Polybius – Urban Myth or CIA Plot ?

arcadeheaven May 2, 2007 1


I had completely forgotten about this old story until a friend reminded me today. As some of you may know this story has been floating around for a very long time. Reputedly back in the early 80s a new arcade game was secretly tested in Portland in the U.S. with some very strange results.

Public ROM images have never surfaced and the game has never been publically emulated. The supposed screenshot above is all I could find. The developers name listed at the bottom, Sinneslöschen or “Sinnes löschen” could be translated from German to mean something like “Sense Delete”. All too obvious?

“This game had a very limited release, one or two backwater arcades in a suburb of Portland. The history of this game is cloudy, there were all kinds of strange stories about how kids who played it got amnesia afterwards, couldn’t remember their name or where they lived, etc.

The bizarre rumors about this game are that it was supposedly developed by some kind of weird military tech offshoot group, used some kind of proprietary behavior modification algorithms developed for the CIA or something, kids who played it woke up at night screaming, having horrible nightmares.

According to an operator who ran an arcade with one of these games, guys in black coats would come to collect “records” from the machines. They’re not interested in quarters or anything, they just collected information about how the game was played.

The game was weird looking, kind of abstract, fast action with some puzzle elements, the kids who played it stopped playing games entirely, one of them became a big anti videogame crusader or something. We’ve contacted one person who met him, and he claims the machines disappeard after a month or so and no one ever heard about them again.”  – From www.coin-op.org

General Internet feelings seem to be pretty much 50/50, either it really existed and was “mind altering” or its just another internet hoax.

Polybius has  appeared in an episode of The Simpsons TV series pictured in an arcade of elderly machines. (Aired September 2006, entitled “Please Homer, Don’t Hammer ‘Em”)

 Someone even took it seriously enough to make a movie:

“My company, DaFife Productions, is in the process of editing a film which I wrote, produced and directed based on this legend. You can check it out at www.vectorzone.blogspot.com. Feel free to post feedback on the site. Thanks. – Dave “  

“Vectorzone” wrapped up shooting in September 2006 acording to the blogs so maybe soon the truth will out!

 Loads more on this myth at wikipedia

[Discuss on the Forum]

One Comment »

  1. editor May 2, 2007 at 5:44 pm - Reply

    I would normally throw this out – but I remember the pain I got from the then Atari about Military Battlezone not existing, only for the ROM’s to turn up and then suddenly no one at Atari could comment. The same is true of the Monkey Kong game and PuckMan issues.

    Though to be honest, if this game existed I am sure the guys at MAME would of hunted down a chip set.

Leave A Response »