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YMMV / WarGames

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  • Alternative Character Interpretation: Joshua's reaction to David's use of the backdoor password is to assume that David is Professor Falken, but Falken's assumed dead and hasn't been in contact with Joshua for the better part of a decade — an eternity in computer time. This partly explains why Joshua's so eager to continue the simulation no matter what, since Joshua is implied to have had little interaction with anyone in the intervening years, and is now trying to impress his 'father'.
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  • Contested Sequel: WarGames: The Dead Code, released in 2008, in which WOPR/Joshua, an elder Dr. Falken, and various friendly hackers have to fight a modern game server with military applications (apparently in that order, seeing how many people game on her) named RIPLEY. This one has considerably more real-life damage — there is no real thermonuclear war, but there are some devastating non-nuclear attacks on American infrastructure.
  • Harsher in Hindsight:
    • On September 26, 1983, just three months following its release, a Soviet early warning station detected 5 inbound ICBMs. Colonel Stanislav Petrov, the man in charge of the station, decided it was a false alarm and did not report it to his superiors. He surmised that no one would launch just five ICBMs as a first strike... they'd launch EVERYTHING.
    • On the American side, in 1979 war was narrowly averted when NORAD reported a large scale nuclear attack that turned out to be nonexistent. In a disturbing parallel to the film, the cause of the false alarm was ultimately traced to a program meant to be used only for command post exercises being loaded on the wrong computer system.
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    • Late in the Cold War, Russia installed an automated response system that would order a retaliatory strike without human intervention, called the "Dead Hand" or "Perimeter System", which has been criticized as vulnerable to hacking, a very disturbing case of Life Imitates Art. The system is alleged to still be operational...
      • Maybe. Very little is actually known about "Dead Hand", but there is credible evidence that the final decision is still made by humans.
    • Falken predicts that bees were likeliest to replace humanity in the event of a nuclear war. 25 years later, bees started dying in droves...
  • Hilarious in Hindsight:
    • At the end of the film, the master computer says of the "Thermonuclear War" game, "A strange game. The only winning move is not to play." Almost 35 years later, Doki Doki Literature Club! would repeat that mantra due to Big Bad Monika manipulating the game files and tricking the three girls into killing themselves, all while corrupting the game in the process, so that she can spend time with the player alone until they can find a way to delete her character file.
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    • Maury Chaykin as Jim Sting says: "Remember you told me to tell you when you were acting rudely and insensitively?" He would later go on to play Nero Wolfe, a character who could use those sort of warning.
  • Memetic Mutation:
    • "Shall we play a game?"
    • Memetic Mutation + It Was His Sled: "The only winning move is not to play."
    • If the video game sequel is to be believed, David might consider "Joshua" a personal meme for him in-universe; he's the CEO of "Joshua" Information Systems.
    • "Mister Potatohead!"
  • One-Scene Wonder:
    • John Spencer and Michael Madsen as the missile technicians at the start of the movie. "Turn your key, sir."
    • Eddie Deezen as an IT tech who we'd diagnose these days with severe Asperger's Syndrome.
  • Retroactive Recognition: Mr. Blonde is the technician at the beginning who says, "Turn your key, sir!", and he's saying it to Leo McGarry
    • As a bonus, this scene was among the earliest movie roles for both actors.
  • "Seinfeld" Is Unfunny: The tropes around hacking can look retroactively tired.
  • Sequelitis: Most people have no idea that a sequel was made. This is a very good thing. Filmed a full two decades after the original, The Dead Code features only one returning character, played by a different actor (two if you consider WOPR/Joshua), and has little to do with the original film outside of a handful of connections. It also features some of the worst writing and acting ever committed to celluloid.
  • Some Anvils Need to Be Dropped:
    • "A strange game. The only winning move is not to play. How about a nice game of chess?"
    • It's a rare movie that does it without demonizing anyone on either side or reducing them to clichéd stereotypes.
  • Values Dissonance:
    • How many modern viewers facepalm when they see the list of passwords on a sheet of paper right next to the computer? In fact, if you're reading this website, that's likely exactly what you've been told not to do ever since you were big enough to hit a spacebar. (Anyone in tech support, or who enjoy Not Always Right and similar "customer service hell" anecdotes, knows that this still happens today.)
    • Ironically, depending on the level of control you have over your workspace, this is becoming less of an issue; very frequently today, if someone has physical access to the system, you're doomed anyway as far as security goes. Though on the other hand, it does make it easier to cause mischief quickly.
    • For that matter, using your kid's name as a password is just as bad. Anyone who got caught doing something so obvious at the real NORAD would most likely be fired outright, if not prosecuted for endangering national security. Falken only gets away with it in the movie because it is an unauthorized backdoor that NORAD doesn't know about.
  • Values Resonance: Whilst pretty much averted with the nuclear issues (not as obviously relevant as in the Cold War, and to be fair the dangers of all-out nuclear war are so well-worn the relevant aesop is pretty much into Captain Obvious Aesop territory), the dangers presented by computer security threats are even more pertinent to the present than they were in The '80s now that Everything Is Online, and talk of cyber-warfare abounds. It is obvious from the Values Dissonance example above that many of the basic security mistakes mentioned above are sadly still with us today, too. Whether the idea of the maverick hacker ultimately showing up the military's flaws is relevant in these days of certain high-profile whistleblowers has any resonance however, is uncertain.

Tropes found in War Games: The Dead Code include:

  • Anvilicious: Dr. Falken gives a little speech about how he designed the WOPR to work in tandem with RIPLEY rather than against her. The last word of his speech is "Bipartisanship". This in a movie that came out the same year Barack Obama was elected President.

Tropes found in the video game adaptations include:


Example of: