I had heard about Ernest Cline’s novel Ready Player One from a few different sources, but I recently saw preview pictures of the set of the movie version of the book and decided to check it out. If you love video games and 80s references this book will be right up your alley. It also has an interesting take on the future of virtual reality and tackles some issues that are very relevant today.
The plot of the book centers around a young boy named Wade, who goes by Parzival in the OASIS, the virtual world that most of humanity accesses. Parzival and his friends are each working to complete a great puzzle/hunt within the OASIS, left by its creator, James Halliday, when he died. Whoever completes Halliday’s Easter egg hunt receives the keys to his kingdom and his multibillion-dollar fortune.
This makes the stakes high, because whoever wins gets to control the OASIS as well, and that is where our antagonists “The Sixers,” men and women who work for the company Innovative Online Industries, also know as IOI. IOI hopes to cheat to win the contest with their employees and take over Halliday’s company, which would forever alter the virtual world of the Oasis.
Ready Player One is set in the year 2045, about 30 years in the future. There were several things I found interesting about Cline’s vision of the future in the book. As someone who has ventured into virtual worlds like Second Life, I have definitely seen people who are addict to a world that is not their reality. I believe that Cline gives us a realistic show of what the future might be like for people that would prefer to live in a fantasy world. The protagonist, Parzival, also talks about how though he has not met many of his friends in “real life” he still feels very close to them. Even now, the Internet has caused people who would never have met to form friendships and make connections. One vision for the future of gaming I wasn’t a fan off was the fact that even 30 years in the future, girl gamers are still a rarity. This is mentioned when Parzival talks about his love interest in the book, Artemis. Since trends are changing about who plays games and there are many women who engage in virtual worlds. Cline also later shows that even though women may seem rare in the virtual, that the ability to create an avatar that looks and sounds different than your real world counterpart may be part of the reason for this.
All in all, Ready Player One has a fun and compelling plot that raises some interesting questions about the future of gaming and our world. It’s a classic hero story, so the plot may feel familiar at time, but it’s also filled with nostaglia which may appeal to people who lived through or were born in the 80s. I know it was fun for me, being born in the middle of that decade. I would definitely recommend this book for anyone who loves gaming and pop culture from yester year. The movie adaptation is slated to come out March of 2018, which gives you plenty of time to get through the book.