nightmare Forge Games didn’t deny using purchased assets or AI, but claimed there is a “lot of work” going into the project. “Given this was an initial announcement trailer, and due to time constraints, we did utilize a premium version of Elevenlabs AI as a placeholder until we hire real voice actors for the actual in-game voice narrations,” a spokesperson said.
In its statement to IGN, Nightmare Forge Game promised to “remain transparent throughout the game’s development” and encouraged users to join the game’s Discord community.
First announced on January 1, Infestation: Origins was announced as is a 1-4 player survival horror co-op game that purports to be in the vein of Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey. It’s not the only project to follow from Steamboat Willie entering the public domain, with an untitled horror movie also being in development. Infestation: Origins’ original name caught attention on social media soon after it was announced due to the 88 references and gassing being a prominent game mechanic.
Infestation: Origins’ announcement also arrives amid increased scrutiny of so-called shovelware games designed to turn a quick profit with relatively low overhead. The Day Before is a particularly prominent version of this practice, generating substantial hype before going offline just days after release.
Infestation: Origins does not have a firm release date, but is slated to launch into early access sometime in 2024.
Kat Bailey is IGN’s News Director as well as co-host of Nintendo Voice Chat. Have a tip? Send her a DM at @the_katbot.