WarGames movie launch detection scene

Joshua learns how to nuclear war in WarGames, 1983

Games On Film III: WarGames - Is This a Game Or Is It Real?

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United Artists, 1983


It pains me to report that there is a WarGames sequel film of sorts unleashed upon the defenseless viewing public in 2008, called WarGames: The Dead Code, released direct-to-DVD for reasons that become all too obvious about 5 minutes into viewing. It is directed by Stuart Gillard, who can claim such other crowning achievements as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III and the Harland Williams vehicle Rocketman on his CV. I subjected myself to watching this atrocity for the purposes of this article; you can find my email address on the home page to arrange a PayPal donation to fund the psychiatric sessions I will need for the rest of my days to try and erase it from my memory. The film features Matt Lanter as Will Farmer, a young hot-shot hacker who becomes targeted for elimination by an all-encompassing government computer named R.I.P.L.E.Y., because he wins at an online video game? The movie really doesn’t make much sense, and even the appearance of Colm Feore as project director Hassert doesn’t help things much. There’s cute-as-a-button Amanda Walsh as Farmer’s plucky love-interest Annie, but she is negated by Farmer’s annoying best friend Dennis, played by Nicolas Wright. While Dennis is around for “comic” relief, R.I.P.L.E.Y. herself might induce the most laughs of the film, being a random assortment of motherboards connected by IDE cables, encased in a glass room filled with smoke and strobe lights.

There are some nice throws to the original, such as when Will and Dennis are going down the list of games R.I.P.L.E.Y. has available online; when they get to Global Thermonuclear War they look at each other, shake their heads and say “Nah”. There are a couple of other links to the original, not only infuriating the viewer as the film proceeds to piss all over these great aspects of the first movie, they also serve as a stark reminder that you should really just be watching that one instead. This entire travesty will simply be another lurking horror behind the three-foot-thick Cheyenne Mountain NORAD-type blast door in my mind where I shove these movies and then refuse to compute that they ever existed, to sully the good name of their forerunner films, i.e. there were only two Alien films, Jaws was a one-off, and there HASN’T BEEN A SEQUEL TO WARGAMES! In other words, The Dead Code is dead to me.

The original WarGames gets a re-release, showing for a short run at 317 theatres for its 25th anniversary in 2008. Positive sequel outlook comes with rumors kicking around since 2009 that video game aficionado and Hollywood power-player Leonardo DiCaprio is investigating the possibility of making a reboot of WarGames, through his Appian Way production company. While this fails to pan out, MGM puts into development a true WarGames sequel, for release in 2013. At the helm is Seth Baker, a director who’s resume might at first glance seem a bit lean, but it has it where it counts: he is the writer, editor, and director of The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters, a wonderful documentary about one man’s quest to wrest the Donkey Kong all-time score record from the flamboyant Billy Mitchell. Considering Baker’s obvious affection for classic video games, one hoped MGM has found the man for the job in putting a faithful sequel of WarGames together. Unfortunately as of my writing of this bit (2023), this project has yet to appear.

MGM and experimental media company Interlude (now known as Eko) manage to create an interactive limited web series based on WarGames titled #WarGames. Sam Barlow, creator of the critically acclaimed video game Her Story, is tagged as the creative lead of the project which is published in 2018. The series, following the online exploits of a group of young hacktivists, allows viewers to choose which member of the group’s monitor screen and webcam to view, as well as read social media posts and other methods of advancing the narrative. While these choices affect somewhat how the material is presented, they don’t alter the ultimate outcome of the story.

Still from WarGames, a video game themed movie by MGM/UA 1983

Joshua sums it all up

Dr. Strangelove for the Pac-Man Generation

Thankfully, the original WarGames remains a wonderfully entertaining film, a kind of Dr. Strangelove for the Pac-Man generation that I love to watch over and over again. Never before, or even since, has there been a more realistic portrayal of computer hacking put on the screen. The careful consultation that writers Lasker and Parkes did with various hackers, including Captain Crunch, shows: Lightman uses a brute-force phone number scanning technique that is a proven real-life tool of hackers, a technique that would eventually take the name of the movie to become known as wardialing. An Internet-era cousin of the process, driving around neighborhoods in vehicles looking for unsecured wireless access points to hi-jack, becomes known as wardriving. This, as opposed to the typical Hollywood MO of flashy, graphically intense portrayals of hackers swooping through systems represented as garish 3D hallways, with suddenly a giant vault door slamming shut in front of them flashing “ACCESS DENIED” in a giant, blocky red font as they type furiously away on their keyboard. You know, like the kind of flashy graphics and swooping colorful text that they reverted to in the hacking scenes in that sequel they made of WarGames called The Deeeeeaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrrppppppppppppppppppppp —-


Sources (Click to view)

Page 1 – Greetings Professor Falken
The Political Climate of WarGames
Neatorama – Close Calls in the Nuclear age – www.neatorama.com/2007/02/20/close-calls-in-the-nuclear-age
Atomic Audit: The Costs and Consequences of U.S. Nuclear Weapons Since 1940, pg. 202, by Stephen Schwartz 1998 – amzn.to/erBvwO
NuclearFiles.org – 20 Mishaps That Might Have Started Accidental Nuclear War, by Alan F. Philips, M.D. – bit.ly/6z2OPG

Elements of Computer Security, pg. 230, by David Salomon 2010 – amzn.to/gW09cH
Backstory 3: Interviews With Screenwriters of the 60s, pg. 148, by Patrick McGilligan – amzn.to/hXKyOj
Cheyenne Mountain – Wikipedia – en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cheyenne_Mountain
Page 1 – Hacking It
The Computer Security Origins of WarGames Story
Soft Orignal – Hacker List – www.softfm.in.th/Diary/view/233.html
Images of NORAD Command Post and blast doors from Omni magazine, “Space Sentries” by Myron Berger, Photographs by Eric Meola, pgs. 95 – 99, Dec 1986
“Donn Parker on Computer Abuse.” Personal Computing Jan. & feb. 1977: 51-54. Print. Image of Donn Parker in 1977
Image of Stephen Hawking from Omni magazine, “The Wizard of Space and Time”, by Dennis Overbuy, photograph by J. Calder, pg. 45, Feb 1979
Page 1 – Crystal Palace
Scriptwriters Working with NORAD
Wikimedia Commons – Lasker and Parkes at 25th Anniversary screening – bit.ly/hBnUa0
Page 2 – Into Production
The Filming of WarGames
Aveleyman.com – Midnight Run – www.aveleyman.com/FilmCredit.aspx?FilmID=12594
Berry, Patricia. “Preparing For ‘War Games’: The Basic Training of Matthew Broderick.” Enter, Oct. 1983, p. 20, archive.org. To Improve Matthew’s obvious video game skills, the producers of WarGames sent two full-size arcade games to his New York home a month before filming began. “It was great,” says Matthew. “Only they took ’em back. I was begging them not to, but…!”
Berry, Patricia. “Preparing for ‘War Games’: The Basic Training of Matthew Broderick.” Enter Oct. 1983: 20. Enter Magazine Number 01. Internet Archive. Web. 07 Mar. 2016. For an entire month, the apartment was filled with the whizzing sounds of Galaga and Galaxian.

Matthew Broderick – Interviews:2008 – MovieWeb – www.matthewbroderick.net/interview/movieweb080730.html
The Kid With The Million Dollar Smile – New York Magazine, pg. 51, March 25, 1985 – nymag.com
Museum of Learning – WarGames: Production – www.museumstuff.com/learn/topics/WarGames::sub::Production

Page 3 – A Change in Direction
John Badham Replaced Martin Brest as Director
“Omni’s Screen Flights/screen Fantasies: The Future According to Science Fiction Cinema.” Omni’s Screen Flights/screen Fantasies: The Future According to Science Fiction Cinema. Ed. Danny Peary. Garden City, NY: Doubleday &, 1984. 195. Print. Image of John Badham directing Dabney Coleman
film reference – BADHAM, John – www.filmreference.com/Directors-A-Ba/Badham-John.html
Page 3 – The War Room
The Workings of the NORAD War Room Set
Guts & Glory: The Making of the American Military Image in Film, by Lawrence H. Suid, pgs. 446 – 452, 2002 – bit.ly/hGqW9m

