Wired has put together a retrospective on the silver anniversary of WarGames, which if it isn't the first movie premised on PC gaming, is certainly the most notable. The film came out in 1983, the summer of Return of the Jedi. And as I recall it at the time, WarGames was well overshadowed in hype even next to movies like Krull (and Scarface, or Flashdance, but my parents probably weren't gonna let me see those.) But it came away with three Academy Award nominations and taught my generation some powerful lessons: No one can win a nuclear war, and you can get free calls from a payphone using a soft drink can tab.
Matthew Broderick plays a hacker who spots a game in a computer magazine, and goes wardialing (the practice takes its name from the movie) to find the company's servers and grab the game. He ends up by mistake in a government network and is intrigued by a game by the title of Global Thermonuclear War. And that sets in motion a story that really hit home for Cold War Americans. Today, the Soviet Union is no more, and we get our games illegally from torrent sites. And they have better titles.
Wired talked to the movie's writers and consultants to turn up some interesting tidbits about the film's development. It was originally conceived as a much darker movie. The character of Falken is based on Steven Hawking and the creators had talked to John Lennon's people about starring in the role. (Work on the screenplay began in 1979). Matthew Broderick couldn't type. President Reagan saw it and started talking about it in a meeting with Congressional leaders, who asked the Gipper not to give away the ending. And there's a sidebar interview with a creeped-out Ally Sheedy. It's a great weekend read.