'War Games' Gives A Glimpse Of Hackers To Come

Apr 20, 2016

Be careful what game you choose to play in 'War Games.'
Credit Tnarik Innael / Flickr via Creative Commons

'Shall we play a game?'

That simple, but chilling, invitation from a not-so-benevolent computer triggers a race against time and technology in the 1983 techno-thriller, War Games.

The film is running as part of the Illinois State University  Arts Tech Film Festival this week at the Normal Theater.  The festival examines how computers have been portrayed in film over the past 50 years and explores what the depictions say about our evolving relationship with digital technology.  Special guests will attend each screening to spur audience discussions, plus ISU arts technology students will display multimedia installations and conduct virtual reality demonstrations. 

One of the films featured in the line-up is War Games, starring Matthew Broderick as a young hacker who must use his skills to prevent the computerized launch of WWIII.  Rick Valentin, ISU Arts Technology professor and festival organizer, said the film is quite realistic in its depiction of the tech of the times.

'It's a very realistic portrayal of the technology of the time, ' Valentin noted. 'And also of this new underground that was percolating of people who were using computers not in terms of a corporate way, but they were actually playing around with it, socializing with it even.  It's a great example of the dawn of the kind of world we're in now.'

War Games featured one of the first portrayals of a hacker.  Mathew Broderick's character was aspirational to many computer users of the 80's as it showed the character not as an outcast, but as a clever kid who gets the girl. The realistic portrayal of Broderick's character may have inspired a new generation of hackers, Valentine said.

Over the years, technology has given more power to more people, which is both a plus and a minus, Valentin observed, which is something we continue to struggle with today.

War Games runs at 7 PM, Thursday, April 21 at the Normal Theater as part of the Arts Tec Film Festival.