Petscop: An Intriguing “Game”

As I was browsing through Google news, I came across an article I might never had read had Google not suggested it. I don’t often read Kotaku articles, but the headline pulled me in: People Are Trying To Find The Truth About A Creepy “Unfinished” PlayStation Game.

I like a good mystery as much as anyone else, and bonus points if it has to do with video games (Polybius, anyone?), so I read the article immediately.

The article is a solid and thorough read, and I encourage you to put eyes on it, but the gist is that someone created a YouTube channel (both the channel as well as the game are named Petscop), where they began uploading game footage of Petscop, a supposedly unfinished 1997 PlayStation game from developer Garalina. It should be stated here that no proof that a developer by the name of Garalina ever existed, as well, no one has yet figured out what Petscop means or refers to (and I spent a while brainstorming anagram possibilities but none seemed more likely than simply: pet’s cop, which still doesn’t make much sense).

Last night, I went to the YouTube channel and watched all seven episodes. It begins simply enough: the game appears to be a relic of the late ’90s PlayStation era. The person providing commentary (he is referred to as Paul in the Kotaku article, so I will refer to him as such here) seems to have some knowledge of the first “level” and proceeds to set about capturing these strange creatures which, on the surface, appears to be the purpose of the game.

It’s difficult to tell if Paul is for real. It’s a wee bit difficult to tell if the game is for real. As I was watching, I allotted a 5% chance that Petscop (the game) was a genuine title and that Paul had stumbled upon it.

Whether or not it is a legitimate game, someone put a lot of work into making it believable. After all, someone had to program Petscop, and the attention to detail for a game of that era is solid. I don’t think it is real, but the lingering question I had was if Paul had programmed it himself. Or, if someone else had, and Paul was actually experiencing it for the first time while the capture was rolling.

The first episode seems uneventful. The puzzles are basic, but somewhat odd, and it isn’t until you are a few episodes in that anything seems troubling.

But then, boy does it show its colors.

Doing arbitrary things, or seemingly little to nothing, will trigger various events and areas. The text boxes that appear for certain interactions provide odd and unnerving commentary that brings more questions than answers. The Kotaku article summarizes the underlying themes about the death of an actual child named Candace Newmaker. She was a victim of an “attachment therapy” session (called “rebirthing”) when she was 11 years old.

But here is something I didn’t find in the Kotaku article and researched on my own: Candace Newmaker died in the year 2000, three years after this game was purportedly made. I would conclude from fact alone that this game is a hoax, but it’s still an intriguing mystery. Who made the game? What are the actual underlying themes? What are they trying to say?

Each episode is short, around ten minutes give or take. The first few are curious, but not all that strange. Get a few deeper into the game, and the questions start coming. I’m linking the first episode below should anyone want to dive in. I’m curious to discuss this with more folks to see what they think. I feel 95% certain it isn’t real, but I’m still fascinated by who made it and why.

No matter how this mystery shakes out, someone was committed to making this as believable as possible. I’m looking forward to seeing where Petscop goes.

Categories: games

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