Polybius – Angry Video Game Nerd (AVGN)


They say there was once a game. A game unlike any other that infiltrated arcades in ’81 when gaming fever was hot. It captivated the youth who lined up in a magnetic trance to play it, at a price more than any coins were worth. They would succumb to an addiction more powerful than any drug, and be struck down by an illness more dreadful than any virus. Memory loss, nightmares, seizures, possibly suicide, were all attributed to its ambiguous wake of terror. And then, it vanished. Like a specter in the night. Its name… was Polybius. Well, damn. I gotta play it then! This review’s gonna be a little different than usual, because I can’t show any footage of the game if it doesn’t exist. They say it only existed in the Portland, Oregon area and that it was only there for a week or a month, and that there were only a few of them, or just one, or as I’ve been inclined to believe, none. It breaks the rarity scale. It’s so rare it probably never existed. But nobody really knows for sure, or those who know can’t prove it. Much of the myth could be explained with facts. There was a game called Poly-Play in ’85 which may be what people were actually remembering. It was eight games in one which seems to attribute to the conflicting descriptions of Polybius, or “Polee-bius” or however it’s pronounced. The most common description was that it was some kind of space shooter. Also there’s actual reports of gamers getting sick around that time, probably from playing too much video games. Supposedly, somebody got a migraine headache from playing an early release of Tempest. But even more severe, and very sad to say, someone died of a pre-existing heart condition shortly after entering his initials for the high score in Berzerk. The most specific account I know of which could have been the origin of the Polybius legend, is when a twelve year old boy was playing Asteroids in a long marathon to get the high score, and got a stomach sickness. This was in November ’81 in Portland. The time and place of Polybius. A big part of the legend is that the Polybius machines were visited by mysterious men in black suits. FBI, CIA, MIB, your usual alphabet soup of government conspiracy. Some say Polybius was part of a top-secret experiment using humans as the guinea pigs, even connecting it to an actual mind-control program called MKUltra. Another possible source of the legend could be actual reports of FBI agents raiding arcades around that time, where the owners were suspected of gambling. There was also a game called Battlezone which had a special version designed for the military to use as a combat simulator for training purposes. There was also a movie, The Last Starfighter, where a teenager gets the high score in a game but the game turns out to be a tool for recruiting fighters in an intergalactic war. The movie was in ’84, a few years after the Polybius legend is said to have occurred. So the movie could have been inspired by it, or the other way around. No early references of Polybius can be traced. The myth started getting traction later, sometime between ’98 to 2000, the Coinop website, which is a resource for arcade listings added an entry for Polybius, but with hardly any information. This is the earliest confirmed mention of the game anywhere. In 2003, it was featured in GamePro magazine and in 2006, someone by the name Steven Roach posted a lengthy statement saying that he was one of the game designers shedding light on the story, but I think it’s a hoax. On the internet, anybody can say anything without any basis of fact. The internet is made up of 90% prime-cut, free-range, Grade-B bullshit. In fact, when a bull takes a shit, it decomposes into digital matter which evaporates into cyber airwaves and becomes internet. Now you know. Whatever the case, the Polybius legend caught on like wildfire. Many people have made playable PC games, even fake arcade cabinets, a home-brew Atari 2600 game, even a PS4 game. There’s been fan-films, documentaries, a thousand YouTube videos, it appeared on The Simpsons, everybody’s done it to death. The only thing that hasn’t been done is for somebody to play the actual game and document it publicly. Even if the game once existed, it may be gone forever and that’s probably for the best. I’d hope nobody would ever come face to face with a game so destructive. But then again I also hoped nobody would ever play Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, but that happened. So in that same tradition, I’m gonna subject myself to the torment, because I found a possible lead to Polybius. If it’s real, consider this a test to see what psychological effects it may have on me. So I’m at an arcade reseller right now, and my instinct tells me not to reveal the location just yet, until I can determine if this is the current resting place of Polybius. Now the owners recently acquired a large batch of games from another arcade shop that was liquidating their supplies. And they were kind to let me see the invoice, and on it… is Polybius. It’s probably a joke, but they did nothing to draw attention to it. They didn’t post anything about it online. I was actually waiting for them to bring it up but they didn’t, so the only way to know is, to see if it’s here. They granted me permission and full access to the place which is great. And uhh, look right here, this is The Simpsons arcade. So there’s so many great things here, I should be checking out all these games