Would you like to live in a better, online space? Login to the OASIS guys, because we’ll be talking about Ready Player One.
Original Work: Novel, 2011
Derivative Work: Movie, coming soon on March 2018
This book came out 6 years ago and only caught my eye recently as one of the anticipated films of 2018. Picking it up, I didn’t put it down until I finished.
For those eager to read more than the online blurbs before the premiere, here’s how the story goes down. I tried to keep this post as spoiler-free as possible, so most of the stuff only comes from the prologue.
In 2044, James Halliday, the billionaire creator of the OASIS (Ontologically Anthropocentric Sensory Immersive Simulation) left his last will. It states that the heir to his wealth will be the winner through a contest built in his virtual creation. The world gave up after a few years, but then an eighteen-year-old student reignites the grand race towards the win.
Ready Player One is a young adult novel, but its themes make it a nostalgia trip for most adults. The story is engaging and much like the OASIS, it makes you not want to leave. Here are some noteworthy things about this book.
Onwards to the Future and Backwards to the Past
Any review website you might have read by now will tell you that Ready Player One screams 80s culture. Halliday’s game requires soo many references and trivia. Some are so deep, that most likely even the people who lived back then didn’t know about it.
The story will frequently drop titles to real life songs, films, and shows. If you are into the researching stuff, have your search bar nearby, or at least list things down. To name a few, there are callbacks to movies that John Hughes directed (The Breakfast Club, etc), or Rush songs, or even Japanese anime pioneered at that time. Cline does his best to describe what he’s talking about but to hear and watch it for yourself gets you more excited. Although…
Protip: Don’t research and read at the same time. Now don’t get me wrong. I was born a decade later than this celebrated era, and most of the references are beyond me. But it does a good job of flowing between the old and the new. I didn’t look up anything during my first reading of this book, and I still thoroughly enjoyed it.
A Recommendation for Gamers
As much as the story focuses on 80s culture on almost all mediums (TV, films, etc.), I do think that the focus of this book is video games.
Firstly, the challenge posed by Halliday is an Easter egg hunt. Easter eggs are hidden messages left by game developers that are generally optional to find. These usually need someone to perform certain tasks or press buttons so finding them becomes very rewarding. Some are even hidden in plain sight as an inside joke. Halliday, inspired by the first Easter egg in the history of gaming, decided to create one in his own game.
Halliday’s challenges include expertise in the other media, but the main character’s forte is the games. The OASIS itself consists of experience points, in-game currency, and avatar clothing. And yes, they may also cost real-world money (hello, microtransactions!). Those who frequent online role-playing games will find familiar concepts here. And yes, geeking out is definitely an option while reading this book.
And don’t think that the book has an unrealistic take on tech. Some of the OASIS controls are either already in development, or within that reach. Haptic technology, which focuses on tactile senses, is also focused on today in tech. Ready Player One also influenced the development of the Oculus, the first virtual reality device. Quite a cool influence in celebration of games!
A Touch of Netizenship and Anons
An online presence is nothing new.
Everyone now has an online profile, whether it be on Facebook or Twitter or whatever media site. It allows us to shape our online realities and identities. In Cline’s dystopia, most of the people opt to live in the OASIS. This means that the majority of the population lives in a virtual social space. The social aspect of the OASIS drives the story and characters in more ways than one.
“It was the dawn of new era, one where most of the human race now spent all of their free time inside a videogame.”
What’s curious about it is that Cline has done a good job of ingraining concepts of the internet on this book. Almost everyone is a netizen in the OASIS. As with any rule over the net, the main characters are not what they seem to be online. Users choose their appearance, and this makes them inclined to use their idealized selves. This aspect becomes more apparent as the story goes, and is a highlight of the book’s commentary.
I personally liked it for its charm. I wasn’t born in the 80s, but much of its influence weighs on all succeeding decades and releases. With the recent trends of bringing back the old stuff from the 80s and the 90s, it’s a book that you can’t help to love. Being a New York Times bestseller, you can’t argue that it’s a good book. It’s picked up for a movie adaptation as well, coming out on March 2018.
The juggle between past and future cultures made me enjoy the story a lot. The futuristic VR system pulls you into an 80s flashback, then actual reality pushes you back into a somber dystopia. Once you get a feel of this back and forth plays out, you can flow with the reading without looking things up.
To a certain extent, it’s a fanservice. The whole Easter Egg hunt game is a massive contest on who is the best nostalgia geek. But Cline offers more than just “a newbie’s guide to 80s stuff”. You’ll find yourself also hooked to solving Halliday’s puzzles and rooting for the characters to reach the top score. And yes, there is a scoreboard.
“That was when I realized, as terrifying and painful as reality can be, it’s also the only place where you can find true happiness. Because reality is real.”
The book is not too dark, but it does touch into some moments of reality, like economic crises and reality checks. It gets you thinking about the implications of an online world and a war between realities. Ready Player One is a fun read, if you’re up for a nostalgia trip to the 80s, or fascinated with video gaming history, or wish to imagine a virtual life. But it does offer so much more, so check that out too.