Welcome, readers, to another entry of Gamebusters, the series where we try to find and debunk popular video game myths. This week we’ll be taking on a rather creepy title known as KILLSWITCH.
For those unaware, the game was supposedly created by Karvina Corporation in 1989. The game had a unique feature in that it could only be played once. Once you either died or finished the game, it erased itself completely, rendering you unable to continue or play the other character. The characters were Porto, who was a young girl, and Ghast, an invisible demon. The demon is completely invisible, meaning that not even you, the player, can see him on the screen, and as a result, not a single gamer has recorded having beaten the game with Ghast.
Only 5,000 copies of the game were ever made, according to the story. For those wondering about Porto’s story, it went something like this; Porto wakes up in a dark area with wounds on her elbows and no idea how she arrived there. As she tries to find a way out of this dark, creepy place, she discovers that it is an old coal mine that she used to work in. The mine had been shut down and is now populated by demons, dead foremen, coal golems, and even inspectors from a company known as Sovatik.
Porto continues exploring the mine, though she has more to worry about than just the threats mentioned above. Her size tends to change randomly, hindering her movements in some cases and helping her out in others. There is no way to control this change in size, so she simply has to hope that the change she needs will occur when she needs it to. The reason for the mine’s shutdown, she discovers, is because the workers were ordered to increase production. They proceeded to blame the poor output on equipment malfunctions, which led Sovatik to send out “Inspectors”. These inspectors had a unique way of encouraging the miners to increase the coal output, namely by stabbing sharp knives into the miners’ joints whenever production slowed.
The “Fires of Earth” (it is unknown what this is, but it is assumed to be demons similar to Ghast) proceeded to awaken the hearts of the machines in the mines in order to allegedly defend the miners. The sentient machines proceeded to drive the men from Sovatik mad, and they vanished into the mine. The machines proved to be indiscriminate, however, and proceeded to destroy the very miners that they were supposedly going to be protecting. Porto was knocked into a chasm at this time, and the fumes she inhaled inside the chasm are what causes her size to fluctuate.
She obtains a tape recorder that reveals the mine’s story and begins crawling out of the mine… then the screen goes white, ending the game.
Gamers who demanded that more copies be released so they might attempt to beat Ghast’s story were disappointed by a press release sent out by Karvina in 1990. They state, “KILLSWITCH was designed to be a unique playing experience: like reality, it is unrepeatable, irretrievable, and illogical. One might even say ineffable. Death is final; death is complete. The fates of Porto and her beloved Ghast are as unknowable as our own. It is the desire of the Karvina Corporation that this be so, and we ask our customers to respect that desire. Rest assured Karvina will continue to provide the highest quality of games to the West, and that KILLSWITCH is merely one among our many wonders.”
Their use of the word “Beloved” caught gamers by surprise, as Ghast hadn’t appeared anywhere in Porto’s storyline. Though players rushed out to get their hands on more copies of the game in order to figure out what Karvina meant, they were in for a disappointment: No copies were to be found anywhere. None were to be found, that is, until 2005, when a sealed copy of the game appeared on Ebay and sold for a whopping $733,000. The man who bought the game, Yamamoto Ryuichi, stated his intention to record the gameplay footage, but only one video ever emerged. This video showed Mr. Ryuichi sitting at the character select screen….crying. It has since vanished from the internet as surely as the game deleted itself.
Myth or fact? To be completely honest, this is a bit tough to say one way or the other. While there are some more videos on the internet now that supposedly show footage from the game, all of the ones we’ve found have proven to be fake. In addition, we have yet to find Mr. Ryuichi or any other game who has actually played this game. As a result of the sheer lack of evidence that the game even exists, we must say that this is merely a myth.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this week’s Gamebusters. If you have any further information that we couldn’t find regarding KILLSWITCH, or if you have a myth you want us to tackle, please, let us know.
Update 10-3-2015: One of our readers, steampower penguin, had uncovered some interesting info on KILLSWITCH back in August, and has shared it with us. It turns out that KILLSWITCH is actually not a true game, but rather appears in a short story written by one Catherynne M. Valente and published in a collection of her stories and poems known as The Melancholy of Mechagirl.
I want to thank both steampower penguin and Rowan for sharing this discovery with us.