Sam Barlow, the typing man behind Her Story, is back with another watch-o-mystery. #WarGames is an interactive episodic video doodad about hacktivists and spunky teenagers saving the world using computers, which Barlow has worked on as an executive creative director of developers Eko. You can play for free in your browser or pay £2 for an ad-free version on Steam.
“Join Kelly and her band of misfit hackers as they transform from pranksters to leaders of the international movement #WarGames and take on the powers that be,” the blurb says.
Though this is ostensibly related to the untagged Matthew Broderick movie from 1983, being made with MGM, the connection in what I’ve seen so far seems to simply be that both #WarGames and WarGames feature computers. That’s fine; I’d see a nostalgic “D’ya remember this, eh? Eh?” as a negative more than anything.
#WarGames has an interesting presentation and branching method. Video calls, livestreams, and other sorts of displays from characters and scattered across our screen, all visible at once but focusing mainly on the one we select. By watching particular screens, we somehow push the branching paths of the story in different ways. It’s a secret and a mystery.
In theory, and from what I’ve watched so far, yeah I’m happy for this control scheme to do its thing. I don’t want to be presented with A B C decisions–it’s so clumsy in interactive movies–and I don’t even feel I must have direct or conscious control over where a branching story goes. The relationship between me and a computer needn’t be “I tell you what to do and you do it.” I’m open to something more playful and capable of surprising me. I don’t even know when and how it branches. Go on, algorithm, tell me a story you think would interest me.
I know I called it “Sam Barlow’s #WarGames” right there in the headline but look, it’s not just him making this. He’s posted a whole Twitter thread of credits.