Polybius : The Most Mysterious Game Never Made

With the success of Black Mirrors ‘Bandersnatch we decided to look at the most infamous computer game of the 80’s. A game which potentially never existed but lives in an almost perpetual Mandela Effect state of remembrance.

The urban legend of Polybius first surfaced in 2000. The story goes that a mysterious game cabinetĀ appeared in arcades of many suburbs in Portland, Oregon in 1981.

The game induced psychoactive and addictive effects in those who played it with fights breaking out constantly over who was next to play. Gamers are said to have suffered hallucinations, insomnia, migraines, night terrors and amnesia after playing.

It is alleged that the game was part of a government-run psychological experiment – a covert training and recruitment project – much like that of the NLP and MK ULTRA programs ran by the CIA.

polybius cabinet photo crazydiscostu

The cabinets were said to not only be strictly monitored but periodically serviced (and never emptied) by Men-In-Black-type figures who collected data from the machines.

The cabinets disappeared after a month or so and were never seen again. No evidence of their existence has been found despite many collectors throughout the world claiming to own an original cabinet.

There is much discussion about the actual gameplay of Polybius. The most popular of these talk of the game being colorful and psychedelic, pulsating and strobing. Some talk of a 3D shooter, some talk of a puzzle game but all agree that it was strange flashing gameplay which was not a typical “player-friendly” style.

The only thing that everyone seems to agree on is this image :

Polybius crazydiscostu

This title screen is said to be the only legitimate content from the game – or at least the only thing about it that players seem to remember. Over the years many have claimed to have working Roms of the game but never share in-game footage.

There have also been various people coming forward to suggest that they worked on the game as a programmer, with one even linking the spooky game to Sega. All of these claims have been shown to be hoaxes – just further embellishment of the games urban myth.

The closest it seems we ever got to the truth was when a man by the name of Steven Roach claimed to be part of the original programming team. His story claimed that the game was withdrawn after a boy had experienced an epileptic seizure as a result of playing it. AHOY (Stuart Brown) was able to track down the identity of Steven Roach and ultimately expose his account as fraudulent, going on to suggest that Kurt Koller of Coinop.org concocted the entire Polybius tale to drive traffic to his site. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_7X6Yeydgyg)

simpons polybius crazydiscostu

polybius farmingsimulator crazydiscostu

It seems that no concrete evidence has ever been unearthed that the game existed. No links to the manufacturer. No patents of copyright.

Hoax or not, Polybius lives on as a sustaining mystery, even going as far to make appearances in pop culture. You can find the cabinet in the background of selected scenes in The Simpsons or The Goldbergs, comic books like Batman Inc #1, Farming Simulator 17 and the video for Less Than‘ by NIN. Many developers have released games under the name Polybius in recent years ensuring that name itself will live on in infamy.

To this day it remains as a piece of gaming folklore and an aspired aesthetic for collectors the world over.







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