RedgoateeRob`s Top Ten Lost Horror Games: Part 3.

And now the conclusion of RedgoateeRob`s lost horror games. We`ve already discussed nine incredible lost games that horror fans are dying to play, but what lost game remains to take the top spot? Read on to find the identity of the number one game…

 1. Polybius (arcade)


Sometime in 1981 a new game showed up in a few small arcades somewhere in the vicinity of Portland, Oregon. The game, called Polybius, was a vector based shooter much like Tempest. Initially it did not draw a great deal of interest. Kids passed up the Polybius cabinet in favor of more familiar games like Centipede and Pac-Man, and for a time it collected dust. But perhaps one day the line at the Pac-Man machine was too long. Maybe the Centipede machine was full of uncollected quarters and out of service. Or perhaps some kid was just bored of playing the same old games. Regardless of why it happened, some kid whose name has been lost to history plugged a quarter into Polybius.

And that was where the nightmare began.

Kids who played the Polybius cabinet suffered severe psychological trauma. Epileptic seizures while playing the game were common. Amnesia was reported in various degrees as well, with kids who played the game being unable to recall that they had done so or, worse, having forgotten how to get home- or even their own names. Once home, children who played Polybius were plagued with incessant night terrors and severe symptoms of physical illness.

The kids, though, couldn`t stop playing. Lines that formed around the Polybius cabinet held steady all through the day. Polybius had become an obsession for the faithful, and the only breaks from the game were the occasions when odd men in old-fashioned black suits would show up and open the cabinet. This never took too long though, and no one thought much about the fact that the men in the black suits never took the quarters from the machine but rather only the data the machine collected about the players.

Nobody noticed much until the kids who played Polybius started committing suicide.

Reports on how many kids did so are few and difficult to find. What is known is that once the nightmares became too frequent and too intense, once kids who were healthy started living like invalids, once kids had forgotten who their parents were and who they themselves were, the kids started killing themselves. And once that happened, the men in the black suits came back, pulled down the Polybius cabinets, and loaded the machines into trucks. No one ever saw Polybius again.

Or, at least, so goes the story- a story that has been circulating almost as long as the internet has existed. It seems to have originated back in the days of Usenet, and skeptics claim that the roots of the story go back even further; back to the days when rumors spread through the arcades that military recruiters would watch the kids who would post high scores on the local Space Invaders machine. Others speculate that the legend of Polybius has it`s origin in the tendency for kids who played Tempest to get motion sickness from the vector graphics display the game used.

All of this makes it easy to dismiss Polybius as nothing more than an urban legend, as it almost certanly is. But part of the attraction of Polybius is that so much of the story is so vague and tantalizing. Many of the earliest Usenet postings about Polybius are unavailable and presumably lost, and what information does remain is contradictory. Stories online ascribe the creation of Polybius to companies as diverse as Atari, Nintendo, and a previously-unknown corporation named Sinneslochen. Modern tellings of the story say Polybius was a shooter, but some earlier versions of the story claim it was a platformer, and still others insist it was a puzzle game. Most claim the game was released only in Oregon, but a few stories place Polybius in Ohio or ‘the Midwest’. Despite the differences, all versions of the legend agree on a few key points. The game was only in a few arcades. It made kids sick and gave them nightmares. It collected some sort of data on who played it and how it was played. Men in black suits took that data. The kids who played it suffered some tragedy and before anyone could investigate more, the games were taken by the same men who took the data. Oh, and they all agree the title of the game was Polybius.

So is it real? Was there an actual game called Polybius that made kids have nightmares? Probably not. No arcade cabinet has ever been found. No ROM, no screenshots. Nothing.

So yeah, probably not real. But I`m not willing to state definitively not. I`m not willing to shut the door on the possibility, because one little thing keeps bothering me about the story.

One of the game`s side effects was amnesia.


~ by Redgoateerob on December 22, 2011.

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