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A Brief History of Games in Movies Part 2: The Sequel

In Part One we discussed the disco-era merits of “Tron,� the cheesy 80s delights of “The Wizard,� and the gross-out gooey fun of “eXistenZ.�

Now, let's complete our survey of feature-length video game movies, starting with the most famous.

“WarGames� (1983)
Starring Starring Matthew Broderick, Dabney Coleman and Ally Sheedy. Directed by John Badham.
Gaming Realism:
Nostalgia Factor:
Money Quote: “He's intelligent, but an under-achiever; alienated from his parents; has few friends. Classic case for recruitment by the Soviets.�

It's the “Citizen Kane� of “a teen hacker accidentally triggers Armageddon� movies.

“WarGames� tells the story of David Lightman (Matthew "Inspector Gadget" Broderick), a teenage hacker and phone phreak who dresses entirely too well and whose girlfriend (Ally "Short Circuit 2" Sheedy) is unrealistically hot. While wardialing to hack into a computer games company, David accidentally discovers a back door into WOPR, the one computer that NORAD has placed in charge of America's entire nuclear weapons arsenal. Thinking he's playing a game, Lightman instigates WWIII, and humorous hijinks ensue.

“Generation X� was the last generation to grow up during the Cold War, and this was the film that perfectly captured our attitude towards that conflict; a frightening, senselessly suicidal standoff over issues that no longer seemed important, or even identifiable. No one in “WarGames� discussed the relative merits of Capitalism or Communism. They did not even paint the Soviets as evil or misguided; after all, the Russians never do anything wrong in the film. WOPR lied to the Americans, showing them Russian troop movements and missile launches that did not exist. The only enemy in “WarGames� was America's own paranoia, manifesting itself as a rogue computer program..

“WarGames� portrayal of video gaming is generally realistic. The video arcade that David visits early in the film accurately portrayed the mood and atmosphere of such establishments; compare this to the arcade-cum-nightclub in “Tron.� In its presentation of the state of artificial intelligence in 1983, however, the film veers into fantasy.

On a side note; why is it that learning, self-aware computers in film are always evil? COLOSSUS in “Colossus: The Forbin Project,� SKYNET on the “Terminator� films, and WOPR are all given control of America's nuclear arsenal, and immediately decide to destroy the world. The MCP in “Tron� threatens to take over the Pentagon. The HAL-9000 in “2001: A Space Odyssey� goes crazy and murders the crew. Can't an AI ever do anything good for humanity?

Where are you when we need you, Johnny 5?

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Posted by Erik Even on Oct 13 2007 1:42PM

Comments (1)

Oct 16 2007 11:54AM
Grandma's Boy FTW!

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