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Videogame Urban Legend - Polybius
by Michael Thomasson

We have all heard a tale or two that was simply too impossible to believe - and then we frighteningly learn the truth...

An urban legend is a tale of contemporary folklore that purports to be true and is often designed to elicit an emotional response. It is an assertion or set of assertions widely repeated from individual to individual, though its truth is unconfirmed.

In most civilizations of the world, folklore has always existed in conjunction with, or in place of, recorded history. Where history is passionate with accurately writing down the details of events, traditional folklore is characterized by the "oral tradition," the dispatching of stories by word of mouth.
Unlike mythology, these accounts are about real people in believable situations. Just as with modern legends, old folk tales often focus on the things a culture found alarming. Countless of the "fairy tales" we hear today originated as credible stories. In place of warning against gang wars and child abductors, these stories expressed the dangers of the forest or other local phenomenon. In early European times, the arcane woods were a mysterious place to citizens, and there were indeed creatures that might attack one in such locales. Even today we share many common fears with our ancestors. The fear of food contamination is clear in Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, and still a worry to some today.

Urban legends are often false, but that is not always the case. A small amount turn out to be largely true, and several of them were inspired by an actual event but evolved over time into something portrayed differently. More often than not, the original source is usually not able to be located or identified. However, we present to you Polybius...

Polybius was a puzzle game that had a very limited release, reportedly restricted to less than a dozen arcades in a small Portland suburb. The games history is hazy. Reports indicate that children that played Polybius could no longer remember common and basic information critical to their lifestyle such as how to find their home or even recall their own name. It is unknown if these effects of amnesia were permanent. It is known that those that played the program were victims of unbearable nightmares often waking up at night screaming in fear.

One of the previous arcade operators vows that gentlemen dressed in black coats would periodically come to retrieve play statistics and other records from the coin-op. The mysterious collectors failed to take the coin earnings, nor did they seem interested in or recognize any monetary potential that is usually associated with such devices.

Supposedly it is rumored to have been developed by some kind of uncanny military tech offshoot organization. It was said to have some kind of proprietary behavior modification algorithms developed for the CIA or other other secretive outfit.

The game itself is very abstract in design with fast action and puzzle elements. While the kids that played Polybius refrained from playing other videogames aftwerwards, one in particular became a big anti-videogame advocate. We have contacted an individual that knows him, and he claims that the Polybius machines were removed from arcade premesis within a period of four to six weeks. For over twenty years all has been silent concerning polybius until the ROM recently appeared. Our source regrets mentioning his involvement, and claims that our hobby is not his hobby, and wishes to wash his hands of the entire story.

Do you accept what GDG has confirmation about Polybius or do you believe that it is simply modern folklore, contemporary legend and cautionary tale? If you know of any additional information concerning Polybius, please contact us immediately!

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