Tales of the Rampant Coyote

Adventures in Indie Gaming!

Impressions: Ready Player One

Posted by Rampant Coyote on May 7, 2015

ReadyPlayerOneSomehow, the book Ready Player One by Earnest Cline never quite made it onto my radar, though I’d heard it mentioned in passing a couple of times. A friend recommended it to me this weekend, so I had to check it out.

And then I had trouble putting it down.

Is it a masterwork of storytelling? Maybe not. But it is a confluence of 1980s pop culture, Massively Multiplayer Gaming, Cyberpunk, and classic arcade games, all meshed into one wild science fiction storyline. The skill of the storytelling comes in making that incredibly delicious set of ingredients all work together in a coherent plot and setting. It does work, so if you are into all or most of these things, the book is a rollercoaster ride of fun.

So here’s the gist of the setup: A whole bunch of doomsday scenarios have come to pass about thirty years from right now. Climate change, peak oil, overpopulation – it’s all there. Living in the real world sucks. So most people escape into the world of OASIS – a virtual reality MMO that has in many ways replaced the more general Internet and other forms of entertainment. To deal with overcrowded schools, even some public education now takes place online for better students.

The original creator of OASIS was a  child of the 80s, and became the richest guy in the world – and has majority stakeholdings in the company behind OASIS, which is by far the biggest and most successful company in the world. When he dies, he offers the ultimate challenge: everything he has is willed to whomever can find his hidden “Easter Egg” buried inside this virtual universe.  Some clues are given, and they are all related to his love of the 1980s and video games. And so, for a few years, there’s a massive resurgence of 80s pop-culture, and everyone dreams of being the winner of the contest and inheritor of the largest fortune in human history.

But when some egg hunters (or “gunters”) finally obtain the first piece of the multi-stage puzzle, they learn that there are those who will stop at nothing – including real-world murder – to obtain that kind of fortune and control over the world’s most successful corporation. And so the race begins in earnest, requiring creative gamesmanship in the virtual world and desperate cunning in the real world to win – or even to survive.

If you have absolutely no love for the 1980s or old-school video games, this might not be the book for you. But if you grow nostalgic at the names Atari 2600, John Hughes, Zork, Duran Duran, and Pac-Man, or if you’ve ever spent a bunch of time in an MMORPG and imagined what it would be like “living” there with serious virtual reality technology, then you may geek out on this book.

Or you can wait for the movie… I understand Steven Spielberg has signed on to direct it. But… maybe read the book first. There’s no way they can fit all that nostalgic goodness into one film… 🙂

Filed Under: Books, Impressions - Comments: 4 Comments to Read

  • Felipe Pepe said,

    I really disagree with you here man… I hated the book, thought it was the most condescending thing I ever read.

    I mean, seriously, the main character is so BAD. He just knows everything, is the best at everything and get everything that he wants…

    I also have a deeper problem with this book. I don’t know how to put this, but in Mass Effect you play as Commander Sheppard, the badass Space Jesus. That’s a cool fantasy. But fantasying about being the best player of Mass Effect?

    Honestly, doesn’t that sound a bit weird to you? The whole book creates a magical virtual land where everything is possible – your own Narnia, filled with adventures. And it’s used to play some 80’s games.

  • Rampant Coyote said,

    I dunno – those aren’t invalid points, but it sounds to me a little like judging it based on what it’s not rather than what it is. I was pretty amused by the whole meta of it… using ultra-high-end technology to go retro. That, and coming up with such a wild rationale for explaining why people are obsessed with 80s trivia.

    So for me – yeah, it was kinda corny / cartoony, but I’m just fine with that.

    There is the one part where Wade does his ‘real world’ operation (I’m trying to be as vague as possible to avoid spoilers) which was surprisingly limited in its twists / hitches, which felt kind of anticlimactic.

  • Adamantyr said,

    I just read this, and loved it!

    It’s not just full of 80’s pop culture references and video game references, it’s RICH and DRIPPING with them… It helps also that he references games and computers and other things that are very obscure, like Dungeons of Daggorath.

    The story itself plays out about as you’d expect, but that doesn’t make it any less enjoyable. I’m looking forward to the movie and seeing how it delivers! (Hopefully with more respect than “Pixels” appears to be doing…)

  • FuzzyDuck81 said,

    I really enjoyed the book – groundbreaking it certainly isn’t, but as a bit of silly fun escapism, it’s great. Wil Wheaton’s reading in the audiobook version is excellent too.