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In War Games, Matt Lightman takes the sides of the USSR in Global Thermonuclear War. That means the WOPR ("War Operation Planned Response" computer) took the side of the USA. However, in NORAD control the WOPR was sending missle launch signals from the USSR.

My theory was WOPR, who was trying to win the game and did not know the difference between game or reality* was trying to provoke the actual USA into launching its real missiles to win the game. Did I understand the movie correctly

*In the movie Matt Lightman ask

Is this a game or is it real?

WOPR responds

What is the difference?

  • 1
    Why the downvote? – Mike Oct 30 '18 at 15:09
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    What is WOPR? You use the acronym several times. – Amy Oct 30 '18 at 20:02
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    @Amy: "War Operation Planned Response". It's a computer that runs war simulations to determine the best way to win. You haven't seen the movie, I take it? – Fred Larson Oct 30 '18 at 20:43
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    @FredLarson It's been a few years. – Amy Oct 30 '18 at 20:44
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WOPR was trying to provoke the actual USA into launching its real missiles to win the game.

The WOPR system was trying to win the war by faking an attack. Then, the USA would attack first and win, with "acceptable losses". From the wiki:

The computer stages a massive Soviet first strike with hundreds of missiles, submarines, and bombers. Believing the attack to be genuine, NORAD prepares to retaliate. [...] WOPR tries to launch the missiles itself, however, using a brute-force attack to obtain the launch code.

After this, WOPR learns (by playing tic-tac-toe against itself) that attacking first won't actually grant a victory.

WOPR obtains the missile code, but before launching, it cycles through all the nuclear war scenarios it has devised, finding they, too, all result in stalemates. Having discovered the concept of mutual assured destruction ("WINNER: NONE"), the computer tells Falken that it has concluded that nuclear war is "a strange game" in which "the only winning move is not to play."

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That means the WOPR took the side of the USA.

No.

I dispute that WOPR "took sides". It only had control of the USA's missiles so sides wasn't an option...it had to use the USA's arsenal/systems because that was what was available to it. This is where the tension in the movie comes from.

Lightman had to take the opposing side, the USSR, because that was the target of the USA's attack.

He had no choice in the matter nor did WOPR.

WOPR, who was trying to win the game and did not know the difference between game or reality

Essentially, yes

It didn't really care (not that it could, it's a machine)...it was just a game and the object of the game was to win...until it became evident that the only way to "win" was NOT to play at all.

  • I get from a plot perspective it had to be that way but Lightman does willingly choose the USSR. I guess the root of my question was why, when Lightman was in custody, the WOPR sent phantom missiles to the main NORAD screen. I have to think of how to reword the question – Mike Oct 30 '18 at 15:08
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    @Mike Perhaps another question as changing the question at this stage would invalidate the existing answers. – Paulie_D Oct 30 '18 at 15:09

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