There's an old legend that floats around the world of #VideoGames, a story about a certain arcade cabinet released in 1981. The game was called Polybius, a mysterious puzzle game that supposedly appeared in a handful of arcades around the suburbs of Portland, Oregon, before disappearing a few months later.
People who played it for long enough began to experience psychoactive effects, including euphoria, seizures, night terrors, amnesia and an unconscious aversion to touching all video games afterwards. There were even rumors of mysterious men in black coming to the #arcade and taking readings from the machines.
If offered the chance, would you play it?
The Insanity-Inducing 'Polybius' Is Getting A Remake In Full VR
Of course, the original Polybius, like many gaming myths, probably isn't real. There's very little evidence for its existence and according to Brian Dunning, a producer and professional skeptic, it most likely bloomed out of wildly exaggerated stories of early arcade games causing nausea and photosensitive epilepsy. One game in particular, Tempest, was a nightmare to play when it was first released, causing motion sickness and migraines before the developers altered the graphics to be less physically obnoxious.
The fact that the game isn't real isn't stopping Jeff Minter the mad genius behind games like TxK, GoatUp and Space Giraffe, from making it one. Minter believes that virtual reality headsets could actually cause the effects that were attributed to Polybius. On his blog, Minter recalls a tongue in cheek story of being brought to an isolated warehouse in Basingstoke and briefly allowed to play what he claims may have been Polybius itself.
My heart was racing and I felt a really weird combination of exhilaration mixed with a deep-seated anxiety whose origin I couldn’t identify. It felt like waking unexpectedly from a dream and for the first few seconds I was thoroughly confused. It took me a while to remember that I was really in Basingstoke, and why.
It seems Minter is interested in recreating the experience of this (possibly mythical) game, and believes that VR may be the only way to do it. The new Polybius aims to be an improved experience, one that recreates the euphoria and exhilaration without the nasty stuff, from the early gameplay videos he's shown, it certainly looks like a trip.
'Press X for enlightenment', Polybius' title screen teases:
Minter claims that the key to achieving this "Ludic psychadelia" as he calls it, is creating a sense of relentless momentum at 120fps, combined with the total immersion of playing in VR. It sounds a bit like an even crazier version of Thumper, with a sort of old-school blocky charm to the graphics.
We're not sure if the remake of Polybius will actually manage to induce altered states of consciousness in players, but if anyone can do it it's the guy who invented Space Giraffe.
Would you try out a game designed to induce altered states in VR? Are you intrigued by the Polybius legend? Got an urban legend of your own to share? Let us know in the comments!