In the year 2045, reality is an ugly place. The only time teenage Wade Watts really feels alive is when he’s jacked into the virtual utopia known as the OASIS. Wade’s devoted his life to studying the puzzles hidden within this world’s digital confines—puzzles that are based on their creator’s obsession with the pop culture of decades past and that promise massive power and fortune to whoever can unlock them.
I saw the movie with co-workers who are gamers and were so excited I could hardly stand it. My opinion of the whole deal was, at best, neutral. My knowledge of Ready Player One was only this was a really popular book, and at least one friend loathed it.
What a perfect escapist film. Bright, fast, flashy, filled with 1980s pop culture references that had my co-workers talking excitedly for days. I was bemused. Then one of them loaned her copy of the book to me. She was so excited to share it with me.
Perfect escapist fare again. Ready Player One is wish fulfillment 101. It’s like Cline took every reference from 1980s pop culture and crammed it into a “wouldn’t it be cool if ….” version of “my life sucks and I was really happy back then.” Which is, pointedly, harsh and maybe a bit unfair to Cline. Because we all have wish fulfillment fantasies, mine is comfortable surroundings on a golden beach surrounded by books and all the time to read them.
Pollution, poverty, climate change, unemployment have all reached their logical conclusion in 2045. It’s no wonder people would rather be in OASIS, the virtual world created by James Halliday, than anywhere else. And, like everything else in any world, the rich and powerful want even more.
Wade is the one-dimensional hero. The teenager who’s smarter and cooler than everyone else, saving the day from the big bad corporation who wants to take over OASIS and profit from it. Halliday’s death spurs an all out 3-riddle solving winner takes all contest for ownership. Wade’s team of five against IOI’s massive army of employees whose only job it is to research Halliday’s life and 1980s trivia, or strap up in game harnesses and play until they pass out.
The teenagers win. Wade gets the girl, the fortune and the power to turn OASIS off one day a week so everyone can reconnect to the “real world.” That’s pretty much it. Nothin’ deep or complex. Just a good mind candy afternoon read.
Although I’m sure my co-workers would disagree about the meaning of all those Easter Eggs.