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Nine Inch Nails’ new video is based on gaming’s famous urban legend

Go on a downward spiral with Polybius

Michael McWhertor is a journalist with more than 17 years of experience covering video games, technology, movies, TV, and entertainment.

Nine Inch Nails released a new video for a song from their upcoming EP, Add Violence, and it features an unexpected star: the video game Polybius, released by Llamasoft earlier this year.

The video for “Less Than” is along the lines of a lyric video, with Trent Reznor’s words blasting by as someone plays a game of Polybius. The clip, directed by Brook Linder, appears to draw inspiration from the longstanding urban legend surrounding Polybius, an arcade game once believed to have been created by the U.S. government. According to early online accounts of the game, Polybius was released in 1981, and players experienced deleterious mental and physical effects after playing it.

But there’s no proof that Polybius, the Tempest-like arcade game iteration, that is, ever existed. It was the stuff of urban myth.

Polybius eventually became real, thanks to the efforts of developer Jeff Minter’s Llamasoft. Minter, who specializes in trippy, arcade-style fare like Tempest 2000, Space Giraffe and TxK, created his own take on the Polybius legend and released it for PlayStation 4 and PlayStation VR in May.

Nine Inch Nails’ five-song EP Add Violence featuring “Less Than” will be released digitally on July 21. It’s the second part of a trilogy of planned releases from the band.