Ready Player One! Ernest Cline

giphy-30I had the great luck of listening to Wil Wheaton’s voice for two weeks while going to work and coming home. I got into the book so much that I was nearly shaking with anticipation before I got into the car and I ended up taking longer routes home so that the story would not end. I refused to watch the movie before I finished the book and I was so disappointed when I saw what they did with it… No 80’s songs, no pac-man, no Monthy Python and the Holy Grail and no talk about the immersive portals where you could be a character in a movie! The “Ready Player One” movie was designed for the teens of today with references to “The Iron Giant”, “Overwatch”, “Street Fighter”, “Back to the Future”, “Mad Max” and many more.

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It was a good movie but I still missed the awesomeness in the book. I wish they at least included more Og and the Lothrien castle he built and a bit of a background story about IOS and what modern slavery looked like when you were indentured. I also hated how they made Art3mis play a bigger role in the movie than she did in the book and I missed the part in the book where virgin Wade buys a sex doll 🙂

Well, I suppose you can’t make everyone happy.


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Ready? Go Player One!

Let me tell you why I liked the book. There are 99 reasons and Will Wheaton is one 🙂

The other 98 have to do with the description of a dystopian future where the market share is dominated by massive media giants dealing with the distribution of VR systems (like Occulus Rift) and kits to gear up your avatar. When I was in the book, I could not help thinking of the anime called “Summer Wars” where most of the people on the planet were part of an online platform (like The Oasis) and everyone had their own avatar. They would level up their avatar, go to school online and they would buy items to make it prettier or trendier. If you haven’t seen it, I fully recommend it as it’s so close to the Oasis as you can get!

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Now back to Ready Player One. In this future, humans have really screwed up.

The reason so many people are starving is because we’ve wrecked the planet. The Earth is dying, you know? It’s time to leave.

There is polution, overpopulation, poverty and unemployment.

Even the fast-food joints in my neighborhood had a two-year waiting list for job applicants.

The poorest of the bunch live in The Stacks – an area where trailers are stacked on top of each other and present a collapsing risk at the smallest breeze. (See below how that’s an issue)

You’re probably wondering what happened before you got here. An awful lot of stuff, actually. Once we evolved into humans, things got pretty interesting. We figured out how to grow food and domesticate animals so we didn’t have to spend all of our time hunting. Our tribes got much bigger, and we spread across the entire planet like an unstoppable virus. Then, after fighting a bunch of wars with each other over land, resources, and our made-up gods, we eventually got all of our tribes organized into a ‘global civilization.’ But, honestly, it wasn’t all that organized, or civilized, and we continued to fight a lot of wars with each other

In this terrible world, escapism is the new key word. People buy an account for 25 cents and log in into the Oasis, an online platform where everyone can be what they want to be, do what they want to do and spend real money to gear up. Wade is one of these people and once he had the option, he switched from a local school to an Oasis school, where he attended in his avatar (Wade3) every day. He went to school, he went to the online library, he looked for Halliday’s Easter Egg.

My avatar had a slightly smaller nose than me, and he was taller. And thinner. And more muscular. And he didn’t have any teenage acne.

One of the massive perks of OASIS was the anonymity. Painfully shy kids like Wade and Halliday can have a chance of fitting in and belonging, can create a new identity or discard their old one if it doesn’t fit them anymore.

Ready-Player-One-Posters-Parody-Social-Media-Reaction.jpgThree hidden keys open three secret gates

Wherein the errant will be tested for worthy traits

And those with the skill to survive these straits

Will reach The End where the prize awaits

Holiday was the person who invented the Oasis and when he passed away, he confessed he hid an Easter Egg in the Oasis and it could be found if someone was smart enough to decipher his riddles and find the three keys.  The interested people were many and they were called Gunters. The IOI employees joined the hunt too, trying to get the egg for the massive corporation they were employed in. They are called Sixers due to the avatar names which start with IOI and then followed by a six digit number – their employee number. ready-player-one-criticaFor 5 years, no-one was even close to finding the secret to the Copper Key, until Wade realises that one of the lines of the poem was referring to Ludus, where his school was.

The Copper Key awaits explorers

In a tomb filled with horrors

But you have much to learn

If you hope to earn

A place among the high scorers

This is the first point where the movie is different from the book. There was no cool motor race for the first key. There was instead an arduous research and a game of Joust against an undead emperor

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Acererak was a powerful wizard who became a lich, and later a demilich. 

in a Dungeons and Dragons extension called the Tomb of Horrors. This is where Wade (Perzival) meets the cool Art3mis – who he had a crush on for ages – and finds out she had been Jousting the Acererak for a month without being able to beat him.

 

She seemed to be going for a sort of mid-’80s postapocalyptic cyberpunk girl-next-door look. And it was working for me, in a big way. In a word: hot

He gives her a hint and exits swiftly but pretty soon, the cat is out of the bag.

H, his best friend, realises that the copper key has been found when he sees a jump in his friend’s points and deduces he is on Ludus. H finds the copper key too just after Artemis gains it and soon enough, the Sixers find it too and put a shield around the entrance of the tomb as they struggle to beat the wizard in the Joust match.

Wade clears off the first gate that the copper key gives him and receives the hint on how to find the Jade key.

In the mean time, he makes friends with the top 5 people who got the key as well (Art3mis, H, Shoto and Daito) and goes face to face with Sorento, the leader of the Sixers from IOI. The Sixers try really hard to get Wade on board. They offer him full-time employment, retirement funds, even Sorento’s position. When Wade tells them to stick it somewhere, they revert to pleas and then to threats.

“‘Can’t you take a hint? You can’t buy me. So piss off. Adios. Good. Bye.’ ‘Sit down, Wade.’ I froze. Had he just used my real name? ‘That’s right,’ Sorrento barked. ‘We know who you are. Wade Owen Watts. Born August twelfth, 2004. Both parents deceased. And we also know whereyou are. You reside with your aunt, in a trailer park located at 700 Portland Avenue in Oklahoma City. Unit 56-K, to be exact’… They didn’t know I was actually in my hideout right now… I was too stunned to speak. How had they found me? It was supposed to be impossible for anyone to obtain your OASIS account information… ‘Your first instinct right now might be to log out and make a run for it,’ Sorrento said. ‘If you log out of this chatlink session, you will die within a few seconds'”

Wade is not at home and he calls their bluff and logs off, just to find out that the Sixers’ scrupulousness and they did indeed blow up his aunt’s apartment and destroyed a few Stacks in the process.

Wade goes into hiding and warns Art3mis and H too – asking them to be careful. In the six months that follow, Wade starts corresponding with Art3mis and they form this great couple and their budding romance is great to follow just with a single warning voice telling him that people are not always what they seem..

When he confesses his love for Art3mis, she immediately breaks up with him and Wade spirals into depression. He gains weight, he loses interest in the race and he is barely making by. Only when Art3mis finds the place of the Jade key is when Wade kicks into gear again and goes to Sector 7 where all the Sixers were heading. He gets the planet wrong and he finds a sidequest where he needs to play a perfect game of Pacman. He does so in about six hours and he receives a mysterious coin as a rare artefact. Once he realises that’s not the key he was looking for, he heads to the correct place thanks to some help and manages to gain the jade key.

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The captain conceals the Jade Key

in a dwelling long neglected

But you can only blow the whistle

once the trophies are all collected

On the planet Frobozz in the XYZZY Cluster is a dilapidated white house containing a detailed re-creation of the game Zork, where The Jade Key is located. To earn the Jade Key, the player must collect each of Zork’s 19 treasures and place them in the trophy case of the white house. After all of the trophies are collected, the player must blow the Cap’N Crunch Bo’Sun Whistle which was located inside a box of Cap’n Crunch cereal in the white house’s kitchen cupboard.

After attaining the Jade Key, an OASIS user is only given a silver foil wrapper to guide them to the Second Gate, in addition to a single line of text.

Continue your quest by taking the test.

Both the wrapper and line of text are references to the Blade Runner franchise; the quote likens to the test administered by a Voight-Kampff machine, and the wrapper mimics a scene similar to the final scene of the original Blade Runner movie, where the wrapper is folded into an origami unicorn. By saying “unicorn”, the wrapper will fold into this very shape on its own.

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After completing the Second Gate, the user is presented with a single five-pointed red star. The star is present on the cover art of Rush’s 2112 album; by travelling to Syrinx, a user could attain the Crystal Key necessary to open the last and final gate. The Crystal Key is found by locating the guitar used to inspire the protagonist of the eponymous song, and returning it to the priest’s altar.

The first was ringed in red metal

The second, in green stone

The third is clearest crystal

And cannot be unlocked alone

The last gate is inside the Anorak castle and cannot be unlocked alone. It needs three players to unlock it at once. In the meantime, the Sixers have found the Crystal key and know the location of the Easter Egg, but they don’t know about the hidden condition required to open the door. They are struggling with the inscriptions above it.

