Monday, June 26, 2017

Mystery Monday: Polybius


It's Monday, which means it's time for another...



Anyone who grew up in the 80s knows how exciting it was to go to an arcade and play video games. Even if you had a gaming console in your home, it was nothing like the experience you had here:



But in 1981, a new video game arrived in arcades. Or did it? Some say the story is an urban legend, while others insist it was real. There is supposedly a picture of the game, though, which was called Polybius:



Polybius allegedly made its first appearance in Portland, Oregon. As the legend tells it, soon after arriving, interest in this particular video game soared, with children lining up to play. Men in suits occasionally stopped by to gather gameplay records from the game.



This led to the theory that the video game was a project of the government, designed specifically to brainwash the youth of America. That version of the story even landed the game a brief appearance on the popular TV show The Simpsons:



What happened to Polybius? Soon after being placed, some children supposedly began having seizures while playing. The game was removed soon after.



Three children did get sick after visiting an arcade within the same week in the Portland area, although it wasn't connected to this game. Some believe that is what kicked off the legend.



Interestingly, the legend has led to a series of imitation video games. Today you can play Polybius.



A group tried to earn enough money on Kickstarter to make a film about the legend, but they never reached their goal. Chances are, someday we'll see a documentary on the subject.

Do you think Polybius was a real game?

43 comments:

  1. An urban legend about an arcade game? There's actually been a few movies that involved games controlling or affecting people, so I wonder if that's where the makers got the idea. Although Videodrome came out before that game.

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    1. That is possible. It's a fascinating premise! Maybe the legend emerged because of Videodrome...when kids started getting sick after playing in a certain arcade, people just added the story from the movie to it.

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  2. How weird! I really don't know if it's real.

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    1. I don't either. Someone went to the trouble of making a fake photo if it's false!

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  3. Now this is an interesting case.

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    1. I was intrigued the first time I heard about it--which was only a few months ago. I was surprised I'd missed the story over the years!

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  4. Hi Stephanie - I don't know anything about any of it! But that's me ... non video gamer, nor visitor to an arcade ... but I'm sure if there's a story there it will get picked up ... fascinating thought though - cheers Hilary

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    1. I'm not a gamer at all, but I was in junior high when arcades first started popping up everywhere. We would get free games for every A we got on our report card, so it felt like a reward! But I usually just gravitated toward Pac-Man.

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  5. I have never heard of this. I could see where this game made an appearance but it was soon found that people who suffered from epilepsy or seizures were faceted by this game so they pulled it and the legend grew

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    1. It is possible there was a game called this. Something about the photo of the game, though... Notice how elaborate the game on the right is in that photo--yet Polybius is all black with only the sign being unique. Easily Photoshopped, I'm sure...

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  6. Sounds like the book I just read Armada, by Ernest Cline, which features just such a mysterious arcade game. It was a good book :)

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    1. I have a feeling this legend has inspired quite a few books! It sounds like a fascinating story. I'm not much into government conspiracies and coverups, but I know it does happen...

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  7. I did google it and its just as you've written. All very strange. I do remember when kids were obsessed with video games...wait...they still are...but now they can play from the comfort of home, or on their devices. So video games are at their fingertips at all times.......

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    1. It sounds weird, but I feel like there was something more exciting about going to an arcade to play them. Of course, we still have Dave & Busters for people who want to spend a fortune for an hour of fun!

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    2. Yes, I agree, Stephanie. It was all the bells and whistles, the noise and people were exciting.

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  8. I liked learning about a different kind of mystery!

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  9. Hadn't heard of this game but that's not surprising given my age and lack of interest in arcade games...I wouldn't put it past any government to try a trick like that.

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    1. Me, either! I'm not much into games, either, but I was a child of the 80s, so I perk up when someone talks about video game arcades. Mostly because that's where all the cute boys were when I was a teenager!

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  10. It's amazing that the existence of a video game from 1981 cannot be fully proven as fact or legend. Another great Mystery Monday post!

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    1. Right?! I'm pretty sure it has to be an urban legend because it seems it could be easily proven that it existed. Unless it WAS a conspiracy and the govt. covered it up, so I guess that's the point...

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  11. Is this game for left-handed people only? Who puts the controller on the left? Strange...

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  12. I hadn't heard of the game but I do believe it's quite possible :)

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  13. I remember those days and all the fun, but this game doesn't ring a bell. I've heard that these machines that are in good condition are worth a lot of money. If someone finds this, it would sure be worth a ton! Hugs...

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  14. Gaming arcades were non-existent in my youth, plus there was a war on so it was very many years before they came into fashion. Trust me to miss out!

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  15. I haven't heard of the game, but I do know that some games caused seizures in people with epilepsy, especially kids. As for the government part, some games were designed for military purpose (recruiting/training), so the urban legend is definitely in the realm of possible.

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  16. I don't know. I've never heard of it before.

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  17. I have no idea. I've never heard of it before, and I've never played video games. I'm too much of a snob.

    Love,
    Janie

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    1. Stephanie, I want to email you with a tip about something that's coming up, but the only way I see to contact you is the form to request a school visit. If you're interested, you can email me at dumpedfirstwife@gmail.com.

      Love again,
      Janie Junebug

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  18. That is a game I never heard of. I was into Frogger, and Centipede! I learned to play those on an Atari. I grew up in the 70s and was raising kids in the 80s so I never went to play these games.

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  19. Sounds like sci-fi or something from outer space. I never played the games, but have seen them in stores. Truly weird.

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  20. I love silly conspiracy stories like this one--I hadn't heard it before! Sounds like an interesting tale, but I doubt it's true :)

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  21. Not heard about this at all ...weird.

    All the best Jan

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  22. Whaty a great mystery--and right up my alley. I'm going to have to Google this legend.

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  23. There have always been legends and rumours about video games. Secret games, secret codes, secret levels. Even in this internet age of easy answers, New rumours continue to pop up. Its almost as if people who play video game also like conspiracies...

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  24. I'd never heard about this one. Sounds like the basis for a good horror movie.

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  25. I have never heard of this game! Very, very interesting!

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  26. I don't think I've heard of that one, but it's definitely interesting. I think it would be a great kick off for a scifi book.

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  27. I've heard of this and it's an intriguing mystery.

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  28. And my first thought was information gathering on skill sets like reflexes and memory.

    Anna from elements of emaginette

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