DAVID: If Joshua tricks them into launching an attack it’ll be your fault.
FALKEN: My fault? The whole point was to find a way to practice nuclear war without destroying ourselves, to get the computers to learn from mistakes we couldn’t afford to make. Except, that I never could get Joshua to learn the most important lesson.
DAVID: What’s that?
FALKEN: Futility. That there’s a time when you should just give up.
JENNIFER: What kind of a lesson is that?
FALKEN: Did you ever play tic-tac-toe?
JENNIFER: Yeah, of course.
FALKEN: But you don’t any more.
JENNIFER: Because it’s a boring game. It’s always a tie.
FALKEN: Exactly. There’s no way to win. The game itself is pointless. But back at the war room, they believe you can win a nuclear war, that there can be acceptable losses.
DAVID: So you gave up? Decided to play dead?
FALKEN: For security reasons they graciously arranged my death. (Turning to the movie screen.) Did you know that no land animal with a body weight of over 55 pounds survived that age? Extinction is part of the natural order.
DAVID: Bullshit. (Turns off projector.) If we’re extinguished, there’s nothing natural about that. It’s just stupid.
FALKEN: Look, it’s all right. I’ve planned ahead. We’re just three miles from a primary target. A millisecond of brilliant light and we’re vaporized. Much more fortunate than the millions who’ll wander sightless through the smoldering aftermath. We’ll be spared the horror of survival.
JENNIFER: I’m only seventeen years old. I’m not ready to die, yet.
DAVID: You won’t make a simple phone call?
JENNIFER: If the real Joshua was still alive—your Joshua—you’d do it, wouldn’t you?
FALKEN: Look, we might gain a few years, perhaps time enough for you to have a son and watch him die. But humanity, planning it’s own destruction—that a phone call won’t stop.
DAVID: This is unreal. You don’t care about death because you’re already dead.
— War Games (1983), written by Lawrence Lasker, Walter F. Parkes,
The Daily Dialogue theme for the week: Quitting. Today’s suggestion by Will King.
Trivia: What got the teens into trouble was David’s computer program that dialed phone numbers methodically searching for open modem connections, which he would then try to exploit (eventually dialing in to WOPR). This was already a known hacking method at the time, but this movie gave it a name that has stuck ever since: war dialing. When dial-up modems were replaced by wi-fi connections, the term was modified to war driving, meaning to drive around in a vehicle searching for open wi-fi connections.
Dialogue On Dialogue: Commentary by Will: “This is an example of the ultimate in quitting: resignation. Staging this scene with Falken watching a movie about dinosaurs (The Land That Time Forgot) and his knowledge about their extinction shows that Falken has already quit trying to change what he sees as inevitable and is just awaiting the end of the world. He seems almost pleased with himself that he’s selected a home ‘just three miles from a primary target.’
The name ‘Joshua’ used in this scene refers to two entities. In Falken’s first line it’s his pet name for the war gaming WOPR military computer. But ‘Joshua’ is also the name of his deceased son, and it is that son that Jennifer uses to try to appeal to Falken to get him to snap out of his malaise, which he eventually does.”