Video Game Myths and Legends That Shaped Gaming Culture

Mega Cat Studios
5 min readMar 20, 2024

Throughout history, myths and legends have been spread about all manner of topics. From Scotland’s Loch Ness Monster to the tales of Bloody Mary haunting when called by a mirror, these types of stories have been passed down for generations.

Who would’ve thought that video games had their myths, too? Let’s explore these stories together, tackling harmless stories about programming errors and the more insidious implications of hauntings and forbidden secrets. These are the video game myths and legends you might’ve heard.

Civilization’s Gandhi — Nuclear Happy Tyrant

Perhaps the most popular myth comes from Sid Meier’s Civilization. In a game where various cultures fought one another for supremacy over the world, one little rumor went viral. Mahatma Gandhi, the leader who used to represent India, was usually peaceful, just like his real-life counterpart. That is until he discovered nuclear technology, at which point he would suddenly turn aggressive and threaten his neighbors with nukes if they didn’t submit to him.

This would later spawn the term Nuclear Gandhi, a reference to his sudden warlike behavior and his purported nuke-heavy attitude. While this theory was popular, it was later debunked in a video, with one of the developers pointing out that the game’s programming didn’t actually make Gandhi any more warlike than any other leader. Gandhi declaring war like this just stuck out more due to the absurdity of the event.

Screenshot of Gandhi declaring war | Courtesy of The Gamer

To this day, people still think this bug exists, and while it’s been proven that it doesn’t actually exist, the rumors of warlike Gandhi putting on a peaceful facade still exist to this day.

Polybius — The Government Conspiracy Arcade Machine

In 1981, the US government purportedly conducted an experiment in the form of an arcade machine. In small towns in Portland, Oregon, these cabinets would get their players addicted to the point of sickness. Seizures, hallucinations, and heightened aggression were supposedly well documented, and men in black would come in during the night to examine the machines and document the results. This arcade cabinet was supposedly named Polybius.

Of course, this was all more likely a hoax. Countless articles and conspiracy theorists have tried to prove the existence of Polybius, but research has found the evidence to be inconclusive, with the closest thing proving its existence being nothing more than mock-up cabinets and fake start-up screens.

Polybius | Courtesy of

It doesn’t stop it from being an entertaining tale of government cover-ups and conspiracy theories, though! While it may not be true, it at least makes for a good story, and creators like the Angry Video Game Nerd have made some entertaining ( if creepy) videos about it.

Lavender Town — The Haunting Music That Caused Sicknesses

This is one haunted video game myth that Pokemon fans will remember. For the unfamiliar, Lavender Town was the place where Pokemon trainers buried their fallen friends. It was filled with ghost Pokemon like Ghastly and Haunter, and its creepy ambiance was exacerbated by its ghostly tune.

Lavender Town | Courtesy of Nintendo

This particular myth preyed on that same haunting fear, with the urban legend that the original music of Lavender Town was supposedly haunted. Called the Lavender Town Syndrome, it was reported that the children who heard the original track grew deathly ill, and Nintendo had to change the music in fear of more people being afflicted.

It’s a haunting tale that thrives off of the creepypasta era of the internet, serving as one of the grimmer urban legends in video gaming.

Atari Games in the Desert — Buried Shame

Gaming hasn’t always been popular. At one point, customer confidence was at an all-time low. The overabundance of low-quality games and an oversaturated console market turned customers away, resulting in a video game crash that tanked the industry. It would only really recover with the NES proving that gaming could be good again.

That didn’t stop companies from suffering, though. Big publishers folded, development companies shut down, and a rumor spread that Atari was secretly burying their games in landfills, ashamed at having so much unsold stock. As it turns out, this particular legend was actually true!

Atari Landfill | Courtesy of taylorhatmaker

While people initially doubted its reality, it turns out Atari buried their unsold games to prevent them from being resold or scavenged. Over 700 thousand games were crushed and buried in Alamogordo, New Mexico, the unsold stock that would never find a home. And good riddance to that, when most of it was said to be the highly lambasted ET game based on the movie. I guess this is one title that no one should ever phone home about.

Petscop — The Game That Never Was

The last of the legends we’ll tackle is actually an interesting one. A channel called Petscop purportedly found an unreleased game and featured it in a let’s-play video. What looked like your average unfinished game slowly turned into something far more sinister. There were references to supposed real-world events and people, and the foreboding sense of dread that its possible realism made each video fairly uncomfortable to watch.


Created by Tony Domenico, PetScop was an interesting analog horror framed through a web series. It was an experiment into the unknown that absolutely took the internet by storm as people searched in vain for a reproduction copy of the game that never existed. While it may not actually be true, it hasn’t stopped people from thinking it’s real.

In hindsight, these myths may seem a little silly, but they prove to the world that their cultural impact is undeniable. Like it or not, gaming is a part of everyday life, and the stories, rumors, and legends they make live to this day will be passed on for generations.

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This article was written by Alexander Cuaycong.

Originally published at on March 20, 2024.



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