WarGames is also a favorite among gamers. Released at a low point in the gaming industry — the sudden boom of console systems and the infamous commercial failure of the E.T. video game had led to a crash — WarGames still managed to inspire a popular home game for the Atari, Commodore 64, and ColecoVision systems. (An updated take, WarGames: Defcon 1, was released for PlayStation and PCs during the late ’90s.) But it was Galaga, a venerable arcade hit still beloved by gamers and bargoers everywhere, that helped Matthew Broderick prepare for his uber-geek role.
A slicker, faster take on Space Invaders, Galaga made a lasting impact on pop culture. (The writers of Lost
are such big fans, they actually named a submarine after it.) During
preproduction, MGM did something that likely made Broderick the envy of
every teen on his block–sent him his own personal Galaga machine. By the time filming commenced, Broderick had played Galaga (and its precursor Galaxian) for two months, and was ready to tackle the film’s arcade scene. Broderick’s David Lightman demonstrates his Galaga
prowess early on in the film, establishing his knack for gaming.
(Meanwhile, in a nifty bit of cross-promotion, Bally/Midway added WarGames promotional headers to Galaga arcade cabinets.) In addition to seeing their favorite game on the big screen, Galaga fans might also recognize some familiar bleeps, as sound bites from the game are used for the NORAD computers.
While many consider David Lightman to be a hacker hero, he’s also a gamer at heart. (Only his
desire to play a hot new game before everyone else nearly leads to
global thermonuclear war.) Computers were a new and somewhat
frightening frontier for audiences at the time, but video games had
seeped into the mainstream via America’s living rooms. Thanks to WarGames, parents were suddenly more concerned with their kids’ home computing activities than they were with the harmless games of Galaga they indulged in down at the local arcade.