The Urban Legend of the Government’s Mind-Controlling Arcade Game

Fascinating, as always with urban legends.

In a suburban arcade near Portland, Oregon, in 1981, a dull, digital glow bounced off the faces of teenagers who clutched joysticks, immersed in the game. Tiny lines and dots danced or exploded with high-pitched beeps across them all, but one game cabinet, Polybius, drew the longest lines.

Gamers who tried it couldn’t stop playing, and began acting oddly: they were nauseous, stressed, had horrific nightmares. Others had seizures or attempted suicide, many felt unable to control their own thoughts. It was only later that they recalled how Polybius was serviced more often than other games. Men in black suits opened the machine every week, recorded its data, and left, with no interest in its coins. Soon after it appeared, the mysterious arcade game vanished without warning—taken by the men in black suits, leaving no record of its existence.

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