Shall we play a game? WarGames gets interactive reboot from Her Story dev

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Didn’t expect to see this today (but glad it happened).

As various creators look toward the new year, December seems to bring with it a new trailer every day (Batman Ninja? Altered CarbonBlack Mirror just this morning before a December 29 launch). But one teaser stood out from the fray this morning—because when you invoke WarGames, we nerds pay attention.

Before some readers instantly panic, no, the 1983 Matthew Broderick hacker classic is not being rebooted verbatim for the big screen. Instead, Her Story writer/dev Sam Barlow will modernize the tale for 2017-2018 and turn it into an “experimental interactive series” (which is how Barlow describes Her Story).

“With #WarGames I was thrilled to take the questions raised by the original movie and ask them again in a world where technology has fundamentally changed our lives,” Barlow said in the game’s press release. “I am excited to introduce viewers to the new hacker protagonist, Kelly, who represents the breadth of modern hacker culture and its humanity. As viewers help steer her story, I hope they will fall in love with her as much as the #WarGames team did.”

As Barlow’s quote hints, the story this time centers on a young female hacker played by Jessica Nurse (Scandal). On Twitter, Barlow noted the concept started before 2017’s North Korea-US nuclear drama (before the 2016 election even) but that the message will clearly resonate today. Despite the very real subject matter, Barlow said ensuring that the new #WarGames kept the fun ethos of the original became a top priority (“Broderick’s charisma and the optimism of him and Sheedy in the face of Professor Falken’s nihilism and the logic of the Cold War was the core of that movie for me,” he tweeted).

Wait, what’s Her Story?

If the mention of WarGames excites you but Her Story leaves you frantically Googling, fear not. The 2015 full-motion video (FMV) title ended up in our Top 10 Games of the Year for good reason. Barlow and lead actor Viva Seifert showed how underrated and underutilized this retro gaming format is for complex storytelling. It was the kind of engaging whodunnit (and whatdunnit) that compelled both gamers and non-gamers to push forward in order to unravel the game’s central mysteries. As Gaming Editor Kyle Orland described the concept:

Her Story takes place entirely within the creaky interface of a late-’90s database terminal, complete with a cathode ray tube screen that reflects the fluorescent lights behind you. A pair of readme files teach you how to search through the database, which consists entirely of transcribed video clips of a young woman responding to police questions (the questions themselves have been lost). You’re not given any details or direction for what to do with this mountain of unearthed evidence, but the first default search term—the word “murder”—gives some clue as to what’s going on.

Don’t be fooled, though; “what’s going on” is not as simple as just figuring out whether the woman on camera is guilty or innocent. The story of one murder eventually opens up to include other potential homicides, cases of mistaken identity, childhood trauma, incomplete physical evidence, complex psychosexual personality quirks, and the vagaries of memory and fantasy itself.

Her Story ended up being almost equal parts movie as it was game. As the player/viewer, your only interactions involved figuring out new search terms to try plugging into the database engine in order to unlock more interview clips (this is more engaging than it sounds, trust us and try it). The database included more than 300 clips, allowing players/viewers to shape and guide the experience.

The trailer and press release for #WarGames doesn’t offer much detail beyond a 2018 release date and the information above, but it’s likely a safe bet to assume some limited player/viewer interactions will similarly steer this new adaptation. Barlow mentioned on Twitter that early cuts of the game have been shown to younger kids (aka the core of the original WarGames fanbase), and the results leave him confident the wider audience will enjoy it as much as Her Story. 

Listing image by Eko

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