Polybius is probably the most mysterious game ever to have been released (if it was ever really released at all). It is an arcade game that supposedly appeared in the town of Portland, Oregon in the United States in 1981. The legend goes that the game proved to be an instant hit with the locals, to the point where many became completely addicted to it and started suffering unusual side-effects including amnesia, insomnia, night terrors, suicide and in one case a person became an anti-game activist. The game was said to contain flashing lights, hypnotic patterns and subliminal messages such as ‘submit’, ‘consume’ and ‘obey authority’ There were also reports of ‘men in black’ visiting the machines and instead of collecting the usual marketing data, they collected unknown data, which was allegedly responses to the psychoactive machines.
The game itself was rumored to be a cross between a puzzle game and a spaceship shooter…here is the description from the manual:
‘Use left/right/up/down to maneuver ship clockwise/counter and towards or away from the base. Use fire to destroy enemies. Occasionally, glowingshapes will launch from the base with a red number circling them. If the number matches either digit on the base number (on each arm of the base) or is evenly divisible within, shooting it will reduce the base number bythe polygon number. Getting the base number to zero advances to the next level. Intercepting the polygon will increase shields. Colliding with enemy pawns, missiles, or mines reduces shields. Scoring is based on enemies killed, reducing base number, and level change. The largest score increases are with divisible numbers, especially square roots. At higher levels, the base shoots a paralysis beam which may briefly immobilize the player. This occurs when all arms of the base align.’…Did you get all that?
Many people have claimed to have a copy of the game or an original arcade cabinet but no proof has ever been offered. In 2007 a website called Sinnesloschen (*WARNING* – Read to the end of the article before downloading) went online
offering a ‘remake’ of the game based on interviews and stories of the original. The cabinet has also made an appearance on the Simpsons episode “Please Homer, Don’t Hammer ‘Em…”. Below is a picture of the Simpsons episode next to a screen shot of the game.
PLEASE READ: This is the warning from the manual:
“WARNING This game uses strobe, auditory, and visual effects that could potentially cause seizures, nausea, motion sickness. DO NOT PLAY THIS GAME IF YOU HAVE SEIZURES, HEART PROBLEMS OR RHYTHM DISTURBANCES, PREGNANCY, OR ARE ON ANY PSYCHO-ACTIVE MEDICINES. If you have any of these or other prohibitive medical conditions, you should not play video-games in general, including this one.
DO NOT PLAY THIS GAME FOR EXTENDED PERIODS OF TIME (may cause some motion sickness).
*Images from Sinnesloschen