The timing of John Badham’s 1983 film WarGames is significant — the early 1980s marked the period when computers entered the home as educational and entertainment fixtures. Up until then, the computer was ensconced in the ‘safety’ of science labs, operated and programmed by specialists, and cinematic examples of highly dangerous computers only appeared within comfortingly removed contexts of spaceships (i.e. Alien and 2001: A Space Odyssey). However, with its entry into the home, a new set of fears was ripe for tackling. In Badham’s movie, teen protagonist David Lightman (Matthew Broderick) inadvertently sets off a nuclear attack by logging onto what he thinks is just a simulation computer game named ‘Global Thermonuclear War’. Except that the computer he has hacked into in order to play the game is a military missile-command supercomputer whose acronym WOPR stands for War Operation Plan Response, and the game is not a game, but real. In a sense, this is an inversion of the Don Quixote syndrome, in that David doesn’t mistake his computer world as being real, but instead thinks that what is real is a game, which, judging by the potential fatal consequences in the storyline, is just as bad.
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- Is This a Game or Is This Reality?
- Palgrave Macmillan UK