On January 1st, Mickey Mouse as he appeared in the original Steamboat Willie animated short fell into the public domain. This means that people are free to use this specific version of Mickey Mouse in other, non-Disney approved creative works.
Of course, what this means in practice is that a lot of people are going to try to use Mickey Mouse in the edgiest ways possible. It already happened with properties like Winnie the Pooh (who else remembers Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey?), but given that Mickey Mouse is a far more iconic character, it’s likely that this next year is going to be filled with Photoshops and YouTube videos featuring the iconic mouse engaging in some very un-Disney-like behavior.
First look at another ‘STEAMBOAT WILLIE’ horror movie, which begins filming in Spring.— DiscussingFilm (@DiscussingFilm) January 2, 2024
The film will follow a sadistic mouse who torments a group of unsuspecting ferry passengers. pic.twitter.com/WmTcYH6Ttu
One games company decided to join in on this flurry of “creativity” by announcing their new video horror game starring the famous mouse. They even released a trailer showing off the game:
What’s that name again? Infestation 88? Like, uh, *that* 88? The 88 that neo-Nazis use to refer to Heil Hitler? Oh god, they didn’t Google this at all, did they?
Quickly, Nightmare Forge Games, the company behind Infestation 88, backpedaled, swearing up and down that they did not know the connotations of the number and that they just liked the way it looked.
Update: We're changing our game's name to 'Infestation: Origins'. Full statement below. pic.twitter.com/pHSdT83SEm— Nightmare Forge Games (@NMForgeGames) January 2, 2024
Some people in the replies didn’t buy it. They claimed that there were other “dogwhistles” in the trailer, that there were out-and-out neo-Nazis on their Discord server and that their company claimed to be founded 14 years ago despite only appearing online in the past few months (“14” is another number associated with neo-Nazism, referring to the infamous “14 words”).
I would really like to give you the benefit of the doubt, but if the “1488” reference was genuinely accidental, why does your studio claim to be 14 years old when there is seemingly no mention of it before a few months ago?— Z(achary) Yaro (ZMYaro@mastodon.social) (@ZMYaro) January 3, 2024
In my opinion, all of these aspects have perfectly reasonable explanations. For the first point, it’s an uncreative game featuring Mickey Mouse; the easiest place for your mind to go with “mice” is “pest control,” and exterminators are commonly known for using gas to control pests. Second, the company has said the people on the Discord were not staff members, just users, and that they simply did a poor job of moderation.
Finally, they say on their website that they've been industry players since 2010, which only very recently became 14 years. They don’t disclose their previous credits, but given just how much games companies love NDAs, this isn’t particularly surprising. Overall, this one just feels like a bit of a reach, and I can’t find any other uses of the number 14 in the trailer or on their website.