One of the more popular video game-centric creepypastas, or scary stories shared on the Internet, revolves around an old and extremely obscure video game called Killswitch.
The game Killswitch was supposedly released in 1989 by the Karvina Corporation, a company based out of Czechoslovakia, although some sources incorrectly identify it as a Russian company. It was a monochrome game, in which grey and white shapes were set against a black background. To help set the mood, slowed down versions of Czech folk songs were played as the game’s soundtrack.
The game allowed players to select one of two avatars named Ghast and Porto. Ghast was a demon that had the ability to breath fire and use a coal steam attack, making him the more powerful of the avatars. However, he was totally invisible, which made it impossible for players to gauge jumps or tell where Ghast was on the screen. This meant that everyone who played the game did so as Porto, a human woman whose only ability was the random expansion and contraction of her size.
Porto awakens in an abandoned coal mine where she used to be an employee, and discovers wounds on her elbows. Porto ascends the many levels of the mine attempting to escape, discovering throughout the mine the bodies of dead mine workers who used to be her friends. Meanwhile, the mine itself is being attacked by demons similar to Ghast, as well as coal-golems, dead foremen, and demonic inspectors from the Sovatik Corporation who wore red robes, the only color used in the game.
The story was supposedly extremely complex, telling of how the foremen were pressured to increase coal production and had to begin making excuses to explain the low output. This prompted the Sovatik Corporation to send inspectors, which caused numerous incidences of torture and there were graphics of men in red coats inserting small knives into the joints of workers whenever production slowed. Some claim that the story was supposed to be a critique of Soviet-era industrial tactics that were sometimes utilized.
The player must collect a series of iron axes that contain a complex code which the players must decipher. Supposedly the code was only solved when someone named “Porto881” posted the cipher online, which allowed Porto to make a tape recorder wherein a male voice said:
“The fires of the Earth had risen up in their defense and flowed into the hearts of the decrepit, pre-revolution equipment they used and awakened them to avenge the workers.”
It was believed that “fires of the Earth” referred to demons such as Ghast, but after this point in the game players reached a chamber behind where the tape recorder is located and found a furnace where the coal was turned into coke. However, the game gave absolutely no indication as what to do next. Players tried killing themselves, processing coal into coke, but nobody could figure out what the game wanted them to do. Again, Port881 was the one who figured it out, discovering that when Porto ingested raw coke, she could maintain a normal body size which allowed her to traverse the final levels of the game.
This part was the most unusual, irritating, non-understood and distinguishing feature of Killswitch. But as Porto was ascending through the final tunnel to emerge on the surface, the screen goes totally white, and the game deletes itself. All files are totally erased from the computer, preventing players from attempting to play the game again as Ghast, discovering any more narrative secrets, or playing the game as both characters.
The outcry from the player base was enormous, especially since Karvina Corporation supposedly only made 5,000 copies of the game in the first place. This caused players to immediately purchase more copies of the game to try and unlock all of its secrets, while the company only released this statement in regards to the ending:
“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.”
Instead of calming players, the statement had the opposite effect by referring to Ghast as Porto’s “beloved.” This intrigued players because Ghast was the same kind of demon as the others that attack Porto, and at no point in the game does Porto’s story ever see, interact with, or mention Ghast in any way. This further caused players to go on searching sprees for the final copies of the game.
In 2005, Yamamoto Ryuichi, a Japanese man from Tokyo, purchased a copy of Killswitch at auction for the yen equivalent of $733,000. It was strongly believed that this copy was very likely the last copy of Killswitch available, and Yamamoto intended to record his progress as he played the game and upload it to YouTube. The only video that was ever supposedly uploaded was a 1:45 second-long video that showed a haggard, crying Yamamoto sitting at his computer with the game at the avatar selection screen.
It is entirely possible that the Killswitch story is fictional and simply gained widespread attention because of the Internet. The website the story originated on, Invisible Games, was a blog that published fictional stories and the author of the blog identified only as “The Archivist,” although many people suspect that it is in fact author Catherynne M. Valente.
There is also how the company Karvina Corporation supposedly made other video games aside from Killswitch, yet no information regarding these other games can be found, let alone information regarding Karvina Corporation itself. The video allegedly showing Yamamoto Ryuichi crying at his computer can’t be found online, and any information on Ryuichi is impossible to find outside of articles on Killswitch.
However, that doesn’t explain the numerous websites and downloads that have begun to spring up across the Internet; there’s even a wiki devoted to Killswitch. Fans have also done numerous drawings and art depicting what the characters and levels may have looked like. The most strange instance is a YouTube profile simply titled KARVINA CORP, which describes itself as:
“Providing you with the best of entertainment since 1989!
We do not provide answers under any circumstances, however, if you must ask, you can contact one of our many employees at https://twitter.com/KarvinaCorp.”
There is also a YouTube profile named “Portos881,” although it is unconfirmed if this is the same exact “Portos881” who originally helped solve Killswitch or an imitator. The profile has only uploaded one video, supposedly footage of the avatar selection screen from Killswitch that was posted five years ago. Four years ago, Porto881 posted “I have seen something I shouldn’t have,” and three years ago posted “Finally, the end.” The channel has no description other than it joined YouTube in 2011.
There is actually in the Czech Republic a city named Karviná, which was the main mining center for Czechoslovakia after 1923, and even today is still largely focused on heavy industry. It could be because of the divide between East and West that there’s little information on a company such as Karvina Corporation, or why there were so few copies of the game sold in the U.S.
Perhaps the story’s prevalence is similar to that of Lavender Town Syndrome, a similar creepypasta about a Pokemon game. The focus on an older video game back before games could be easily shared over the Internet, and the game’s foreign origins make tracking down information much more difficult. Regardless of whether or not Killswitch is real, there’s no denying it makes for a creepy and entertaining story.