Viking Night: WarGames
By Bruce Hall
August 30, 2017
It is with a mixture of sadness and pride that I confess to being old enough to have seen WarGames during its original theatrical run.
I can also tell you that at the time, the only things I was truly worried about in this world were getting a pair of Oakley handlebar grips for my bike, finishing my homework in time to watch The A-Team, and global thermonuclear war. Everyone assumed that with Hitler long dead and what with Rambo having retroactively achieved victory in Vietnam, the only thing standing in the way of world peace were the Soviets.
It was a scary time, what with a movie actor in the White House, and not knowing whether or not you’ll need the 10 or the 10,000 SPF sunblock on any given day.
Sting even wrote a song about it.
But all that seems silly now, doesn’t it? I could travel back to 1983 and tell everyone that if they’re patient, they can live long enough to see an actual game show host in the White House, thanks to Russian spies interfering with the election. And the threat of nuclear war? Still there, just from North Korea - a country run by a fat, angry child.
And worst of all, Sting will still be making music for your parents.
They’d have locked me up, and would have pointed to WarGames as being considerably more realistic than my insane ramblings.
And they'd be right. Yes, that's the movie about a kid who breaks into the government's war computer and almost starts armageddon. But one of the things I loved the most about revisiting WarGames was that looking back, it’s amazing how accurately the technology of the time (and the culture around it) was depicted. This was one of the ways in which I first became aware of computers, as well as the first time I realized I was destined to marry Ally Sheedy when I grew up.
Sadly, that never happened. But I do have a computer, so...yay?
David Lightman (Matthew Broderick) is a computer hobbyist looking for access to the latest computer games. Bored with hacking into his school’s computer system to change his grades, he decides to try the same trick to infiltrate one of his favorite game developers. Instead, he stumbles upon a military system full of titles far more advanced than Space Invaders. With his girlfriend Jennifer (Sheedy) at his side, he begins playing what they both believe to be a simulation, where the goal is to win a nuclear war.
What they don’t realize that back at NORAD (the place where the military does “missile stuff,” and also where they keep the Stargate), the government recently turned control of all defense systems over to a super computer called W.O.P.R. (hilariously pronounced “whopper”). Apparently, during an unannounced live drill, many missile commanders were too frightened to launch (the penalty for which is a bullet in the head from a baby-faced Michael Madsen), necessitating the change.