Games, Music

New Nine Inch Nails Lyric Video is Based on An 80’s Video Game Urban Legend

Nine Inch Nails has released a video for their song “Less Than,” off their upcoming EP, Add Violence and made the star of the video, Polybius, a video game released earlier this year by Llamasoft that was based on an urban legend.

In the video, a woman is playing the Polybius video game and as the song progresses, the lyrics to the song appear in the game, putting the player in what appears to be some sort of trance-like or hypnotic state.  The video, directed by Brook Linder appears to have drawn its inspiration from the urban legend surrounding Polybius, an arcade game that was said to be part of a government-run crowdsourced psychology experiment in 1981, and was said to produce intense psychoactive and addictive effects in the player.  The original iteration of the game has never been proven to exist, with some believing the legend is built upon early versions of Tempest, which caused problems with photosensitive epilepsy, motion sickness, and vertigo.

Despite a lack of proof, the legend of Polybius has captured the imaginations of gamers for generations.  In 2003, the game appeared in a list of gaming urban legends in GamePro magazine.  That same year G4 kicked off a three part series called Blister Declassified in which host Bill Sindelar went on the search to find Polybius.  Only two of the three episodes were ever aired due to the show’s cancellation.  In 2006 Polybius made a brief appearance in the opening scene of a Simpsons episode where Bart is seen next to a to a Polybius cabinet, with “Property of the U.S. Government” stamped on the front.  The game surfaced again in 2015 when a Kickstarter campaign was started to fund a Polybius documentary.  Unfortunately, the campaign never met its funding goal.

After years shrouded in mystery, the game eventually became a reality thanks to Llamasoft, a developer that just so happens to specialize in trippy Tempest-style games.  The developer released a game titled Polybius for Playstation 4 and Playstation VR this past May.

Nine Inch Nails’ five-song EP Add Violence featuring “Less Than” will be released digitally on July 21.

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