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A Muddy Game of War

Experience the magic behind the recreation of Wargames that saved America once and for all.

Setting the Scene:

It's April of 1983.You're on set of Wargames as a hair & makeup artist, working in the heat of the action behind-the-scenes. The Production is scheduled to be released to theaters in just two months; however, director John Badham has other ideas in mind. “Cut!” Yelled John Badham at the top of his lungs as he stormed out in a fury to the director’s room from the live set. Though the actors were fully in costume, the scene that Badham had just caused snapped them out of character as a state of confusion and concern overtook faces, leaving everyone silent and frozen with hesitation of what move to make next.

“It’s all wrong, I mean what were we possibly thinking?” Badham continued to himself. He winced as if he himself had just been kicked, and an overwhelming amount of guilt pierced his gut while he pondered at the thought of actually creating a movie with a surrounding theme of thermonuclear war in the midst of the Cold War.

After a ten minute timeout that more felt like eons, Badham gathered the team of producers, actors, writers, film crew, and costume designers to announce his epiphany with an attempt to explain the reasoning for his tantrum. The looks of people’s faces quickly morphed from confusion into frustration as they discovered that he wanted to rewrite, rerecord, and reproduce over half of the movie plot. The cast and crew were dismissed shortly after, as their time had extended beyond their schedule, and were ordered to come back to the studio at 8 A.M. sharp the following day, ready to adapt and evolve to what would be the new plot of WarGames.

Badham went home and frantically began writing his new plans for the plot of WarGames and the fate of not only just of David Lightman’s character, but of the national security of America. After hours of being locked in his office into the wee hours of the late night and early morning, he held his final sheet of paper with a scribbled script up to the light with a smile. The power he felt in his hands from his manuscript surged to his brain, filling him with a sense of pride as in his mind as if he had just single-handedly saved the nation from a Soviet invasion. Buzzed off of the adrenaline from his manic writing session the night prior, he raced back into the studio and awaited the arrival of the cast and crew.

Matthew Broderick and Ally Sheedy, the characters of David Lightman and Jennifer Mack, were both the first to arrive; though they were notably the youngest of the cast, their roles were vital in the movie as the two main characters. The youthfulness of the two teenagers sparked another idea in Badham’s plan for his deliverance speech. The others soon filed into their seats, anxious to hear what Badham possibly could have to add to his episode from yesterday.

Though sweat was beading from his temples and his hands were shaking standing in front of his team, he was confident in his decision. He started his speech off by pointing out the young ages of David and Ally (21 and 19), and their reckless teenage behavior everyone knew and loved them by on both the screen and off-set. “The combination of computer hacking and angsty, yet intellectual teenagers” he continued, “is the recipe for disaster we have created for our country by producing this movie.” Just a week prior, the trailer of WarGames had been released to theaters, Badham explained and went on about his fear for the state of wellbeing for the general public and their anxiety surrounding nuclear war, as well as even the military and their readiness for any ideas the Soviets could have gotten from accessing the film.

His mind didn’t stop there. “And just think! It’s taken us common people just a few short months to master not only the foundational skill of typing, but the reconfiguration the computer system wholly, rewiring, and hacking into this computer and modem- think of what hackers overseas could easily perform in days or hours with their knowledge!”

Before he could go on any further, the small crowd of the WarGames cast and crew erupted in a cheerful roar with rounds of applause for not only Badham’s passion in his speech, but for the plan to ditch the original plot in effort to ease the anxiety of fellow Americans. Comments followed the standing ovation and filled the room, praising him for his courage to change this late in their schedule, as well as confessions of personal anxiety-attacks after filming at the thought of what a thermonuclear war would be like. Experiencing this moment, Badham wished he could have had it projected on the screen as it truly was a movie-moment. “Well then,” after containing the energy present in the room, “We have some work to do!”

The following few weeks were devoted to everyone’s participation and ideas in rewriting the plot of WarGames while keeping the presence of computers and angsty teen protagonists in the forefront. Desperate for any ideas that would work within the team’s budget and keeping their jobs secure, they were on the hunt for an idea that was enticing, yet nowhere close to threatening. Finally one day, as an IT mechanic was checking up on the live computer modem still configured to Lightman’s bedroom set, he shouted with glee, “I’ve got it!” Though his name was unknown before his epiphany, Rodger the computer geek would soon have the credit for the future of Wargames.

Everyone quickly gathered around Rodger confused as to what he had just “gotten,” and he explained his idea after briefly introducing himself to the cast and crew. Rodger’s obsession with MUDs (multi-user dungeons) within the past few years of its creation had allowed his imagination to run wild in creating new ideas from characters and virtual worlds he’d been a part of. Once he was successfully able to explain exactly what a MUD was to everyone, the plot would turn into Lightman and Jennifer learning how to create their own MUD and eventually get sucked into their own new virtual reality. A more sci-fi approach with digital animation, the team was amazed by the idea and got straight to work.

The release of MudGames debuted in theaters two short years after that day in the studio and became a Blockbuster hit across America. Rather than instilling fear of a third world war into the minds of Americans, their interests resorted to creating their own new virtual realities based off of the adventures David Lightman and Jennifer Mack had in the movie. Now, just a short five years later, nearly everyone worldwide has access to a MUD and spends time meeting others through in the form of their virtual characters.