Gaming Myths Pt 1 – KillSwitch
Over the past 40 years electronic games have earned their fair share of controversy and old wives tales. Here begins my foray into some of the more interesting Gaming Myths.
Killswitch, A game so rare you’ll never find it!
Released back in 1989 by the Karvina Corporation, Killswitch was a survival-horror platformer. The game -a precursor to games like Myst or Silent Hill- was set in a coal mine under siege by demonic forces, and featured 2 playable characters, each with a unique playing experience.
Porto: is a woman who wakes up in the depths of the mine amidst all the ensuing chaos. Porto has no attacks but does randomly change size throughout the game. Game-play with Porto is primarily puzzle based, with some puzzles only solvable in certain sizes.
Ghast: is one of the demons that is invading the mine. Ghast is more powerful having a few attack powers and is completely invisible. The catch is he is invisible to the player as well making play difficult as you cannot judge your location relative to obstacles or enemies. Due to this most players defaulted to Porto out of frustration.
The Story: is discovered through magnetic tapes Porto finds on her journey. The foremen, under pressure to increase coal production, began to falsify reports of malfunctions and worker malfeasance in order to excuse low output, which incited an inspection by the Sovatik Corporation. Officials were dispatched, and an extraordinary story of torture unfolds, red-coated men standing over workers, inserting small knives into their joints whenever production slowed. Porto finds and assembles a tape recorder, on which a male voice tells her that the fires of the earth had risen up in their defence and flowed into the hearts of the decrepit, pre-revolution equipment they used and wakened them to avenge the workers. It is generally assumed that the “fires of the earth” are demons like Ghast, coal-fumes and gassy bodies inhabiting the old machines.
The games visuals were good for the time, mostly monochrome grey and black, to represent the gloomy industrial setting of the mine, with the screen dimming when you are not near a light. The soundtrack consists of Czech folk-songs rendered in slow MIDI. The machines themselves are so large, that the graphics only show two or three gear-teeth or a conveyor belt rather than the entire apparatus.
The real meat of the story of Killswitch is that it deletes itself upon completion of the game. It is not recoverable by any means, all trace of it is removed from the user’s computer and the game cannot be copied. One cannot replay it, unlocking further secrets or narrative pathways, and it is impossible to experience the game all the way to the end as both Porto and Ghast.
Karvina Corp. released only 5,000 copies and refused to press further editions. The following is an excerpt from their May 1990 press release:
“Killswitch was designed to be a unique playing experience: like reality, it is unrepeatable, unretrievable,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.”
The word “beloved” piqued the interest of fans, as Ghast is not present in any portion of Porto’s narrative. A rush to find the remaining copies of the game ensued, with the intent of playing as Ghast and discovering the meaning of Karvina’s cryptic word. By this time no further copies appeared to be available in retail outlets. Players who had not yet completed the game attempted Ghast’s levels, but the difficulty of playing the enigmatic avatar persisted, and no player has ever claimed to have finished the game as Ghast.
To find any copy today is an almost unfathomably rare occurrence; a still shrink-wrapped copy was sold at auction in 2005 for $733,000 to Yamamoto Ryuichi of Tokyo. It is entirely possible that Yamamoto’s is the last remaining copy of the game. Knowing this, Yakamoto had intended to film and upload his progress. However, to date, the only film which has surfaced is a one minute and forty five second clip of a haggard, crying Yamamoto at his computer, the avatar-choice screen visible over his right shoulder.
This Story seems to be the work of American author Catherynne M. Valente, initially posted to Invisiblegames.net, and subsequently reposted throughout numerous Creepy-Pasta sites. Catherynne had been unhappy about the reposting of her story without credit, and had it taken down wherever she found it. As a result the only copies that remained online were a few uncredited archives, which were then discovered and reposted until many sources believed it to be real. Many people in fact still believe the story to be true.
Next: (Coming Soon)
Videos Courtesy Bartos Chalupnik
Top Image Courtesy Ken Ken Ramen