Polybius: The Video Game

Neveditha Swaminathan, II Year B.Com (A&F)
Image Source: http://www.tvtropes.org

Video games are popular hobbies for a lot of people, especially the younger crowd. A lot of video games portray fantasy with mythical characters, catchy visual and sound effects, prompting players to keep playing to beat their own high scores. Instances of people developing disabilities due to overplaying video games often make the news headlines. However, video game arcade owners take little or no measures to stop these players from playing too much, as they get paid for every hour that the players spend in an arcade.

One such addicting game is ‘Polybius’, which is a 1981 arcade game that is supposed to have derived its origins from an urban legend. This game was apparently restricted to the arcades of Portland, Oregon in the United States and was a huge hit among teenagers. It made its first entry in the late 1970’s and was very popular among the residents of Portland, who would fight over who could play next.

The arcades that had the Polybius game machine would witness men dressed in official suits (like the FBI or other US Government officials), paying periodic visits to these arcades to record the effects that this game had on the minds of the people.

The players of this game even took to extreme measures to play the game. A player named Brian Mauro played for 28 continuous hours, but had to quit due to a stomachache from playing the game for too long. Another player, Michael Lopez, played the game for hours together as well, and had to stop playing after he developed a severe migraine. The others who have played the game reported various illnesses like disturbed sleep, hallucinations, amnesia, night terrors etc.

The game, as such, did not contain any content that distorted the minds of the players, but many who played this game for too long developed amnesia and could not remember who they were or where they lived. The text in the game read ‘© Sinnesloschen 1981’, where ‘Sinneslochen’ roughly meant sensory deprivation, when translated from German.

According to many sources, this game is believed to be a hoax, which originated from a website called coinorp.org for publicity purposes. There have also been many websites that debunked the game and stated that the two players Brian Mauro and Michael Lopez were playing different games in the same arcade, and that Polybius did not exist at all.

Many people have come forward to explain that they have played Polybius before, but this was again a hoax. The game was reportedly discontinued after a while. Till date, no one knows whether Polybius really existed or not and has been ruled down as an urban legend by itself.

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