Enter Magazine Number 01. Internet Archive. Web. 07 Mar. 2016. Image of real SAC HQ (photo by Dirck Halstead/Liason Agency) and WarGames’ HQ
Page 3 – Weapons of Choice
Computers Used in the Making of WarGames
Berry, Patricia. “Preparing For ‘War Games’: The Basic Training of Matthew Broderick.” Enter, Oct. 1983, p. 20, archive.org. They gave me an Atari 800 computer and manual to work with,” Matthew remembers. “And they gave me a typing program. But it was really boring.” So it’s not surprising that when he arrived on the WarGames set in July ’82, Matthew still didn’t know how to type well enough to get the computer to do anything. “They didn’t tell me this beforehand, but they fixed the computer on the set so that no matter what key I’d press, whether or not it was the right one, the correct letter would show on the screen.
The “Wargames IMSAI”, by Thomas “Todd” Fischer – www.imsai.net/movies/wargames.htm#Mike_Fink
The HP 9845 Project – www.hp9845.net/9845/hardware/9845c
Page 4 – A WOPR of a Computer
Building the WOPR War Response Computer
WOPR – 1 of 3 – Roo Reynolds flickr photo stream – www.flickr.com/photos/rooreynolds/83410013/in/photostream
Krasnoff, Barbara. “Reel to Real: Why Computers Can’t Be Villains.” Enter Oct. 1983: n. pag.
Page 4 – Direct Hit
WarGames Released to Theatres
1982 image of Badham, Lasker and Parkes, as well as other information, from Electronic Games, “The Inside Story of WarGames” by Jeff Ressner, pgs. 90-93, Sep 1983. Retrieved from the Internet Archive, Electronic Game magazine collection
Box Office Mojo – WarGames – boxofficemojo.com/movies/?id=wargames.htm 
Infoworld – Computer scientists commend WarGames‘ message, by John Markoff, pg. 11, Aug. 8 1983 – www.infoworld.com
Starlog, “Inside WarGames“, by Randy & Jean-Marc Lofficier, pgs. 42-45, 69, Sept 1983
Electronic Games, “MGM/UA Wages ‘War Games'” by Les Paul Robley, pgs. 68-70, Aug 1983. Retrieved from the Internet Archive, Electronic Games magazine collection
IMDb – WarGames (1983) – www.imdb.com/title/tt0086567
Page 4 – War Games
Games Based on the Movie
Billboard Magazine, pgs. 24-25 & 27, July 21 1984 – www.billboard.com/#
Games Database, WarGames Game Manual – bit.ly/g5oyln
Billboard, “New On the Charts”, by Faye Zuckerman, pgs. 25, 27, Jul 21 1984
The Terrible Dead Code Movie Sequel
Space Classics – Wargames: The Dead Code [2008] – bit.ly/h447Oc
Leonardo DiCaprio Remaking WarGames – Cinema Blend – bit.ly/3BQKH
Gone Hollywood – ‘War Games’ Turns 25, by James Joyner Wed. Aug. 6 2008 – bit.ly/4rOAFZ
Page 5 – Dr. Strangelove for the Pac-Man Generation
The Terrible Dead Code Movie Sequel
Etra, Amy. Walter Parkes and Lawrence Lasker. 1991. Premiere. 5th ed. Vol. 4. New York: Murdoch Magazines, 1991. 46. Print.
Joshbuster.com – John Badham – www.joshbuster.com/person.php?id=1071
Unannotated, Uncategorized or I Just Don’t Damn Remember!
Wired.com – WarGames: A Look Back – bit.ly/1AFIU
Consuming Youth: Vampires, Cyborgs and the Culture of Consumption – pg. 223, by Rob Latham 2002 – amzn.to/ffn59y
war2|WATCH THIS – WarGames – watchthis.war2d2.com/2009/09/wargames
Hollywood Symphony Orchestra Society – www.hsos.org/concert07OCT06.html 
Music Credits
WarGames, Main Theme – OST. Music composed and conducted by Arthur B. Rubinstein. Published by Polydor, 1983
David’s Concern – OST. Music composed and conducted by Arthur B. Rubinstein. Published by Polydor, 1983
Video Fever – OST. Song by Arthur B. Rubinstein, performed by The Beepers. Published by Polydor, 1983
Waking Up the Satellites, from WarGames: The Dead Code, by Sounds Under Radio

External Links (Click to view)

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Comments >>

  1. avatarRobert Decker

    I was extremely impressed with t he accurate detail of this article. I was the Location Manager on “War Games” for 7 months. Robert Decker. I try to read what is written on the film and there is usually quite a fewof inaccuracies.
    Anyone is welcome to email me with questions.

    1. avatarWilliam

      Thanks so much for commenting on the article! I’m glad to hear that my research has been met with approval from someone who actually worked on WarGames. My quest to get it right just might have been prompted by the fact that this is one of my favourite movies. Thanks again for reading AND commenting!

  2. avatarPatmanQC

    Excellent article. I can recall seeing this movie in science class and I knew immediately I had to have a computer. I had no interest in one prior to seeing this movie.

    1. avatarWilliam

      Thanks for the kind words. I remember being jazzed up on the whole online thing, but at the time it was pretty hard to network with the ColecoVision except network with all the kids in the neighbourhood around the console, heh. I imagine memories of WarGames might have been in the back of my mind when I jumped through hoops to log onto fidonet through BBS’s in the 90s. WOULD YOU LIKE TO PLAY A GAME? NAMELY TRADEWARS?

  3. avatarAndrew Dobson-Frueh

    To-99/4A also had a game, Computer War, based ostensibly on the movie. The games was made of two parts – an action stage to shoot down icbms, and a puzzle stage to match patterns with the computer.

    1. avatarWilliam

      Whoopsie, I choked on my cereal when I read your post. I will correct my mistake, and point out that Cap’n Crunch contains a whopping 754mg of sodium per serving, or 31% of the daily recommended intake! The Cap’n surely be a salty dog! Thanks for writing! Yaaar.

      1. avatarPatmanQC

        Don’t you just love idiots who point out a mistake in a massive article like this rather than at least give a compliment or two before doing so? Once again, excellent article

        1. avatarWilliam

          I have to say that I enjoy any user interaction with the site, both positive and negative. Negative, because no matter how many times I review the material there are always things to improve here and there, and it helps when people point out things I can correct and make the site that much better. And positive because, I also like hearing positive things! As always, thanks for your kind words.


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