Shall We Play a Game?


Anyone with a bit of age on ’em may read that title and in their head hear Joshua saying it in that menacing, computerized voice that I will forever associate with Global Thermonuclear War and complete annihilation of the world.

By now, you’re thinking… “What IS she rambling on about??”

This weekend, Chris and I reached new levels of geek when we decided to dig out our copy of War Games – a movie released in 1983 starring (a VERY young) Matthew Broderick. It was one of the first mainstream cybercrime, cyberterrorism flicks to hit the scene. Basically, the kid, played by Broderick, was attempting to hack into a computer game company to obtain their new games before they got released to the public, but ended up hooking into NORADs nuclear monitoring and defense system and launched a simulated nuclear war between the US and the Russians. It was a simulated game, run by the computer – but no one at NORAD knew it was only a simulation.

The movie is a virtual, nostalgic graveyard of computer equipment, including (but not limited to) – Imsai 8″ Floppy Discs, Commodore PET’s, TRS-80’s, Sinclair ZX-81’s, Apple II’s, Atari’s, Odyssey2’s, Vic20s, Commodore 64s, ZX Spectrums, classic voice synthesisers, 300 baud acoustic couplers, mass prefix dialers, dot matrix printers, mainframe computers taller than my house – – not too mention Galaga arcade machines!

We had great laughs when the kid goes into a phone booth, unscrews the mouthpiece of the phone and uses the pull tab ring off a can of Coke to get a dial tone – – then dials the number he needs on the rotary dial pad. The hairstyles and clothes were worth a chuckle or two, as well.

Though, the movie still holds a universal truth – even in present day. At the end of the movie, when Joshua is done playing Global Thermal Nuclear War, pitting the Americans against the Russians – – basically bombing the literal crap out of everything in every possible scenario, Joshua (the computer) designates there are no winners. In the game of Global Thermal Nuclear War, there are no winners and the only way to win the game is to not play it.

Joshua: : A strange game. The only winning move is not to play. How about a nice game of chess?

15 thoughts on “Shall We Play a Game?”

  1. Great movie, and even if literally dialing into your high school’s grading system(did they really have an electronic grading system? I know my schools didn’t in 1983) is a bit far fetched you point about the overall significance of the movie is dead on.

  2. Chris and I reached new levels of geek when we decided to dig out our copy of War Games

    What does having a hard-shell case containing an actual 8″ floppy diskette sitting on my bookshelf, next to a slide rule say about me??

    (In the interest of full disclosure, I’ve yet to fully teach myself how to use said slide rule, but I have one!)

  3. OMG what a thermal blast from the past! What a difference a word makes: dot matrix versus dot com.

    Sinclair ZX-81! Holy! I had one of those, and a Commodore, and something called (I think) an Adam (it had a typewriter-like gadget as an output device).

    If my memory serves me right, War Games was released a few weeks after Return of the Jedi (maybe before school let out for summer?)…

    Anyway, I’m going to go take my Geritol now. Thanks for the flashback.

  4. @Daisy – I’m trying to remember if our grades were electronic… I’m thinking not. I remember my report cards were done on a typewriter LOL

    @Charlie – it says you’re an uber geek. So much worse than me or Chris…tsk! :p

    @Phil – yep, definitely calls for Geritol! That movie was made TWENTY FIVE YEARS AGO

  5. That’s still one of the best geek movies out there. I remember as a young kid watching that with my dad.

    Another great one is Colossus: The Forbin Project, made in 1970. I hadn’t heard about it until fairly recently (was made well before I was born) but it still stands up today.

  6. Great film and one of my favourite ‘growing up’ movies along with The Goonies.

    Ah, happy days … 🙂

  7. Geez I remember that game. I remember our Trash 80 playing Zork and Bedlam and getting computer magazines that that the code for games that you write them out. We had the cassette drive along wiht the 8″ floppy drives. And then I remember the time my mom came home with a 486 with Windows 3.1 and playing Leisure Suit Larry on it and thought it couldn’t get better than this.

  8. That movie was an HBO go-to movie for at least 10-15 years! It was always on HBO or TBS at least once a week.

  9. I’m 14 and War Games is one of my favourite films. Perhaps I should be worried…

    …especially since I’ve read ‘The Cuckoo’s Nest’ 9 times.

  10. OMG! I just popped into Best Buy to purchase this three weeks ago, but it was not available. I then found out that the 25th Anniversay is being released soon. I will definitely revisting my favorite characters in the movie.(Jim and “Mr. Potato Head”)

  11. Wargames came out two years after my high school graduation. It is one of my favorite movies. My favorite bit of obsolete tech is the clunky TI expansion box in Broderick’s bedroom. I had one just like it in my bedroom. No more recording programs and data on audio cassettes. I had a real 5.25 inch disk drive.

  12. That movie is still cool. That same year my dad came home with an Aquarius computer from Mattel. It used cartridges. We played Tron and D&D on it.

    There were instructions for creating animations. They confused me :). I have a bad math block in my head and never got to be the Geek I thought I would. Oh well. If you can’t program em you can still take them apart, put them together, and play with them :). That and be the family (and friends) free computer repairman.

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