Having fallen through the cracks of the video game surface is a little adventure known as Ready Player One. What makes this adventure different, and probably sheltered it from most gamers’ views, is that it comes on a media format called a “book.”
Now for those who have not heard of this format, or may have forgotten about it, here’s a quick rundown: a “book” is like a video game, except on paper, and with no direct interaction. Or, a “book” can also be akin to a really, really, really long blog post. Before the Internet, before console gaming, even before TV and the talking moving picture, there were books. Also, instead of being dominated by the Big Three, books have found many outlets from programmers (also referred to as “authors”) such as Steve Jobs, Stephen Hawking, Stephen Colbert, Steve Shakespeare, Steven God, and Snooki.
Once you wrap your head around the fact that books are not only still in existence but some are even enjoyable, Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One makes for a great adventure. Quietly released in August of 2011, Cline’s first novel is steadily picking up steam, with film options already being picked up by Warner Bros.
Ready Player One tells the story of Wade, your average kid in America circa 2045, formerly the crown jewel of the modern world but now a decaying wasteland. With deceased parents and a drug-addicted aunt as his only family, Wade’s life is pretty dismal… in the real world. In the online world known as the Ontologically Anthropocentric Sensory Immersive Simulation (the OASIS), Wade ceases to exist and becomes Parzival, an avatar who attends high school on the planet Ludus.
The OASIS is a creation of multimillionaire genius James Halliday, an eccentric game developer with an obsession of the era of his childhood, the 1980s. Halliday died a 67-year-old never-married bachelor with no family or next-of-kin, and so he bequeathed his fortune to the winner of a contest – somewhere within the OASIS, Halliday programmed several tests into different worlds revolving around some of his ’80s obsessions. Find Halliday’s Easter Egg within the simulation, win his fortunes.
After five years of nothing, Parzival becomes the first person ever to solve the first clue, and launches the world into an “egg-hunting” frenzy. Now, amidst all the pressure and fame associated with being the top spot of the Scoreboard, Parzival has to fend off other “gunters” (egg hunters), including the samurai brothers Daito and Shoto, the beguiling vixen Art3mis, and even his best online friend Aech, as well as the Sixers led by the cold-hearted Nolan Sorrento, avatars run by the IOI corporation who will stop at nothing to win control of the OASIS for profit-making purposes.
Ready Player One is reminiscent of a National Treasure-type treasure hunt chase combined with a Matrix-like sci-fi adventure surrounded by VH1’s I Love the ’80s, and it’s engrossing. The OASIS easily reminds readers of a full-sensory Facebook or Second Life, and for early-generation gamers, the ’80s references are plentiful and pleasing. Fans of Oingo Boingo, Pac-Man, cheesy ’80s Japanese superhero shows, WarGames and Family Ties will feel right at home inside Ready Player One. Gamers will find many ways to identify with the main protagonist, Parzival, be it the cultivation of an online identity, playing with honor, balancing online life and reality, or just awkwardness around the preferred gender. Cline’s characters are not only easy to identify with, they’re easy to like and easy to root for; readers will get as caught up with their performances in the Easter Egg Hunt as the characters are themselves.
As mentioned before, the book has already been optioned to be a major motion film. If there’s two things we know about Hollywood, it’s that (a) Hollywood is really good at making bad movies based on good books and (2) Hollywood is really good at making bad movies based on good video games. Imagine what they might do with this one.
Do yourself a favor and download a copy of Ready Player One to your e-Reader. Or… you know… actually buy the physical book. They still exist.