Killswitch

Killswitch: The Truth Behind the Undying Gaming Urban Legend

Diving into the Gaming Urban Legends category, I stumbled upon the whole ‘Killswitch mystery’ and all the chaos it had to offer. But first, let me explain. Gaming urban myths are super cool and interesting to look into therefore imagine how happy and surprised I was when I found out about one I’d never heard of.

The urban legend of Killswitch appeared in front of my screen while doing research, specifically on a subreddit. So obviously I was intrigued and therefore fell down the rabbit hole and what I found out (as someone who had no idea about the whole thing) was… pretty shocking to say the least. But let’s unravel the truth together, shall we?

Killswitch’s Origin

Killswitch is a Russian video game created and released in 1989 by the developing company Karvina. The concept of the game itself is fairly simple but the mystery surrounding it has created somewhat of an urban legend that won’t seem to die down mostly because of what happens after the game ends. What is that you ask? 

Well after you’ve finished the game, instead of being able to play it repeatedly, the game deletes itself immediately from your hard drive, and all traces of it are gone. You can’t relay or re-install it, you can only buy another copy. However, there’s another twist to the story. Karvina only released 5000 copies of the game, therefore if you didn’t have the chance to repurchase a second one then… Well, you probably will never be able to play the game again since most copies are gone forever.

Now if you’re like me you’d think it’s not that big of a deal for a game to delete itself after you’re done playing it but there’s much more to the story, my friend. The player can choose between two characters in the game thus if you pick and finish the game with one character you can never find out the story of the other. Crazy right?

Killswitch main menu

The Phantom Videogame

The player can choose to play either as Porto, a little girl who can change her size to navigate through the mines, or as Ghast, a powerful demon (and her friend?) who is, however, invisible. Obviously, most players picked to play as Porto since navigating the mines was much easier with her. The whole storyline is about underground demons trying to bring down a mine and its policies which had to do with torturing its workers to increase output.

People started raising questions regarding the ending of the game or how to even beat it. Others were curious about what happens if you play as Ghast and (if that’s even possible) beat the entire game. The whole Killswitch craze gained massive attention around 2003 when everyone started talking about it online (thanks 4chan) and trying to uncover the lore behind it. Websites like Kotaku wrote about it shedding some light on the whole mystery surrounding it but not much was discovered especially since Karvina’s last released statement back in 1990.

Apparently, the statement said the game was designed to be a unique experience and much like reality, ‘unrepeatable, irretrievable, and illogical’. Karvina also followed their statement by saying ‘Death is final; death is complete’ as well as that the fates of both characters are unknown just like everyone’s fate is. Therefore Karvina asked their customers to respect their desire of keeping everything surrounded by mystery.

The Last Remaining Copy

Another myth also emerged from the whole situation regarding the last copy of the game. It is said that in 2005, a sealed copy of the games was auctioned for an astounding $733,000 from Yamamoto Ryuichi in Tokyo. Rumours circulated that this might be the last remaining copy, prompting Yamamoto to decide to share his experience with the world.

He intended to record his gameplay and post it online. However, only one video has ever emerged where we see a fatigued and emotional Yamamoto sitting before his computer screen. The short clip shows the game’s main menu, with Yamamoto crying in the background. Even more strangely, this video has since disappeared, much like every trace of the game itself. The cause of his tears remains a mystery, as well as Ghast’s ending, with no one else reportedly finishing the game.

Real or Hoax?

Now I know what you’re thinking. Is there an end to this rabbit hole? It’s 2024 there’s no way we still haven’t discovered the truth behind this fascinating urban legend. Well, of course, we have, but it might not be what you expect… It sure wasn’t what I did.

Invisible Games

The game’s first appearance could be found on InvisibleGames.net, a website full of creepypasta-esque articles that appeared in 2007. The Killswitch article mentioned everything discussed above, however the author was unknown.

Skipping forward to 2013 Killswitch makes another appearance in a book named ‘The Melancholy of Mechagirl’ by Catherynne M. Valente as one of her short stories published in her collection. So how was Killswitch created by C. M. Valente in 2013, but first appeared in 2007 on a creepy website?

The Unknown-Known Author

Well, folks, it appears that this was never a real game and nothing more than a creepy story that turned into a huge urban legend. M. C. Valente was the creator of the Killswitch story and lore all along, publishing it on InvisibleGames.net and later featuring it in her book ‘The Melancholy of Mechagirl’.

That’s right, book and website authors are one and the same. This is not a real game and Kovina Corp. never existed in real life. Perhaps urban legends are better left alone and maybe we shouldn’t research them too much; however, artists can truly benefit when their creations become known. When asked about it on Twitter, Valente stated the following:

Killswitch – Epilogue

So what do you think? Should urban legends like Killswitch live on and fill up the internet folklore archives? Or should we try to shed light on the mystery and ‘expose’ the real creators and artists behind them so they can benefit more? Will this urban legend ever die out or will it remain one of the more popular ones in the gaming community? The question remains…

Greta Giatsou

Posts published: 48

Since 1999. MSc in New Media & Digital Marketing. Gamer, manga artist, editor in chief & escape room addict. Wears headphones 24/7.