MGM is partnering with with Eko, an interactive video game company, to create an interactive reboot of their 1983 movie WarGames. The original WarGames became an instant cult classic, combining a super-campy premise with a weirdly realistic depiction of how hacking works (it’s mostly guessing passwords). The new version will be an interactive series, sounding something like a choose-your-own-adventure or full motion video (FMV) game, where you follow a hacker named Kelly and her friends.
Now, my major question is whyyy, when the original was such a product of its time. But.
I must grudgingly admit that there are some cool elements to this project. First, it will be directed by Sam Barlow, who was behind the FMV game Her Story, about a woman being interviewed by the police. Second, the protagonist will be a girl this time, named Kelly.
Though the trailer above seems to suggest a dark, hoodie-wearing vision of hackerdom, Barlow seems to be aiming for something more nuanced with the characterization of Kelly. In an interview with io9, he said, “Matthew Broderick’s character in [WarGames] is not this guy in a hoodie hiding away. He’s actually really likable. He’s the popular kid in the class. He’s the joker in the class. And it was really interesting for me to see the original hacker protagonist as the lovable, jokey guy next door. As much as I love Dragon Tattoo and Mr. Robot, that got me suddenly excited. The idea of trying to create a new hacker protagonist that was as fun and as likable as Matthew Broderick, that felt like it would be doing something interesting and different.”
“The thing that really stuck to me was the naivety of Broderick and Sheedy’s characters in WarGames,” he continued, “Their optimism and clarity of thought. That was something that was actually really endearing to me. So with Kelly, I wanted to have a character that is inherently good.”
However, that doesn’t mean he won’t address the dark underbelly of online culture. “One of the things I wanted to address was that, in a lot of popular culture, Anonymous and that hacker activist is seen as a kind of Robin Hood figure,” he said. “This mischievous doer of good. I certainly knew from my experience in the games industry that the reality was not quite as nice. There are forces within the hacker world and those parts of the internet that are very reactionary and have done awful things.”
Now, of all the nostalgia properties to reboot, I do think a hacking property is particularly relevant. Given Russian disinformation campaigns, hacking scandals at companies like Equifax, the rise of Anonymous, and revelations about the CIA’s violation of our civil liberties via surveillance, hacker culture is a huge part of our political and social landscape. It’s a timely enough topic that I understand why MGM might want to tell a story about hacking.
I also love that it will be interactive, since so much of the fun in the original was following along with its protagonists. By letting you do that much more viscerally and literally, this WarGames interactive series could actually be an interesting ride.
But does it really have to be branded as WarGames? If we’re going to deviate so far from the source material, and get so original in both form and content, why do we need this forced nostalgia branding? Ugh. Why are you like this, production funding?
(Via io9; image via screengrab)
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