but, gotta stay focused! Well… umm… This is, Polybius! It is probably a fake, you know like I said before, a lot of people have made fake cabinets. There’s no artwork on the side or anything. Which, you know, fits the description pretty much. But the real test would be, uhh… See if I could turn this thing on. Okay, let’s cross our fingers here. Let me borrow a power supply from this machine here. Here we go, let’s see what happens. Marquee’s up. We have the marquee! And… Somebody put a lot of effort into this! …If it’s a fake. If it’s a fake. What if it’s real? Let’s say it is, slim chance but you never know. What if it has dangerous effects and if those effects can be inflicted over a video recording? Doesn’t have to be supernatural, it could legitimately cause epilepsy or something. I wouldn’t want to endanger anybody. I want to do the right thing, so I’m not gonna show the game. At least not until I fully test it on myself, so for now I’ll just… describe the game the best I can. Well, it’s a game. Is it a good game? Not really… it’s an average, early 80’s arcade game, if it IS early 80’s, it’s probably fake. …but no way of knowing for sure. I’d describe it as Tempest, it’s probably the best way to describe it. You’re flying through a three-dimensional tunnel with green and black vector-type graphics. There’s… cubes coming at you and you’re a triangle and you move around and try to catch these cubes. And that’s really… about all there is to it I think. It’s a shame I’m surrounded by so many awesome games, but I’m stuck here playing this. It’s… not that special. I should just probably show you the game. But, I wanna wait a bit I just… Wanna play it safe. I’ll post the video for the night. I’ll sleep on it, and let me know what you think. So I posted my first day’s test of playing Polybius and I’ve gotten lots of responses. Lots of people are saying it’s fake, which I agree with so far. I haven’t felt any weird side effects from playing it or anything. I just thought it was an average arcade game, and even if it was a real arcade game that was made in the 80’s and called Polybius, that would only confirm that the game is real. But all the stories about addiction, memory loss, nightmares, seizures, that could all be explained without the supernatural, like all the stuff I talked about before. Like the gamer who got sick while playing Asteroids. Probably had more to do with him playing the game for so long and drinking lots of soda. With any game, you gotta take a break. Speaking of which, I think I’ve taken a long enough break from Polybius so, I’m about to go back and play it some more, but first, I just want to read this really interesting email I got here. Which I’m sure is a hoax but, either way, it’s pretty interesting, so I’ll just read it here. “Big fan of your work but I’ll get straight to the point. Saw your Polybius Day 1 video. It’s real.” “Judging from cabinet and your description, don’t expect you to take my word,” ‘”but it matches everything my father told me before he died.” “He worked for a secret government agency in charge of investigating unexplained phenomena.” “They found Polybius, an arcade. They removed it to keep the public safe.” “Kept it contained in a secret facility. My father was in charge of looking after it,” “and became infatuated with playing.” “It took over his mind. He was forced to leave the agency and he smuggled the game out.” “He hid it somewhere. He was sentenced to prison for federal theft.” “There died a raving lunatic.” “I never knew where he hid the game, but I’ve always believed he hid it in plain sight in another arcade.” “But it possibly sat in a backroom.” “It was a dull cabinet, no artwork, the owners possibly kept it in the back” “to leave more space for more appealing games on main floor.” “Now it ends up at the place you’re at. You must not continue.” “I know this sounds silly but please do not play further. You must destroy the game.” Destroy it? I only do that to bad games. This game was actually… pretty average or, I don’t know it’s… Worth playing. Okay, giving Polybius another chance now… You know… I’m starting to think it’s above average. A little bit. It’s simple, but it’s intuitive. I’m tempted to show it, because it’s really nothing crazy. But I just wanna be safe. It’s one of these games that repeats itself. In many of these old arcade games, you just play the same thing over and over again to get a high score — this is a lot like that. Not much left to say, so… Just one more game, and then I’ll go home. I let it set on free play, so I don’t need any coins. So I’ve played through twice more now, um… Thrice, actually. And… I’m beginning to see more merits in the gameplay. In fact, if you were to put this into perspective; If this actually came out in the 80’s, I may rank it as one of the best classic arcade games. Alright, I’m getting ready to go home for the night, I think I have enough material here — let me just see… Oh. How long have I been here, geez? I’ve definitely gotten enough footage — of me, that is. I know I haven’t shown anything of the game, uhh, but, even if I did, I don’t think it would do it justice, because, the thing is… When you play it, it doesn’t demand any kind of urgent level of thinking, sort of like… Watching a waterfall flow. It’s constant… Predictable… Natural… Okay, I really gotta get going… I just switched the card here, this is number… Whatever… Um… So I’m all set up, I’m ready for tomorrow… But I don’t think there’s much left to do. Although I remembered one tiny piece of trivia. Polybius, or “Po-lee-bius,” whichever it is, was the name of a Greek historian. He covered the rise of the Romans and invented the Polybius square, which is a form of code that translates letters into numbers by their placement on a grid. Well, it’s very complicated to explain… … oh, sorry, uh… I was gonna say something, but I forgot… Oh yeah, yeah, there’s a little piece of trivia I remembered… Polybius was the name of a Greek historian, He covered the rise of the Romans and invented the Polybius square… Did I say that already? Okay, I’m done! … Just one more game! So this is Day 3, I was gonna come up with something more to say here, but I really… just, it would help if I just had the game in front of me right now, so I could… play it… I know I’ve played it a lot so far, but I just need a little more, I just… There’s just not much to it, but I really just… I dunno, I just… I just need to play it again. I might have to commend the game designers. This… may be the greatest fucking game ever made! Who made it, you may ask? Well, according to the game and to popular legend, it was a company called Sinneslöchen, which I’ve heard is a bad translation from English to German to create a fake German compound word, meaning “sense-delete” or “sensory deprivation.” Seems way too convenient. I don’t feel like my senses are deprived, at all! I feel like my senses are heightened more than ever! I can see every pixel, every spec of light… I can smell the paint on the Pac-Man machine in the next room… I can hear the crickets… The rats, clawing on the sewer walls… I can hear the colors. I can hear the colors. Oooh, I can’t stop playing! I can’t stop!! Okay, I need to show this right here. The camera was pointing right at the screen, and there’s the tripod, haven’t moved it. It’s right there, how did the tripod get there, and why… why was it… looking at the screen?! Alright, so… I’m about to upload tonight’s footage. But… I took a look at some of it first. And… I have about an hour of footage of the game. And keep in mind, I have no intention of showing the game yet, so… I have no recollection of doing that! But… The crazy thing, right before that… This happens! I swear, I have no recollection of doing that. Or this. Alright, so I deliberately locked myself in, using my own word combination lock from my camera case… And I’ve tried every word that I would normally use, and… nothing works, so.. I did this shit on purpose?! I changed the… the fuckin’ combination lock?! Film myself doing it? Like, what the fuck?! T- there is a big loading door on the other side of all this, somewhere… So I can’t get to that. I have some options here… I could do some damage to the door, or I could just wait for somebody to come, but I think I’m gonna throw in the towel here and say: Come get me! The location is… UGH!! Oh my god… This fuckin’ game… Not yet. I’ll let you know when. It’s Day 3… … or whatever it is… um… I have a high score now, I don’t remember when I got the high score, it’s 35,311,151. I… I just wanna get that again, and once I do that I’ll call it quits. No I won’t, I’ll just keep fuckin’ playing, because I can’t — I can’t stop playing this fuckin’ game!! Just look at it! No! Don’t look at it! Every day I have to keep editing out footage of the game, because… … ‘cuz it wants to be seen. It… want… it… fuckin’ wants… To be seen. [sobbing] My mind has been opened to things that I never wanted to know. Things that I… see that no — … nobody… all the connections with Greek… Polybius… No. More like the ferryman on the River Styx You give him a coin, he takes you across the river… … into the underworld. [sobbing] Somebody, come get me!! The location is — It won’t let me go… it won’t let me go… it won’t let me go… It won’t let me go! … it won’t let me… it won’t let me… … it… it won’t let me… Come get me, the location — … it won’t… let me… let myself — ! Look at the game! Look — N— no! Don’t look at it! Look, look at — Don’t look at it!! Look at — DON’T!! [grunting] You… if you can keep me from getting out, I can keep you from showing yourself, you fuckin’ game!! [grunting] Don’t look at it! Don’t look at it!! [sobbing] Wait a minute… That high score! It’s not a high score, that’s… It’s a message! Y- yeah, yeah, the Polybius square! [stammering] Th- 35 is P, and then… 31 is L… w-w- 1 is A, and then… and then… It’s PLAY! It’s PLAY! The- the- th- the combination is PLAY! [mumbling] That’s it… That’s it! It worked! It worked!! It worked!! Oooohhh!!! Ooohhh, you fuckin’ game!! The only way it’ll let me go is… if I show the game! [sobbing] I have to, I have no choice… I can’t stand this anymore… Just… I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry! Just… [sobbing] Just don’t look! Don’t look! Turn the video off right now! Once you see it… it’s in you forever. 53 13 11 45 53 43 21 42 54 34 53 42 33 54 34 34 11 15 51 23 51 34 11 15 51 23 51 34 11 15 51 23 51 34 11 15 53 13 11 45 53 43 21 42 54 34 34 11 15 51 23 51 34 11 15 51 23 51 34 11 15 51 23 51 34 11 15 53 13 11 45 53 43 21 42 54 3453 13 11 45 53 43 21 42 54 3453 13 11 45 53 43 21 42 54 34 53 13 11 45 53 43 21 42 54 34 34 11 15 51 23 51 34 11 15 51 23 51 34 11 15 51 23 51 34 11 15 51 23 51 34 11 15 51 23 51 34 11 15 51 23 51 34 11 15 51 23 51 34 11 15 51 23 51 34 54 21 44 42 44 13 51 22 11 22 34 11 24 51 12 43 24 33 51 24 41 34 What’s going on? Hello? Well, the camera’s here… Well, there’s the game… [screaming] [screaming]

100 thoughts on “Polybius – Angry Video Game Nerd (AVGN)

  1. Subscribe to our official Reddit to discuss Angry Video Game Nerd episodes, give suggestions and talk Cinemassacre in general! https://www.reddit.com/r/TheCinemassacre/

  2. I'm telling you right now that's not the original game being a computer hacker find the original game and you'll see what I mean pay attention to the ones and zeros behind the ship it unlocks secret codes

  3. 17:57 look closely at the arcade game named asteroids which is right beside him u will know also at 18:42 look at the top left

  4. so… 5331145534321425434 5342335434 341115512351341115512351341115512351341115 53131145534321425434 34115512351341115512351641115512351341115 531311455343214254345313114553432142543453131145534321425434 53131145534321425434 341115512351341115512351341115512351341115512451241115512451341115512351341115512351341115512351 345421444244135122112234112234112451243243351244134

  5. I am the one that made polybius! And I can tell you for certain, there is no such game. Polybius was never made, by anyone… Especially me.

  6. nice episode, i liked how you build up everything from telling the story to showning the effects,eveything was great excep for the 2 surpises in the end,it was a little predecible but still well done

    personally i didnt notice this detail 17:56 until watching this 3 times and that shows the amount of effort of this episode 8.9/10 in my opinion

    also the dude who locked you was board james

  7. James Rolfe is
    The Anguished Video Game Nerd in
    Ring 3DO: The Blair Coinop Project

  8. 16:25 From what I've seen of The Lockpicking Lawyer, you could probably pick that Master Lock by just poking it lightly

  9. There's a fantastic video from "Ahoy" about Polybius where he tracks back it's origin. He goes really in depth and does insane amounts of work to discover evidence.

  10. > Nerd has been a canonically broken into Area 51 and seen the Aliens.
    > Doubts the CIA could have been involved in Polybius.

  11. Happy 150th episode, Nerd…
    …but is this really how you wanted to celebrate it?
    By playing the game that's so broken, it drove people to kill themselves?
    I'm grateful that you didn't suffer the same fate.

  12. Does anyone else feel like James should start making more videos like This? Not even necessarily Nerd videos? I feel like some of the best Nerd videos and videos in general have been ones like this, where James isn't really confining himself into a box and is just having fun and making what he wants to

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