Project POLYBIUS was an urban legend in the early 80s that claimed the CIA were engineering arcade cabinets in order to control the minds of young people.
The legend centered around arcades in Portland suburbs and reports of these mysterious arcade games being installed by men in black suits that gave players migraines, seizures, and the insatiable desire to keep playing POLYBIUS, which reportedly even led to violence between children competing for a chance to play the machine.
Quarters & LSD
The story of POLYBIUS has always intrigued me and as I continued to research the legend I discovered more about the real life events that inspired the story—namely the MKUltra program, in which the CIA dosed unknowing psychiatric patients with mind-altering drugs in order to test different interrogation techniques.
MKUltra and the myth of POLYBIUS are inextricably linked. Both tell a story about the terrifying lengths a government will go to in the name of protecting freedom & liberty.
"prior consent was obviously not obtained from any of the subjects"
Studies have shown...
After compiling and organizing my research, I decided that the best way to display this information would be in the form of a forgotten CIA casefile for Project POLYBIUS, complete with a detailed fictional history of the project.
Taking data from over 10 different scientific studies on the psychological effects of video games from the early 80s, I wrote and formatted a project proposal for POLYBIUS which included multiple case studies, era-appropriate photos of "participants" in the study, data on frequency of arcade use by gender/age, and suggested regions for implementation based on demographics.
These findings were presented to the Committee for the Study of Suggestive Thought, a fictional organization for which I developed an identity and logo.
The document was then textured to make it appear as though it had been forgotten and abused in a nameless room somewhere in CIA Headquarters, only recently coming to light to expose the terrible secrets contained within.