ByMarlon McDonald, writer at
Umm... are you going to drink that Skooma?
Marlon McDonald

When you think back to your time frequenting video game arcades, you think of all the sweet dollars, or pounds, spent showing off your mad joystick skills to other adolescents.

You think of all the great times spent bonding with new kids, figuring out how to input dirty words into the high score table and whether or not you had enough change for a bucket of multicolored, super sweet slushed ice.

The last thing that would be on your mind is whether the CIA are working in tandem with games companies to corrupt the minds of your peers, children and family members with arcade cabinets that render people so ill, they attempt suicide.

Make yourself comfortable and allow me to take you on a journey into one of video games' greatest urban legends:

Polybius: The Killer Arcade Machine

In the early '80s, a story about a terrible and mind destroying arcade cabinet began to circulate. The tale, not unlike other urban legends, began warping and changing depending on the person who was telling it, thanks to dramatizing and shoddy memories.

Irrespective of that, however, there are some facts that corroborate the sheer weirdness of this epic legend.

A mysterious games publisher released an unknown and untested arcade cabinet to a number of arcades around Portland, Oregon, which was a standard move for publishers at the time - releasing a limited number of cabinets for play testing, recalling faulty ones and moving on from there.

The game was an alien shooter, where you piloted a small craft whose sole purpose was to protect a moonbase from steadily increasing waves of enemies. Sounds fairly straightforward, right?

Here's a recreation of what Polybius would look like in action:

However, one cabinet began to cause a stir within the gaming community, because, despite its rumored and much discussed side effects, Polybius was a rare case of a cabinet not being recalled, generating fuss and creating masses of queues to appear outside numerous arcades across Portland.

Kids would spur each other on to tackle the demon cabinet, perpetuating rumors that Polybius caused nausea, vomiting, disorientation, amnesia, the inability to be sad, and suicide; and those that did it often ended up inundated with dark dreams and became ill.

To make matters even worse, a thirteen year old boy suffered an epileptic fit a few days after a cabinet was installed, igniting fears, a lawsuit, and even more negative press for an art medium that was very much in its infancy.

The accusations spread like wildfire across the media, sparking up concerns that the game was somehow brainwashing children by using subliminal messaging wired into its code. As farfetched as this seems, the rumors were "backed up" with visits from ominous "men in black suits" that used to collect data from the cabinet's sub menus.

So renowned it got a shout out on The SImpsons...
So renowned it got a shout out on The SImpsons...

These visits ushered in even more rumors that the game was operated by the CIA, or the CIA was working with the devs, who were rumored to be Atari or a German company named Sinneslöschen, which translates to "Sense Deletion." How apt.

But when the Polybius madness hit fever-pitch and the game was finally recalled, the black suited men were on hand again to collect the cabinets, thus orchestrating another wave of paranoid gossip regarding the involvement of the government, and their experiments with the minds of children.

Screenshot of a 2007 remake
Screenshot of a 2007 remake

With the story of Polybius being an urban legend and all, naturally you should take it with a pinch of salt and dust it off as utter bullshit, but there is, apparently, absolutely no way of proving that the game existed!

There are, however, fan-made recreations of the game floating about on the infinite web that you can get your hands on... if you dare...

What do you make of that?

Would you play Polybius?

(Source: BitParade, Skeptoid, CreepyPasta)


Latest from our Creators