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The Bizarre Polybius Story That Turned Out To Be Completely Fake

There have always been a ton of creepy rumors surrounding video games. Whether it was the absurdly fake legend about Lavender Town's music causing Pokemon players to take their lives, or the existence of Herobrine — a vengeful apparition that supposedly appears in Minecraft — they're all pretty outlandish. Despite most of these stories not having any substantial evidence to actually back them up, they still manage to stay alive and continue terrifying gamers to this day. 

One of these stories involves an arcade machine called Polybius, an infamous rumored game that has circulated the internet for quite some time. Polybius has a ton of theories and lore surrounding it, prompting many gamers to believe this cursed game actually existed at some point. The story is pretty interesting, not to mention believable — especially if you're someone who buys into conspiracy theories. And it's these very people who have kept the rumors surrounding Polybius alive for all these years.

The arrival of Polybius

The urban legend involving Polybius began place during the 1980s when arcades were starting to become popular (and controversial). The story goes that one arcade in Portland, Ore., received a video game titled Polybius that was apparently pretty trippy. Polybius would have the player stare at random geometric patterns and strange shapes, causing them to fall into a hypnotic state. The game was very addicting, leading to many players putting in several hours on the machine. After a Polybius session, players would often complain about experiencing headaches and hallucinations. 

However, the really creepy part about this story involves tales of men in black coming into the arcade every morning to tamper with the machine. Arcade owners claimed that the men would run tests on the machine, and leave without saying anything. After some time, Polybius would mysteriously vanish without a trace, leaving many to wonder what its purpose was, and if it even existed.

Polybius was (supposedly) a CIA experiment

Some variations of the story claim that two teenagers who played Polybius disappeared, while other sources say that the game was linked to the CIA's top-secret brainwashing and mind control experiment, Project MK-Ultra. A 2017 podcast titled The Polybius Conspiracy did a deep dive into this topic in hopes of unearthing some sort of clue as to whether or not the game existed. The show was run by Jon Frechette and Todd Luoto, a set of producers who interviewed people who allegedly played Polybius when it was in Portland during the 1980s. One particular victim said he was abducted at 14 after he played the game. He even gives walking tours of the alleged location of the machine.

Regardless, with zero screenshots or any recording of Polybius gameplay, there's really no evidence that the game ever existed. It could very well be a masterful cover-up by the CIA, but who's to say? There's a ton of material and alleged personal accounts on the subject to help you decide for yourself. But it's probably best not to dive too deep into the Polybius conspiracy. You never know what might happen.