Nuclear War is probably the biggest fear that people have about our future. Even since their use during World War II, we have grown to see that American’s aren’t the only one that are capable of developing this technology. North Korea has been a real pain in the ass, with their claim that they have been trying to replicate these weapons of destruction. The recent missile scare has confirmed my suspicion that everyone with weapons agrees that, whoever launches first, will face retaliation. We’ve never launched first because someone else would see what were doing and try to eliminate us. In this game, nuclear war would not have a winner, just a dead planet.
I have heard stories of people living in the desert, waiting for a nuclear holocaust to happen, just so that they will be prepared enough to rise above the destruction. I’m also convinced that the most prepared are people that play first person shooter video games. Yes, there is a difference between real life shooting and virtual shooting, but the instinct of those gamers will grow a part of their subconscious, making them aware more of their surroundings. The world of video games and a possible nuclear strike are discussed in the classic thriller, WarGames.
Appropriately enough, the story starts with a nuclear attack drill for the US Air Force. Despite orders from the book, one of the launchers refuses to turn his key that would have set off the missile (he didn’t know it was a drill). This is the selling point for NORAD professor John McKittrick (played by Dabney Coleman) that the missile silos need to be manned by computers, not solders. So the systems are handed over to WOPR (War Operation Plan Response), a machine that will constantly run war simulations and learn over time.
Meanwhile in the suburbs of Seattle, teenager David Lightman (played by Matthew Broderick) is too smart for his own good, as he is a troublemaker at school, yet has the skills to hack into computers to get whatever he wants (including passing grades). He next wants to try and play a set of video games that won’t be available for a while. By dialing into every computer in California, he eventually comes across a system that doesn’t show what it is, yet lists a set of games. Through research, he comes across a password for a backdoor and proceeds to play “Global Thermonuclear War”. Unknown to him, this game is connected to the WOPR and sets off a scare that missiles have launched from the Soviet Union. David discovers the mistake and makes it his responsibility to make the computer learn before missiles are really launched.
Believe it or not, this was actually one of the first video game movies I ever saw. This was the first sign I got that the world was taking these games seriously for the training of the human brain. Despite being a fantasy, I was very drawn in to the idea that video games can be used to educate people on military tactics and the futile of war.
Having said that, the story doesn’t hold up as well. There is a lot of talk about The Cold War, not to mention that military tactics and especially video games and computers have evolved heavily since. That doesn’t make it bad. This would actually make a great tool for teaching about Cold War. Broderick does pretty well in hi first film role as a teenager whose smarter then a lot of the adults in his life. I can see that he took a lot from this character to his biggest hit, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Though I will not dare say what happens, the computer climax is the most edge of the seat moment that any film about computers has yet to top.
I’ll give this four and a half NORAD war simulation screens out of five. WarGames may have a place in my heart as an interesting video game movie, I would welcome a modern day imagining with todays computers and games. I would be the first in line for that.