Is the only winning move not to play? According to “WarGames,” a 1983 Cold War and hacker classic, the best way to prevent World War III is to do just that.
Matthew Broderick plays a geeky teenager, “David Lightman,” in “WarGames” who loves to spend his time at the arcade and playing with his computer and modem. It’s the modem that gets him in trouble. Lightman uses it to not only reserve two seats on a flight to Paris for he and his friend, he also uses it to hack into what he thinks is a video game company’s network. He chooses to play “Global Thermonuclear War” from a list of games he finds.
“Global Thermonuclear War,” is, in reality, a game used to play out nuclear war scenarios for the U.S. government. The computer network playing with Lightman in “WarGames” is nicknamed “Joshua,” and it has the ability to launch nuclear weapons to protect the U.S. and NATO in the event of a Soviet nuclear strike. Joshua decides it wants to play “Global Thermonuclear War” for real when Lightman engages Joshua in a game. Joshua tries to figure out the launch codes for its missiles because it plays the game in real time.
Lightman is arrested and brought to Cheyenne Mountain in Colorado, where Joshua is based. The Air Force believes Lightman is in league with the Soviets as a hacker of some sort. Joshua continues to search for the correct launch codes, and even Joshua’s architect does not know how to stop it from launching the missiles. In the end, it is up to Lightman to teach the computer network a lesson in futility.
“WarGames” is The Cold War plays a major role in the film, and the implications of nuclear war in the movie are somewhat reminiscent of “Dr. Strangelove” with one psycho mastermind (in this case, a computer) trying to blow up the world. The new age of computer networking was dawning when “WarGames” was created, and its potential for greatness and/or calamity was something new and unknown. Networking, interwoven with the Cold War and nuclear disaster makes “WarGames” a great drama and a bit of a suspense thriller. It definitely makes a person want to play a nice game of chess.
Where you can buy “War Games”: