In 1984, Andrew Myers is at home writing a review of Frogger when his dad knocks on the door and tells him to get ready for church. Instead, Andrew takes a hidden stash of quarters and goes to the arcade to play Frogger. A girl, Amy, comes over to watch and says that Andrew is really good. She slurps her pop as Andrew explains that he's close to getting a kill screen and crashing the game. Another player complains that the game he was playing is busted and demands a refund, but the owner Wilma Robertson tells him to hit the bricks. Amy explains that she just moved to the high school that Andrew attends and she's trying to making friends, and asks if Andrew has any friends. Andrew tells her that he needs to focus , just as an attendant Jess comes in late. Andrew Amy says that Jess is hot, and Andrew looks over at Jess and loses his life on the game. Jess comes over and says that they have a bet: whoever gets the kill screen first gets a free pizza from the loser.
Jess gives Andrew his mail and explains to Amy that Andrew's parents think that he's in bible study. Andrew finds a letter from Bits 'n Blips magazine, saying that they like his writing but since Centipede is an older game, he should write about something newer to get published. Amy says that Andrew should write about Millipede, and Andrew complains that they never get new games because they're in the middle of nowhere. Jess assures Andrew that he'll find a way out some day, and that one day he'll be able to tell people he was friends with video game journalist Andrew Myers. Amy takes a photo of the three of them for her scrapbook, and Andrew leaves because he's out of quarters. As he goes, he sees a new game, Polybius. A quarter falls out of the slot and rolls to Andrew's foot, and none of them recognize it. Andrew figures that he can write a review of it and starts to put the quarter in. A boy, Melvin Raimi, grabs Andrew's hand and tells him to be careful because it ate his quarter.
At high school, the older boys pick on Andrew, a freshman. In gym class, Andrew's friend Dennis wonders why the seniors are at the top of the food chain. Andrew tells him to keep his head down, but Dennis insists that he's going to take a shower. One of the seniors, Ronnie, comes over and says that Dennis going to get the "magic finger." Andrew tries to slip away, but Ronnie tells him to stay. Dennis begs Andrew to stay, but Andrew takes off.
Later at Wilma's, Andrew plays Polybius and the machine lights up. A pentagram forms briefly on the screen, and then the game begins. It's a maze game, and a demonic figure chases Andrew's icon down and takes his soul. He keeps playing and losing and playing, and electrical tendrils from the game invisibly enter his head. Andrew keeps playing into the night until Dennis interrupts him and shoves Andrew to the floor. He enters "FAG" for the high score and promises to make Andrew sorry, and Jess orders him out. He then helps Andrew up, and Andrew runs off.
The next day, the news runs a story about Melvin's mysterious death in the basement of his home. Amy has a dead rat she wants to put in Dennis' locker and shows it to Andrew. Andrew tells her to leave it alone, and tells her that being different in their town of Beaverton gets them killed. Amy says that Andrew can talk to her and share secrets now that they're free, and Andrew insists that he's not different and they're not friends.
That night at home, Andrew tries to write a review of Polybius but nothing comes to mind. His computer screen flickers and a pentagram appears, and then the Polybius opening screen. Andrew pulls the plug and sees a pair of glowing eyes reflected in the darkened screen. However, when he turns around, nothing is there except an open closet. Something moves inside and Andrew takes out a toy sword and goes to investigate. He turns on the light but there's nothing there. As Andrew turns, a clawed hand grabs him and he finds himself in a black void. A creature is ripping out Dennis' chest, and Dennis smiles and says that he'll see Andrew in gym class. Andrew wakes up and it's morning, and he figures that it was all a nightmare until he sees the unplugged computer.
In gym, Andrew gets dressed in a bathroom stall and washes his hair to make it look like he showed. He discovers that there's a pentagram branded on the back of his neck, and Coach Wurgler comes up. Andrew goes to his locker and he sees blood dripping out of Dennis' locker. He opens it and finds Dennis's torn-up body, a pentagram burned onto its neck.
The police arrive and take the body away, and Andrew tells the investigating detective that he knows something about the murder. He describes the video game and his nightmares, and the detective figures that he's having nightmares. He tells Andrew to write down his nightmares and give the paper to his parents, and let him handle the murder. A man, Agent X, is standing at the door and asks Andrew if he played Polybius. Agent X asks if Andrew knows anyone else who played the game. Once Andrew says that he doesn't, Agent X tells Andrew to come with him because he has a whole roll of quarters in the car. Scared, Andrew walks off but hides in the bushes. He watches as Agent X drives off with Dennis' body and one other wrapped-up corpse.
At home, Andrew writes down everything that he's experienced. His father tells him to pray before bed, and when reciting The Lord's Prayer, Andrew realizes it ends with "my soul to take," just like the monster in the video game said.
At the arcade, Jess is watching a news broadcast on Dennis' death and the news caster says that it had nothing to do with Melvin's death. Jess tells Amy that they're closing up, just as Andrew comes in. He tells them that Polybius isn't just a game and explains everything that happens. Amy admits that she had nightmares as well and a pentagram branded on her stomach. Jess figures that it's just a coincidence, and Andrew talks about the Bible has a store in Revelations about a Heavenly muse, Polybius. He inspired artists to create artwork in the Lord's name. God got all of the credit, so a jealous Polybius inspired someone to do a portrait of him. When God found out, he branded Polybius with the mark of death and cast him out... and he's still wandering the mazes of Hell. His only power is to possess the artists of Earth. Andrew figures that Polybius got into the game, and he'll come to claim his soul and Amy's.
As Amy insists that it's a government experiment, the Polybius game starts up on its own. Andrew says that they need to find out where the game came from and get some answers, and if that fails then they run like hell. He and Amy start going through magazines while Jess checks the shipping records. Once they're alone, Andrew apologizes for his earlier comments. Amy apologizes for being nosy, and they hand-hug each other. She tells Andrew that he and Jess make a cute couple, and Andrew says that he doesn't know what she's talking about. However, he wonders if Andrew is gay, and Amy points out that he sorts Andrew's mail. She suggests that Andrew see if Jess needs some help, and Andrew agrees.
Andrew goes in the back and sees someone lying at the desk. It's Wilma, who is passed out drunk. Jess turns on the lights and tells Andrew not to wake her up. They look through the records and discover that Wilma has run businesses all across the Northwest. Andrew wonders how she ended up in Beaverton, and Jess tells him that Andrew should try being there instead of somewhere else. He points out that Andrew has friends--him and Amy--and he lives life in the moment. They stare at each other and then Andrew starts to kiss Jess. He stops him and realizes that Andrew is gay.
Amy sees a car pull up. She runs in the back to warn Andrew and Jess, and they peer out. Agent X is looking through the game machines, and Amy figures that he knows something. When Agent X hears them, he draws his gun and spins around. He goes over to the office door and Amy knocks him out from behind with a gumball machine. They duct-tape him to a chair and confirm that he has no wallet or ID. Jess finds a briefcase in Agent X's trunk and brings it in, and Agent X wakes up and tells them to put it down.
Amy figures that it's all a CIA conspiracy, and Agent X tells them that running won't save them but it might buy them some time. Andrew asks how they stop the game, and Agent X laughs and says that they're already dead. Jess opens the briefcase and finds files on Polybius. Seventeen people died at the software company in California where it was created. It's left a trail of bodies at different towns, and Andrew realizes that Agent X doesn't know what it is and is just cleaning up the mess. Agent X says that some things are beyond comprehension and can be stopped or controlled. He admits that they facilitate the cover-up by any means necessary, and there's a photo of the lead software developer: Wilma.
Wilma shoots Agent X dead with a shotgun and says that their souls are his. She has Jess duct-tape Amy and Andrew, and then has him tie himself up starting with his legs. Wilma says that he'll be there soon, and insists that it's not her fault. She explains that she was the best game programmer ever and the ideas just popped into her head from another dimension. Wilma realizes that Polybius used her to create itself, and refuses to let the same thing happen to her, and reveals the pentagram brand on her shoulder.
The game lights up and the screen cracks. Green light spills out, and Wilma says that her baby is there. As she backs away, Jess grabs her and they wrestle for the shotgun. Polybius materializes and it starts to suck the soul force from Andrew. Amy yells at it to leave Andrew alone, and it feeds on her instead. Jess shoots it but the wounds heal over in seconds, Amy is dead, and Jess tells Andrew that there's nothing they can do and gets them both out.
Out in the parking lot, Jess says that they have to run as far as they can. Andrew says that he's done running and they have to put a stop to Polybius' killings. He says that they can do it together, but Jess tells him that he's on his own. Andrew tells Jess that he loves him but knows that Jess doesn't feel the same way about him. He insists that it's fine, but he's tired of hiding what he is from everything. Andrew begs Jess to not let him face it alone, but Jess runs off.
Andrew goes back into the arcade and finds himself in the game. He heads for the center of the maze and finds the game machine waiting for him. The shotgun is on the floor, and Andrew picks it up and smashes the glass. Polybius arrives, and Jess arrives and says that he realized that Andrew was right. Andrew figures that if he racks up a high enough score then he can get to the kill screen, crash the game, and destroy Polybius. Jess has one quarter and gives it to Andrew, then runs off to lure Polybius away.
The game begins and Andrew moves through the video maze.
Jess comes to a dead end and Polybius starts sucking his soul force. Andrew beats the high score and Polybius goes for him as the points rack up. It grabs Andrew just as he hits one points short of the kill-screen score... and he manages to hit the joystick, making one last move. Polybius explodes, the soul force returning to Amy. Andrew and Jess find themselves in the arcade and hug each other, relieved. Wilma comes out, holding the shotgun, and prepares to shoot them for killing her "baby." Amy knocks her unconscious and helps the boys up, and they all hug.
Later at school, Andrew puts a photo of the three of them in his locker. In the locker room he walks with newfound confidence and walks into the shower.
Written by Gadfly on Apr 12, 2017