Why we’re excited for #WarGames, a game about teenage hacktivists

The 1983 film WarGames focuses on a teenager who hacks into a secret US military computer, and almost starts a world war in the process. Now, that movie is being rebooted into a 6-part video game series whose first episode is slated for release on March 14.

This new iteration of WarGames – titled #WarGames for that modern twist – features Kelly, a teenager-slash-“hacker activist” who works together with other young hackers to bring about peace. In a nod to the original movie, this group may have done more harm than good in the process.

The trailer makes references to several large hacks in recent years, including Yahoo’s 2013 email hack, which targeted all 3 billion Yahoo accounts; the 2014 Sony hack, which leaked information like personal information on Sony employees and copies of unreleased films; and last year’s Equifax breach, which compromised sensitive personal information on millions of users.

From what we’ve seen, #WarGames is sure to set itself apart from many games, including interactive ones that have come out in recent years.

#WarGames comes from the creator of Her Story

Kelly looking perturbed.

The number one reason we’re excited for #WarGames is because it’s spearheaded by Sam Barlow, who designed and developed the 2015 interactive movie video game Her Story.

In Her Story, you investigate the case of a missing husband by watching clips from fictionalized police interviews and teasing apart the events that led to his disappearance.

Her Story’s unconventional gameplay mechanics showcased the possibilities of interactive storytelling, that a player didn’t have to directly participate in the story or know everything about a case to immerse themselves completely in the game.

Part of that was making the experience seem authentic; the actress Viva Seifert, who played the main interviewee in Her Story, Hannah Smith, won a Game Award for Best Performance for her portrayal.

#WarGames takes this atmosphere and authenticity one step further. Instead of video clips focusing on one subject, you focus on many feeds throughout the world. Like Her Story, these feeds feature actresses and actors who play different characters.

In an interview with Gizmodo, Barlow said this approach gives a more realistic take of the ways video feeds are used on computers now:

You’ll have a bunch of windows on your screen. We’re used to video chatting with our friends, having a big image, and smaller images of other people, things dropping in and out. So we decided to build the show around this concept. As the story’s progressing, all these different characters are talking to each other over the internet, and all of their windows are up on the screen. There’ll be additional video windows as well, so if they’re hacking into CCTV cameras, you’ll see that. If they’re watching a live TV broadcast, you’ll see that.

Furthermore, the game adapts the story to your viewing behavior, making for a more personalized experience. It’s also an interesting reminder on the ways your behavior online can change your experience in subtle ways, like directed ads on Facebook.

The modernized take is very relevant today

What could Kelly be looking at in her computer screen?

The original WarGames was one of many commentaries on the Cold War, in addition to the implications of a society dependent on technology. Yet even though that movie was released more than 30 years ago, this cynical view on technology still rings true today – maybe much more so as people have become dependent on technology for their livelihood.

It’s not like you haven’t heard the story before. Shows like Black Mirror highlight the dark repercussions of society’s increasing reliance on technology. However, in a reference to the original movie, Barlow made sure this #WarGames was less serious, according to a Verge article.

What struck me in the original movie was just the charisma of the Broderick character, the humor that he had, the positive naive outlook and the clash between that and the world of his parents,” Barlow explains. “And then looking at the idea of a young group of hackers in the modern day who are also highly socialized, they have their sense of humor, they have fun together, and they want to fix this world.

That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be wary, however. To keep in line with the theme of authenticity, the team working on #WarGames hired consultants to check whether the hacking scenarios in the game were possible in the real world.

The idea of well-intentioned teenage hacktivists doesn’t sound so implausible afterall.

#WarGames will be released March 14 on iOS and Steam. It will be available to play on vudu.com and helloeko.com, with a later, unannounced release date for Xbox One.

Image credits: Eko


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s