It’s turning into tall tales week here at the Mattcave – yesterday it was mysterious airships, today it’s an Arcade Game of Doom. I have the Hometown Tales podcast to thank for this; their latest edition introduced me to my new favourite urban myth, the story of Polybius.
The story goes that, in 1981, a mysterious new game was introduced to arcades throughout Portland, Oregon. While this game, Polybius, was hugely popular, it was also sinister – gamers found themselves suffering from nightmares or amnesia, with the game also being blamed for a suicide. To make things worse, the game was removed shortly after its release, accompanied by rumours of men in black keeping an eye on gamers and downloading data from the machines. Nowadays, despite internet rumours that copies of Polybius are held in private hands, there’s no evidence that the game ever actually existed.
Now that’s just a cool story; it sounds like the basis for an episode of Doctor Who, or, more accurately, Russell T. Davies’ early love letter to Doctor Who, Dark Season. It ties in to the sort of insane moral panics that sometimes crop up around pop culture, while the Men in Black are a modern bogeyman popping up in all kinds of weird stories. And the geek in me thinks that it’s only a matter of time before the follow-up legend begins, where copies of Polybius are uploaded to the internet and things start getting squinky…
Heck, it’s almost as cool as the dude who punched a shark on Monday.