Ready Player One, soon to be released in theaters March 2018, takes place in the year 2045, chronicling the adventure of a high school teen, Wade Owen Watts. Living in the “stacks,” an enclave of mobile homes stacked vertically on the outskirts of Columbus, OH, his only reprieve from the dismal world is The OASIS, a virtual world accessible by VR goggles and haptic gloves, in which he is a player named Parzival.
Particularly fascinating about this book is the fact that author, Ernest Cline, already sold rights for his book to become a motion picture, directed by Steven Spielberg, even before the book was published. And at the time the book was published, VR goggles and the like did not exist. The author manages to paint the dooms day scenario as real, one in which our future world operates with diminished energy resources, disastrous weather patterns, famine and wars over the few resources left. The OASIS, created by GSS and its genius founder, James Halliday, is an outlet that offers an escape from reality, but in doing so, causes millions to avoid what is around them.
When Halliday passes away, The OASIS transforms into a game in which Halliday’s egg is the grand prize, including the inheritance of billions in wealth and GSS. The winner must locate three keys and unlock three gates, all the while proving to be a whiz at 80’s trivia and gaming from Halliday’s favorite decade. On his journey, Parzival teams up with other players like Art3mis, Aech, Daito and Shoto, to battle the evil corporation IOI, their nemesis Sorrento, and his army of Sixers.
Naturally the book has a happy ending, in which good trumps evil. Though a very close call, Parzival defeats Sorrento, locates the egg in Halliday’s office, inherits billions, meets his love Art3mis in real life, and comes to the conclusion, as guided by Halliday, that reality is better than a fictitious world. A kiss, a touch, sitting in the garden eye to eye with a person, is a tangible that cannot truly be recreated in a virtual world.
Cline has an interesting perspective on the world. He shows a bleak outcome in the next few decades and only with Parzival winning in a tech driven alternate reality, can the world become better again. Halliday unknowingly cultivates that world by creating The OASIS, so that fame and fortune inside the VR world is more important than in the real world. The people do not rally to make the real world a better place (though they do rally against the Sixers in The OASIS). IOI, the competition to GSS, enslaves people who cannot pay their bills in the real world, and the indentured servitude is not something anyone can escape (except for Wade).
Cline seems to think technology will catapult so much that the line between reality and virtual becomes blurred. And his adventures shows one person’s resilience changing the direction of our future. Quite the weight on a single shoulder. Regardless, the book is fun, fantastical, and makes you think about what VR can become. As an aside, I still prefer to read books as that is my reprieve from the tech world we live in now. I do, however, look forward to seeing Ready Player One in theaters.