“Faith, hope, charity”

The Sixers try everything: they speak the words in Latin, Elvish, Klingon, They find the Bible chapters relating to these but they don’t realize they’re the lyrics from Schoolhouse Rock! again. “Three Is a Magic Number.” – a hint to the number of players needed to open the last door.

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Perzival decides to do a massive coup on IOI from the inside so he creates virtual debts for his stolen identity so that he would be taken into the indentured servant program of IOI’s giant corp. As an IOI employee, he has no perks, he gets penalized for using bad words, he gets special perks if he keeps his satisfaction ratio over 8/10. What IOI doesn’t know is that Wade hacked their feeds and using some passwords he purchased off the dark web, he steals several zetabits of their internal data – including never released videos of Halliday and a few videos showing IOI killing Daito in real life after they have located him – in the middle of a match.

This is again not in the movie. I think they wanted to keep it R-rated so they didn’t show a poor guy being thrown of the last floor of his building. With this incriminating evidence, Wade escapes IOI headquarters and after planting a timed-bomb in Anorak’s castle, he rallies the whole of the Oasis in a fight-to-the death against Sorento.

The final battle is epic. Shoto faces off against Sorrento in Mechagodzilla, saying he “owe[s] this son of a bitch some payback” . We’re not sure how destroying someone’s video game robot will avenge an actual, real-life death, but whatever makes him feel better. Unfortunately, Sorrento vaporizes him and blows apart Parzival’s robot in the process. Parzival still has the Beta Capsule, though, and transforms into Ultraman and he cleaves Mechagodzilla in half. Sorrento ejects, but Parzival blasts him out of the air with a laser, and kills his avatar. After transforming back into Parzival, he enters Castle Anorak. With a little help from his friends, Art3mis and Aech, he unlocks the Third Gate.

Gundam robot dragon that Shook the World | collection ...

In order to keep their physical bodies safe, Ogden Morrow, Halliday’s ex partner, offers to keep them in his villa in Oregon until the final battle for the egg is over.

When the shield goes down, Art3mis, H and Parzival put their crystal keys in together and they all die. It was quite a surprise when this happened! Apparently the Sixers had placed a massive bomb and they’ve detonated it as soon as other players managed to open the third gate, killing the players and all the avatars in a mile radius.

Perzival does not die though, he had an extra life from playing a perfect game of PacMan – early on in the game. The third gate is a very difficult game of Tempest and a re-enactment of Monthy Python and the Holy GrailMontyPythonHolyGrail_018Pyxurz.jpg

After this is over, Perzival is taken to Halliday’s office where he sees every computer and every console ever invented in a single room. He finds an atari that was still working and plays adventure on it until he finds the hidden easter Egg – which proves to be Halliday’s Egg as well.

He won the entire game just 6 minutes before the Sixers did! That was close! I was cheering along with the book as the tension was quite high! 🙂 Anorak appears again and transfers all his powers and robes to Perzival and tells him that he how has superhuman powers (in the Oasis) and all his wealth in real-life. Perzival is excited and will keep to his promise to split his wealth with H, Art3mis and Shoto (Daito is dead..)

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All in all, awesome book about friendship, about challenges, about clues to follow and the soul-crushing influences of a mega corporation bent on world domination. BTW: Perzival only meets Art3mis in real-life at the end of the book where they share a sweet kiss in the back garden. Thankfully she was a woman.

Everyone thinks I’m a man in real life – Artemis

And H is a lesbian afro-american female who was told by her mother at a very young age that if she wants to be treated with respect, she needs to create the avatar of a WHITE MAN. I suppose racism is still an issue in 2045…

It’s a great book explaining the attraction of a virtual world when the real world was in shambles and the online addictions which some of us suffer from (me included) but not as severely as not being able to dismiss the real world in favour of the online one.

[OASIS] was much more than a game or an entertainment platform. (2.37)

It’s a new way of life. People stay connected to it for the majority of a day sometimes. Does such a massive time investment make something “real”? If people are spending most of their time there, doesn’t that make it almost more real than the real world?

The OASIS has replaced brick-and-mortal locations like malls, movie theaters, and coffee shops. This is a reality where not only can you stay home and shop, you can stay home and socialize. And you thought that in a world full of smart phones, people were glued to their screens now. Just wait until 2045.

In truth, the OASIS is just another form of escapism, a virtual prison designed to entertain people so that they would not bother with the outside issues anymore.

I’d come to see my [OASIS] rig for what it was: an elaborate contraption for deceiving my senses, to allow me to live in a world that didn’t exist.

 

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