The Thing
The Thing

The "infection system" was an innovative game mechanic implemented in the 2002 video game The Thing.


The infection system which determines whether or not an NPC is infected by the Thing. Although most NPCs are scripted to transform into a Thing at specific points in the game, they can also be infected at any time prior to this. When the team comes under attack by enemies, the possibility of infection is based upon a probability system whereby any teammate who comes into direct contact with an enemy can be infected. Although infection does not alter their behavior, it will quickly result in them turning into a Thing.

Technical limitations and criticism 

Although the infection mechanics and burst-out animations were praised and considered innovative, the game was criticized for the scripted nature of the infection system. Although some infection was caused by coming into contact with The Thing, most were scripted so that the game didn't overload with NPCs as the player progressed. Blood testing an NPC only for it to become infected after crossing a certain section of the level was heavily criticized. The developers were aware of this, and said the following in an interview :

"One of the original ideas was that the player would take every surviving non-player character they encountered to the end of the game. "That was of course very naïve as it caused huge problems with the squad command menu and dynamically balancing the encounters and resources required for the NPC." says Curtis. The compromise the team implemented was to remove certain NPCs at scripted moments and this led to even more complications, as we shall discover shortly. (...)

NPCs could be infected in battles with the aliens or by being left alone with an infected squad member," explains Curtis, "but sometimes we had to script an infection to remove an NPC from play due to technical and design constraints." Curtis admits this was a 'big mistake' with many players inevitably feeling cheated as fellow soldiers, tested moments earlier and proven genuinely human, could suddenly sprout more tentacles than a Japanese restaurant and attack the player. Diarmid Campbell also recalls the conflicting infection concept."

According to developer Andrew Curtins, this problem would have been solved in the canceled sequel:

"Sadly, The Thing 2 never progressed much past a proof of concept demo that focused on the team's determination to solve the scripted infection issue."

Infected NPCs

The following NPCs become or can become infected in the 2002 video game:

  • Carter (Engineer): Succumbs to the infection during the blood test with Pierce.
  • Cruz: Succumbs to the infection during the blood test with Pierce.
  • Pace: Succumbs to the infection.
  • Williams: Succumbs to the infection.
  • Pierce: Becomes infected, and commits suicide to prevent being taken over.
  • Collins: Succumbs to the infection.
  • Parnevik: Already infected when encountered.
  • Falchek: Succumbs to the infection. 
  • Carter (Soldier) : Already infected when encountered.
  • Fisk : Can succumb to the infection if coming into contact too much with The Thing.
  • Stanmore: Not infected when tested immediately, but succumbs to the infection immediately.
  • Guy : Already infected when encountered.
  • Cohen : Can succumb to the infection if coming into contact too much with The Thing.
  • Ryan : Already infected when encountered.
  • Stolls : Succumbs to the infection.
  • Austin : Already infected when encountered.

The following NPCs are already infected in the game's story, and are never encountered or recruited by the player unless cheats or mods are used: