For years, some members of the darker circles of the gaming community—not “4chan hate mob” dark, but still pretty dark—have talked about an arcade game that had some kind of unsettling effect on the people who played it. Some say it stirred up feelings of anxiety, some say it drove people to kill themselves, and some say it even killed people outright. Some stories say the game was created by the government to test some kind of brainwashing technology on young people, and some say it was just a poorly programmed machine that caused seizures. Two details are consistent in all of the stories, though: That the arcade cabinet appeared in various locations around Portland, Oregon in the ‘80s, and that the game was called Polybius.
It’s reasonably spooky stuff, and it has all the hallmarks of a great urban legend. It’s perfect for friend-of-a-friend retellings, it happened recently enough to seem believable, but the ‘80s are also long enough in the past for it to be just as believable that arcade owners might not remember seeing Polybius. Plus, manipulating the flashing lights and colors of an arcade game in order to get teenagers to kill themselves is exactly the sort of thing the government would’ve done in the ‘80s.
Now, a team of filmmakers has decided to tell the story of Polybius by examining these various stories and trying to determine what truth—if any—there is to them. The documentary will be titled The Polybius Conspiracy, and the people behind it—Jon Frechette and Todd Luoto—have turned to Kickstarter in order to make up the budget lost by a “significant financial backer” dropping out. They’re trying to raise $100,000 by next Wednesday, June 10, with about $59,000 still to go.
Check out the slick trailer below, and head over to the Kickstarter page if you’re interested in helping out—assuming you have any money left over after buying the James Bond distribution rights, of course.