WarGames Still a Classic at 30

ShallWePlayAGame
Image via the WarGames trailer at MGM.com.

If you’re a geek parent of a certain age, I’ll bet that not only did you read that line with a particular computerized voice and cadence, it may have even creeped you out a bit.

Long after HAL, longer before GLaDOS, there was Joshua, brought to “life” onscreen in WarGames thirty years ago, June 3, 1983.

I was twelve years old that spring, still riding the high on the amazing ending to the Star Wars saga, when WarGames came out. David Lightman’s onscreen obsession with video games and computers echoed my real-life addiction to our Atari, and later, the Timex Sinclair 1000 that I bought for ten bucks, and then the Commodore 64 I finally talked my dad into buying. I wanted so much to program a BASIC “Joshua” that I could pretend to play WarGames with, and I still prefer the sound of computer keys that clack definitively to the velvet-wrapped tickings of most modern keyboards.

Image: MGM.com
Image: MGM.com

Despite the dated technology onscreen, WarGames holds up at age 30, and it’s still the perfect blend of Cold War thriller, teen angst movie and computer nerd coolness. Its influence can be seen everyplace from its three Academy Award nominations (Best Original Screenplay, Best Sound Mixing, and Best Cinematography) to the computer hacking term “war dialing” to the role the movie itself plays in Ernest Cline’s  Ready Player One.

It’s still worth watching and sharing with successive generations of geeks, even if they’ll never recognize a pop can pull tab, a pay phone, or the sound of a dial-up modem.

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Writer John Booth lives in northeast Ohio with his wife and daughter. He is the author of the book "Collect All 21! Memoirs of a Star Wars Geek – The First 30 Years."