Polybius: Government-Run Arcade Game And Psychological Experiment Or Complete Hoax?

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The psychological NSA experiment mysterious arcade game Polybius has popped up in a few instances on Kotaku previously, but now’s the first time you can enjoy it in well-produced, documentary form. Stuart Brown of Ahoy fame, who has cranked out some quality clips in the past, decided to tackle the urban legend in an extensive, hour-long video.

What the heck is Polybius? Here’s a quick refresher, courtesy of Wikipedia:

The urban legend is that the game was part of a government-run crowdsourced psychology experiment, with gameplay producing intense psychoactive and addictive effects in the player. These few publicly staged arcade machines were said to have been visited periodically by men in black for the purpose of data-mining the machines and analyzing these effects.

While likely a work of fiction, there’s far too many interesting details regarding Polybius to let it fade way entirely, as Brown reveals.

For example, an examination of the title lends evidence to its unreal status. Polybius was a Greek historian from Megalopolis, Arcadia, but the name can be translated to “many lives”. Many lives? Arcadia? That’s some clever stuff.

It doesn’t end there, of course. Brown not only covers the history of the made-up game, but also the various hoaxes surrounding it that have appeared over the years. Educational, entertaining and informative, it’s well worth watching.

POLYBIUS — The Video Game That Doesn’t Exist [YouTube]


  • Excellent, I’ve been waiting for a new ahoy video for aaaages. This guy is the business. And what a great topic too. I know what I’m watching when I get home today.

    • Ahoy makes some really good videos and he’s done his research to the nth degree in this one. I watched this on the weekend and, from all I’ve ever heard and read about Polybius vs. Ahoy’s video, I have to say that it really does look like a hoax.

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