What Petscop is, why you should care, and the reason you can’t play it.
When it comes to creepy webseries, there’s nothing out there quite like Petscop.
It all started with an inconspicuous post in the creepygaming subreddit. A user with no post history shared a link to a YouTube Let’s Play of a “mysterious unfinished PSX game from 1997,” with the observation that “there’s something hiding in it.” What followed is the story of Petscop, a child friendly puzzle game that gradually reveals a slew of sinister secrets underneath its surface.
Petscop has since caught the attention of big YouTubers and has gone massively viral. As of this writing, the channel has over 200,000 subscribers and its first episode has exceeded a million views. But for those who are new to the series, there’s one pressing question you may be wondering: is this a real game that actually existed back in 1997?
Well, to cut to the chase, it’s not. But the reasons why are a bit more interesting than you might think.
Why people think Petscop is real
The “video game creepypasta” is very worn territory on the internet. Many “haunted video game stories” predate the likes of Slender Man, which is to say it’s kind of a passe trend. Before Petscop, the most well known video game creepypasta to feature a video component was the Jadusable series, commonly known as “Ben Drowned.” But even then, the videos in question were based on The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask, so the creator just created some glitchy footage with cheat codes rather than build an entire game from the ground up.
So along comes Petscop, which is based off of no existing video game and looks completely convincing to boot. Between the aesthetics and audible button presses in each video, the level of detail on display is incredible. Since the amount of real assets shown in each video rivals that of an actual video game, why shouldn’t we think it’s… you know, an actual video game?
Supplementing the game’s authenticity is the series’ narrator, known to the audience as Paul. The art of Let’s Play commentary is kind of hard to put into words, but in short, Paul really sells the impression that he’s never seen any of the footage before. He often stammers in bewilderment during the game’s stranger moments, and other times he realistically laughs off the crazier events the way many gamers would. One of Petscop‘s most memed moments is when Paul finds the tombstone of a young child, only to react with a distant “That’s a dead kid. Yup.”
It’s a production way more ambitious than any video game creepypasta preceding it. Frankly, it’s really easy to see why viewers would believe it’s all real. But once you dive deeper into the series, it’s evident where the realism starts to crack.
Why Petscop isn’t real.
Since Petscop is an ongoing series, we’re going to ignore the rather obvious hints of supernatural forces within the game. Not to spoil the story too much, but we’re talking ghosts and time loops and tons of other stuff that most people find unnerving. But for the sake of argument, let’s assume all of these things have perfectly reasonable explanations and we haven’t learned them yet.
The first big red flag against Petscop is that there’s no prior record of the game or its alleged producer Garalina. If there was a real team involved in the creation of the game, there would have been some evidence of its existence uncovered by now, especially since a website is referenced in the very first episode. The only explanation for this would be that Petscop really was the creation of one or two people that kept the entire game private. But frankly, that explanation raises even more questions. Petscop looks very professional, despite existing over a decade before “indie games” were exhibiting this kind of potential. If you look at even modern homebrew Playstation games, you won’t find many games achieving quite as much as what Petscop does.
Speaking of homebrew, Petscop also displays surprisingly advanced technology for its era. Many in the Petscop community have pointed out that the shadow effects in the game are quite complex, rivaling AAA games of its era like Tomb Raider. Some of the game’s 3D models also animate in a way that shouldn’t be possible on the PSX, even if they all look like the same low-resolution polygons to the average gamer. Again, it’s not necessarily that this is impossible, but given the circumstances, it’s hard to believe anyone outside of seasoned professionals were making a game with this much polish.
But the real smoking gun is the stuff in Petscop that actually is impossible. Demo movies on the game’s title screen repeat complex sequences of button inputs from Paul’s earlier sessions, which shouldn’t be able to happen on the PSX. The game also keeps track of how long it has been since it was first played, even though the PSX didn’t have an internal clock that would make these sequences possible. Some in the community have speculated that the game might be able to achieve this by asking the player the date upon initialization, but from what we can see, no such sequence exists in the game.
This isn’t directly stated, but some moments imply that Petscop has some connectivity to the internet. Or at the very least, internet connectivity is the most logical explanation for certain moments outside of “a ghost is doing it.” Being that 1997 was from an era where dial-up was still king, the PSX definitely didn’t have any online capabilities built into it. Yes, it’s technically possible that the game is running on a modded Playstation that could make all of this possible. However, it Petscop is running on such heavily modded hardware, would it even be accurate to call it a Playstation game? Besides. no indie developer is designing a technically ambitious game and a superior version of the Playstation all at the same time, especially back in 1997.
Why Petscop is worth watching, even if it’s not real.
Here’s the thing: it’s pretty clear that the creators of Petscop aren’t trying to trick anyone into thinking the game’s real. As a series, Petscop is less about the game itself and more about why the game exists to begin with. The game itself is just a story telling device, and the creators of Petscop have used the medium of the YouTube Let’s Play to create a captivating psychological experience.
Even if you know the game’s not real, it’s easy to suspend your disbelief and really buy that you’re watching a long lost Playstation game. And in truth, there are actual games like Petscop out there! Many people have pointed towards LSD: Dream Simulator as an apparent inspiration for Petscop, though there are also strong parallels to games like Yume Nikki. So even if the game itself is real, it does kick up some nostalgia of really weird games from decades ago.
If you’re into something off the usual grain to spook you, give Petscop a watch if you haven’t already. It’s not so much a horror series as it is a drama with some unnerving themes, and personally, it’s refreshing for a series like this to focus on its story and forgo cheap jump scares. As long as you don’t run off to eBay to search for your own copy of Petscop, I’d say you’ll have a great time watching every episode.
And frankly, given what we know about Petscop, it’s probably safer that you can’t play it anyway.