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Dr. Butler is an red-blooded arcade gamer, but he also appreciates indie games for the PC.

Is addressing myself in third-person coming off as pretentious? I hope not.

Anyway, my friend ,Gileum- and I, are co-authors of Hidden Gems, a blog dedicated to independantly developed, as well as obscure games time has forgotten. We didn't forget them. We love us some poverty games!

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2:20 PM on 04.29.2012

Are these things of urban legend? Or do they have any credibility? Ever since the eighties, the concept of the government using videogames for shady, and mysterious reasons has been an exciting concept of gamer lore. According to certain people's friends's friends, there were certain title released over the past few decades that were linked to various government programs. But are any of them real? Let's discuss.

In 1981, in the greater midwest, anonymous sources claim that several major arcades received a new game. It was a rail-shooter/puzzle hybrid called Polybius. People unfortunate enough to play this game apparently came down with various physical ailments, which isn't unlikely, as the game is said to feature a mesmerizing series of strobe effects. So far, nothing out of the ordinary; a game was released in an under-tested state, and the special effects caused some people to experience epileptic symptoms. Unfortunately this happens occasionally, but nothing too spooky, no?

Well not yet, but this rabbit-hole goes deeper. Mysterious, professionally dressed G-man, wearing all black would frequent the arcades on a regular basis, and collect "data". And certain players were afflicted far worse than mere headaches, with those around them claiming that their personality had been altered, and they were quick to anger, not unlike a patient whom had undergone a lobotomy. Different sources claim a few people even committed suicide, but others don't make mention of it, so that part is likely just hyperbole.

There exists ROMs of Polybius, but these are almost certainly fangames, modeled after the details of the story. Although they've been unanimously declared fake, they are accurate enough to the desrciption to give you some general insight into how the game could have played. You can view some 'gameplay' of one of these ROMs here:

After a short while, the claims of the game causing illness were becoming great, and each of the Polybius uprights were removed from there respective arcades. Patrons claim that the games were taken away by mysterious, professionally dressed G-man, wearing all black. These strangers took the cabinets and loaded them into an unmarked van, and were never seen again.

Now this seems like the stuff of urban legend, but, let's just play into it for a moment: Perhaps the game was indeed developed either by or for the government? Why would they do such a thing? Well, those G-men could have been collecting score-data, perhaps as part of a recruitment program. The games were recalled soon after the incidents of illness were reported, the same way any company would remove something that did not work as intended, especially if its causing harm. So it is possible that this game is real, but was in fact far less sinister in nature then the stories tell? Especially in recent years, with the advent of games such as America's Army acting to encourage our youth to join government forces, the idea of Polybius seems far less outlandish.

Except for the part about it changing your personality. That's fucking stupid.

But wait, there's more. Sometime in 2010, a teen in Italy came across a blank CD-R, containing a similarly minded, yet entirely different game, which I've written about here:

Totally not an ad, I just don't want to regurgitate the same information here. Includes a playthrough, and links were you can get the game yourself. What makes this game different from Polybius, is the fact that it can actually be experienced firsthand, and not by means of a mock-up. It's pretty interesting.

Do you guys have any nuggets of information to share about these games? Or maybe you know of even more games with mysterious back-stories and subliminal messages? Don't hesitate to tell us all about it!

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