"This game had a very limited release, one or two backwater arcades in a suburb of Portland. The history of this game is cloudy, there were all kinds of strange stories about how kids who played it got amnesia afterwards, couldn't remember their name or where they lived, etc.
"The bizarre rumors about this game are that it was supposedly developed by some kind of weird military tech offshoot group, used some kind of proprietary behavior modification algorithms developed for the CIA or something, kids who played it woke up at night screaming, having horrible nightmares.
"According to an operator who ran an arcade with one of these games, guys in black coats would come to collect "records" from the machines. They're not interested in quarters or anything, they just collected information about how the game was played.
"The game was weird looking, kind of abstract, fast action with some puzzle elements, the kids who played it stopped playing games entirely, one of them became a big anti videogame crusader or something. We've contacted one person who met him, and he claims the machines disappeared after a month or so and no one ever heard about them again.
And that's all cool. Nobody has ever found a ROM, even though some sources will state that there is one. There is also a screenshot floating around, as well as a black and white picture of the cabinet.
The black and white cabinet picture is taken from the Killer List of Videogames (KLOV.com). I am image leeching, but I'll fix that if that's an issue. There's also a picture of the game from this screenshot of the Simpsons episode "Please Homer, Don't Hammer 'Em":
The screen shot lists what appears to be a German company as the developer. I asked my friend Kurt Colville to translate the word as best he could.
`Huh, that's a tough one. I'm guessing it's actually "Sinnesloeschen" ("Sinneslöschen" using the German umlauts). My dictionary doesn't have this word, but taking it apart, "Sinn(es)" denotes "sense" or "sensory" as in sense perception. "Loeschen" means to "delete" or "erase". My first thought is "sensory deprivation", and that choosing the word "Sinnesloeschen" is slightly idiomatic. I suppose it could denote an erasing or negating of the capacity for sensation, which is slightly different in meaning from "sensory deprivation", but knowing how Germans form idioms, my best guess is that it means "sensory deprivation".`
This is why I played in a band with Kurt: he is the smartest frigging guy I've ever met. This pretty much keeps us up to date on the myth of Polybius.
NEW I recently received a heads-up from a man named Gerry about a Polybius cab in someone's home arcade. Here is a photo:
Oh, only one more thing. I run a text game review site called "Reviews From Trotting Krips" and we have a comment section that allows anonymous people to comment on the reviews. The mail shows up in an account that fellow writer Bryan and I have access to. I just got a piece of mail from it the other day (and it's what inspired me to make this page) and the guy managed to attach a picture, which I am not quite sure how he did. What he gave me is the first new picture of Polybius that anyone's seen in a long time. Click on it for the full version.
I'm going to do my best to contact the anonymous poster (well, not completely anonymous: he filled in the Trotting Krips comment author field as "Artisian R. Mann," which doesn't lead anywhere) to find out more about this cabinet. I promise I'll update when I get more information. For the content!
... Well, I did end up getting another mail from the guy, through Caltrops. The Milker and I went to the site he mentioned, near the Colorado - Kansas border, and we shot the following video.
This is the biggest news to hit the Polybius scene in some time. Someone registered sinnesloschen.com and placed a download link to a fully functional game that shows what Polybius could have been like.
To read more about the legend of Polybius:
Gamasutra has an article with a great cartoon depiction of Polybius - the article doesn't mention the game, so just check out the pic directly.
The Polybius Theory website. Lots of great information on the legend! There is also research there on the font used for the screenshot: I've tried to find it myself, because it would clearly end any discussion of Polybius being an actual 80s-era game if we found the frigging font next to WingDings or something. The siteop of The Polybius Theory found two fonts that are close, but not exact. Presuming the shot is faked anyway, we can at least appreciate the fact that a little bit of care was taken to construct this hoax. (Or, just possibly, it's not a hoax after all.)
Here is a direct link to the font used in the famous title screen screenshot. It's called Bius Titel, and the filename is Bius Titel ttf.zip.
Another site that has recently come up is Polybius Lives. There are some screenshots there on what the game might have looked like on a Color X/Y vector monitor. Here is hoping that they run with it, and get a game working as well.