Unsolved Mysteries of the World
Polybius, The Mind Controlling Video Game
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Welcome to Unsolved Mysteries of the World, Season 6 Episode 4, Polybius
In the early 1980s, arcades were popular among all age groups and in 1981 a cabinet game was shipped to Portland, Oregon's most popular arcades. The game cabinet was black and the title was unusual. The game featured the usual, 25 cent slot for one life and it was tucked into the corner of the arcade room, an odd placement for a new game.
Unlike Pacman or Donkey Kong or other games released at the time, Polybius seemed to only be available in the Portland area. Yet, despite this localization, it was a very popular game with witnesses claiming that there would be lines forming to play it, fights would break out, for who was actually next in line and the arcade owner would smile as the tank holding the quarters had to be emptied quite regularly.
About a month after it was introduced, the arcade machines all vanished and traces of their existence hidden. For some it was a relief, as the game it said held the player captivated, almost hypnotized. Players reported strange side effects such as amnesia, insomnia, night terrors and hallucinations. There was even rumour of several suicide attempts after playing the game.
Arcade owners reported that the machines were visited each day by men in suits, who claimed to be employees of the developer. What is strange is that these men unlocked the cabinet and were transferring information from the game to a portable computer.
The men claimed to work for a game developer called Sinneslöschen, and odd and exotic name that most arcade owners could not pronounce. The name, however, also has a strange meaning. The meaning roughly translates to "sense delete" or "sensory deprivation". These meanings are derived from Sinne, "senses" and löschen, "to extinguish" or "to delete".
The odd developer, the game cabinet and the employees were never seen or heard from again. Skeptics argue that the whole story is simply an urban legend born in the very arcades Polybius was said to be played in. Others argue that the game was real and part of an experiment conducted by government employees involved with the Mkulta program, which today, we know is very real.
In the early 2000s several video game writers and magazines discussed the game and could not conclusively say the game was real or simply an urban legend. The web site snopes reported almost immediately and without investigation, the game was fake and did not exist.
However, several credible witnesses came forward to say they know for certain the game was real because they played it and remember it fondly.