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access_time January 2, 2014 at 6:13 PM in Features by Charlie Grammer

Gamebusters myth 8: KILLSWITCH

Is the self-deleting KILLSWITCH a real game?

Is the self-deleting KILLSWITCH a real game?

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. 

Another of our readers, Rowan, also shared a more recent blog to back this up.

I want to thank both steampower penguin and Rowan for sharing this discovery with us.





  • Ramon Aranda January 13, 2014 at 11:08 AM

    Good stuff again Charlie!

  • Ken Mishima February 19, 2014 at 1:02 PM

    The game itself is real. Whether or not the Ryuchi story is true, who knows, but that is probably a myth. There’s footage of people playing through the game with Porto on youtube.

    • Charlie Grammer February 19, 2014 at 2:36 PM

      Which videos did you see, out of curiosity? I ask because, as I said in the second sentence of the “Myth or fact” portion, there are indeed videos on YouTube and other sites, but the ones I found were all fake. The ones I discovered were footage of a version made by a group of German Game Design students.

      So if there are other videos I missed, please link them and I’ll research them and update this article based on the findings 🙂

  • Martin April 1, 2014 at 6:29 AM

    I am pretty sure this is a hoax – for other reasons than you mentioned in your article.
    A game that can not be copied? If this was invented in 1989, companies today would pay billions for that technique. Also, software that deletes itself without leaving a trace? Again something that’s hardly (although kinda) possible.

    Speaking of videos of “gameplay”, Bartos “Ghast1989” Chalupnik, supposedly the son of one of the devs, uploaded a couple of videos on youtube: http://www.youtube.com/user/ghast1989
    Gameplay videos make this slightly more believable, on first sight, but if sb was able to run it on an emulator, he would probably be tech savvy enough to copy the game, alter it etc. And when this supposed 700k $ transaction actually took place, why would you not.

  • Mark Sadobar May 18, 2014 at 6:17 AM

    Game is real. youtube.com/ghast1989

    This guy claims he got it from his dad, and he lives in america, not germany, so it’s not a work of german design students for this guy. He also claims he has Guest at the Table of Heaven and Gargantuan, but says he’ll post them after he wins Killswitch.

  • Charlie Grammer May 21, 2014 at 10:26 PM

    Just thought I’d post here for any wondering: I’m not ignoring the comments or anything, and I’m actually looking into the new videos/links that were posted here. If any turn out to be true I will update the myth (and link the legit video as needed).

    • RafaelFuchs June 22, 2014 at 3:57 AM

      how’s the search going? i’m interested in the claims of this guy who seemingly dropped off the earth

      • Charlie Grammer June 22, 2014 at 12:32 PM

        Sorry about the late update. I would have to say that I believe this is another part of the myth/a series of fake videos. Not only has he, as you pointed out, dropped off the earth (I’d also tried contacting him under a different name to see if I could get any information as to his background to try and determine if he actually has the training he claimed and received no response), but also due to a search I ran a couple of days ago.

        I’d actually gone to the copyright offices (well, online) of several countries, including the one that houses Czech and ran a search for KILLSWITCH. From what I saw, they have records even older than when the game was supposedly created, yet the European copyright office had no record of the title (the only result that came up was a financial services deal), and though the US had several (just checked it out of curiosity, since Karvina was supposedly based in Czech/Europe), the earliest copyright was in 1997. And to top it off, this early copyright is for a cassette, listed under sound/music.

        The name, “Karvina Corporation”, also was not registered at the European copyright office, according to this search. Honestly, I haven’t been able to find much information on the company at all, aside from them having supposedly made four games, including the above.

        • Mark Sadobar July 1, 2014 at 9:21 PM

          did you contact his twitter or YT? I’d recommend his twitter.

  • Sour Eggs July 21, 2014 at 2:22 AM

    Are people aware of what PC games were like in 1989, right? Ever play Oregon Trails? Yeah, that is about correct.

  • Jesse July 28, 2014 at 4:46 PM

    Its fake as are the youtube videos. People who actually do research beyond ” I SEEN IT ON YOUTUBE” who spend days and days searching find out that beyond the initial front of the game devs son b.s. look for this site just go look for it his gameplay videos don’t match the story at all.

  • Mack August 11, 2014 at 11:43 AM

    Why has no one made a copy of all the files on a flash drive and then removed said drive as they played, and after beating it, re-installed the game and they would have near-infinite replay ability?

  • Chris December 5, 2014 at 4:42 PM

    I think people miss the point. $733,000 on ebay in 2005. Ok so wheres the evidence? Nearly a million dollars and NO one has any recollection of the sale? I am a collector of retro games and post regularly on forums for retro collectors, trust me, a game selling for even half that DOES NOT GO UNNOTICED. Who the f were the other bidders? Yamamoto Ryuichi did bid that up by himself. How does a game NO ONE has ever seen or recall ever hearing about make nearly a million bucks? Come people this would deffo make local news somewhere, and yet not one single report on this mysterious sale.
    This was the myths problem. Had they had a realistic figure like $7,300 or possibly at an fucking major push $73,000 (although I would still laugh at that seeing as NO ONE has heard of it) but $733,000…f off!
    Add that to the fact that Karvina does not exist on record anywhere and the fact no one can explain the technical way they could achieve what the myth says happened, its about as believable as organised religion. Fact is the believers are equally as gullible.

    edited for profanity, keep it clean folks, thanks for participating 🙂

  • steampower penguin August 9, 2015 at 10:43 PM

    Guys, I just found the truth about this game, and it real…

    It a short story dealing with a horror video game that one can’t play twice form Sci-fi/fantasy writer Catherynne M. Valente.


    It a short story dealing with the very game were talking about, word for word.

    Someone should let her know that her story’s game basically jumped off pages and into hapless minds. That stated, someone should de-fictionalize this game. already the creators of enough plumbers introduce the concept of ‘Perma-Permadeath’ to video games and it seems like it doing fine; Killswitch would be the bomb.

  • Rowan September 28, 2015 at 4:27 PM

    Charlie, the story is fictional from a short lived blog called Invisible Games, most likely written by Catherynne M. Valente as she is linked to the blog and her style is similar. I found this very recent post on a whole separate blog about the fictional game Gargantua


    Don’t know who it’s by etc. but very very much in step with the other Karvina stories/ Invisible Games blogs

    Anyone who believe it’s real lol it fuckin ain’t, you’re just late as shit

  • Charlie Grammer October 3, 2015 at 2:19 PM

    steampower penguin and Rowan: Thanks guys, for sharing the info. I’ve updated the myth with the And apologies for missing both comments until recently, as the notifications got stuck in my spam folder.

    I’ve updated the article with the info you gave, as well as the credit 🙂

  • […] Gamebusters Myth 8: Killswitch. […]

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