How about Global Thermonuclear War?

This week I decided to watch Wargames (spoiler alert for anyone who hasn’t seen it and would like to). I hadn’t heard of it until I happened upon the name of the movie in second chapter of The New Digital Storytelling: Creating Narratives with New Media. After watching the movie and discussing it with my husband, we came to the realization of a trend in storytelling in the early 80s. Several movies bolstered the storyline of an individual playing a game and being pulled into a war. You have Wargames, Tron, and The Last Starfighter just to name a few. I think it speaks to the feeling of mystery directed towards technology at the time, some stories hinting towards the danger of digital devices (like them taking over the world) and other stories exploring the idea of a world within to explore. This trend continues to present time entertainment with remakes of movies like Jumanji and book adaptations like Ready Player One.

In the case of Wargames, I tried to keep an open mind since I knew it was probably going to seem cheesy. I assumed the roles and plot were going to be pretty symmetric to ones I’ve already seen. I wasn’t surprised by the typical character building:

  • The know-it-all computer geek that’s considered too young to be that smart by the adults in the area so no one listens to his warnings.
  • The “girl next door” that thinks he’s cute and flirts with him, ultimately joining him on the run when he gets into trouble.
  • The man hiding in the woods trying to disappear, but is necessary to the entire plot so he’s forced out of hiding.
  • The super computer (retro version of AI) that has become too smart and initiates a plan that will likely end humanity and we know it.
  • The stubborn moron of a character (usually a high-ranking military official) that is falling for everything the computer is doing without taking a moment to comprehend what the geek warned him about.

I also found myself predicting many moments of the movie. Even with all of that cheesiness, I found myself surprised and on the edge of my seat at the very end of the movie. They did a great job of masquerading the end of the movie with the actual beginning of the climax. One of those “oh shit I thought this was over but its just getting good” moments. I also found it surprising that I liked a movie with Matthew Broderick in it, since he usually annoys me.  

This movie is an excellent example of storytelling in the 80s. It has a good plot and navigates the character development carefully in order to make the main character smart and sarcastic, yet likable. They made him someone the crowd can cheer for, while not making him the hero. They did a good job at getting you to almost humanize WOPR (the super computer in the movie). I thought that movie was good and worth the viewing.

[*I did not create the DS106 gif used as the feature image. I found it on another DS106 blog from 2012.*]

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