WarGames a.k.a. War Games is the reason we have computer geeks. It was the film that put them on the map. Revenge of the Nerds was for nerds, and WarGames was for computer junkies. Many will remember the basic premise of a kid launching a full-scale nuclear war on the US without realising it. For this reason it is a cult classic. The notion that someone could use a computer to infiltrate institutions without the proper know how was why hackers began to hack. However, this was old school hacking… and like a detective, hackers would have to investigate to crack codes and gain access to high security networks.
The power of the computer was only starting to be recognised, and WarGames gave a poignant picture of what was possible - although seemingly impossible. Matthew Broderick (yes, later Ferris) was the kid in WarGames, and although I my memory confused him with Fred Savage from the Wonder Years, he proved to be an iconic youngster of the age. He’s still around, doing bits ‘n bobs - but it all started with WarGames.
WarGames is directed by John Badham, the man that brought you Nick of Time, Stake Out and Short Circuit. The film is dated, and this is the time that flashing lights seemed more appropriate than a proper graphic interface. Everything about the film has a nostalgic feel. However, the plot remains timeless in an age when nuclear war is still a contentious issue. The question of just how much trust can we give computers, and aspects on artificial-intelligence and red button frenzy propagate WarGames.
‘Is it a game, or is it real?’ is the tag line, and I’m sure the themes in this film could be discussed at length for days, if not weeks. The performances are competent and Broderick’s innocent boy-ish face brings the danger back down-to-earth. It’s just a kid “against” America (the world in some translations).
WarGames is fun to watch again. It’s amazing how far we’ve come in the last 20 odd years in technology. Bleeping, flashing computers are retro and comical in comparison to the machines that now find residence in millions of households across the world. Let’s hope WarGames doesn’t ever become real. It was nominated for Oscars for cinematography, sound and writing. No doubt it’ll continue to fascinate the ‘what-if’ factor and will remain a cult classic for decades to come.
The bottom line: Chilling.