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Polybius Arcade Game | A Mind Control Experiment?

Updated on November 21, 2014

It was back in 1981, in Portland, Oregon, when a video game cabinet called Polybius that resembled an early version of Tempest, was put into a couple of arcades in the suburbs of the city. The game proved to be popular, some say too popular, even addictive. Lines formed to play the game and people even got into fights just to be able to play it.

It is said the game caused seizures, nightmares, night terrors, insomnia and some players swore off video games forever.

The game only lasted a month and then was removed from the arcades, all arcades, forever. No one exactly knows why. But we have some ideas as to why.

The Polybius video game.
The Polybius video game.

Psychoactive Software and The Men in Black

During the time that Polybius was being played at this Portland arcade, periodically a set of Men in Black would come to collect information from the game. It is said that the information they collected was not "run-of-the-mill". It was very specific and many believe nefarious.

The strange men are enough to make anyone wonder, but the name of the company that released the game is even more suspicious. The company name is Sinnesloschen, which is German for mind erasure or sense deletion.

Variously it has been said that Polybius was a military experiment or some sort of government experiment, this speculation backed up by the fact that these Men in Black came gathering information from the game. The belief is that the game worked on the mind and senses, a sort of early form of psychoactive software, and that the game was used as an experiment, unbeknownst to the public, on the effects of this software on the human mind.

It is said that Sinnesloschen, the supposed company name of the group that released this video game, is a secret name and code word for the organization that conducts these experiments.

Other Theories and Claims

The other claim is that this game was a legitimate game and has gotten bad press. The supposed creator of it has come out on video game forums, saying he wanted to get together with the co-creators of the game to release a new version of it and lay rumors to rest.

Another theory postulates that the "rumor" about Polybius is a conglomeration of real events that occurred in Portland in 1981, surrounding illegal gambling activity in an arcade that was investigated by law enforcement and actual problems with the game Tempest in which cases of motion sickness and seizures were reported.

What is the Evidence?

Plainly stated, there is no evidence. Except perhaps the memories of hardcore gamers from back in the day. It is said that one last remnant of the Polybius game was found in storage in Portland, but the only evidence of this is a picture uploaded by a blogger.

It is also said the game was created by a man named Steven Roach, who says the game is legitimate but was pulled early on due to problems with flashing lights in the game causing a boy with epilepsy seizures.

In addition, a company calling itself Sinnesloschen has released a "new" version of Polybius which they've made available for download. But this could just be a copy-cat and not the genuine Sinnesloschen company.

So, it looks like we may never know the truth. But one fact remains and that is that this game is gone, no longer anywhere where a cabinet game can be played.

But, who knows, it might turn up somewhere, sometime.

Have you ever played Polybius?

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    • Paxash profile image

      Darcie Nadel 13 months ago from Louisiana

      This is one of my favorite urban legends about gaming, mostly because I wouldn't be surprised if it came out one day that it was true.

    • profile image

      Jacobb9205 2 years ago

      The game sounds interesting