Every Gamer Should Read: Ready Player One (2011)

You've seen the movie, now read the book!


Ballantine Books

You can’t spend 24 hours a day lobbing incendiary grenades at terrorists in CS:GO or waiting in vain for Fortnite’s long-delayed Season 3 to finally start. You’ve got to sleep, for one thing, not to mention eat—and no, chasing a fistful of Flintstones Gummies with a can of Monster Assault does not count as a meal. Reading is optional, of course, but if you can tear your eyes away from the screen for a few minutes, you’ll find that there are some pretty great books out there that even the most die-hard gamer can appreciate, covering topics from the history of video games to the bleeding edge of esports.

This week’s pick:

Ready Player One (2011)

Tye Sheridan as Wade in the 2018 film adaptation of Ready Player One.

You’ve seen the movie, now read the book!

Well, I’m assuming you’ve seen the movie. Steven Spielberg’s 2018 adaptation of Ready Player One was delirious eye candy for gamers and pop-culture trainspotters of all stripes. It earned a nomination for a visual-effects Oscar and won the Saturn award for best science-fiction film.

It’s a great popcorn flick, so chock-a-block with CGI action scenes and loaded with Easter eggs that on first viewing you could be forgiven for failing to notice that there’s actually a story to go along with it.

Ernest Cline set his novel in a dystopian future. In 2045, the masses use electronic gaming to escape the dreariness of real life. Does that sound more like the dystopian present? In Cline’s vision, people aren’t just playing video games or watching esports pros’ Twitch streams to keep themselves distracted. Instead, they are plugging themselves—or at least their avatars—into a fully immersive virtual world complete with its own currency.

Easter-egg hunt

That world is called the OASIS, and when Ready Player One opens, its creator, James Halliday, has recently died. In his will, Halliday left a series of clues that would lead astute users to a series of locked gates within the OASIS, ultimately leading to an Easter egg. Whoever finds the egg would get not only Halliday’s fortune, but also control of the OASIS itself.

This is where slum-dwelling teenager Wade Watts (avatar name: Parzival) comes in. Wade has been studying the video games, music, and movies of the 1980s—Halliday had a known obsession with the decade—in hopes of finding the keys that would lead him to the egg.

Can Wade do it, with a little help from his friends? Will the corporate thugs from Innovative Online Industries reach the egg first and seize control of the OASIS for their own profiteering ends?

Well, you’ve seen the movie, right? Now read the book!

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I have done a lot of different things over the course of my life and professional career. I have interviewed Oscar and Grammy winners and written cover stories for glossy newsstand magazines. I have played guitar in a rock band on national TV and run an independent music label for which I wrote all of the PR and marketing materials. In my spare time, I sweated out a novel about a world where raccoons are kings and dragons are real.

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