So, books, eh? I know, they aren’t technically video games but there are some books, some glorious books, that are about video games. I’d like to take a few minutes from our normal writings on video games to tell you about one such tome. The book is titled Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. If you read our site then you’ll like this book. Bold statement, I know, but I really believe it and I’ll tell you why.
Ready Player One is the story of Parzival, a great warrior, wizard, and high school student in the year 2044 when most education takes place in a virtual world. In fact, almost everything from commerce, gaming, live performances, and even sitting at your desk job is done within the realm of virtual reality in the 2040’s. This VR world is called the OASIS and Parzival is the avatar of a boy named Wade Watts. Wade is in the middle of playing the biggest alternate reality game the world has ever seen, and with billions of dollars on the line, he’s currently in first place.
The story focuses on a contest set up by James Halliday, creator of the OASIS, before he died. Somewhere hidden inside this immense virtual world hundreds of times larger than the biggest MMO is an Easter egg that, when found, will grant the finder all of Halliday’s vast fortune and control of the company in charge of the OASIS. The trick to the contest is that all of the clues to the game center around Halliday’s favorite pastime, 1980’s geek pop culture. Hunters for Halliday’s Egg need to immerse themselves in everything 80’s from the ins and outs of Pac-Man killscreens to every minute detail of the classic movie Blade Runner if they want a shot at winning.
Inside the Cabinet
From a gamer’s perspective, this book is both a treasure trove of gaming history and a hint at what gameplay could be like in the not too-terribly distant future. While a good portion of the story is just fan-service for 80’s aficionados, every moment of it made me smile. I remember being enamored when I was a little kid watching WarGames and seeing Matthew Broderick get a free phone call by placing part of a pop can in a payphone, or hearing about the contest around the Swordquest series, and this book brings those memories flooding back. Best of all are the in-depth histories and secrets of certain classic games as well as descriptions of what those games would be like if you could be inserted into them Tron style including Adventure, Joust, and Tempest for the Atari 2600 just to name a few.
Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out
After reliving the 80’s in all its pixely glory, it’s time to see what gaming will be like in a few decades. Everyone remembers the clunky VR visors and gloves of the 90’s and just how bad they were, but what if the visors were as light as glasses and could render a full field of view directly on your retina? And what if you could get a full suite of equipment that would replicate the virtual world for each one of your senses? Running through a beautiful field of flowers? There’s an olfactory tower for that to let you stop and smell the roses. Flying in a helicopter over the grand canyon? There’s a robotic chair for that. Playing one of those imported Japanese dating sims? Thank god for haptic gaming suits, (machine washable of course). You get the idea; it’s basically a way to feel like you’re in the game in every way possible without actually being there. The problem, of course, is that it’d be much more fun to exist in that world than the one here where you have to actually cook your food and take out the trash. In fact, some of the biggest conflicts of the story occur at the crossroads between people being jacked in and the real world falling apart around them.
While Wade races to find the egg there are plenty of people trying to stop him. There’s an entire community of egg hunters whose life goal is just to get there first. Then, of course, there’s a company that’s created an army of its own cheating hunters just to try to take control of Halliday’s company and change the OASIS into what is best for its corporate bottom line. This book is one of those rides that leaves you reeling with the desire that its events would come true and that we could all be adventuring together to find something so precious as Halliday’s Egg. “But you don’t have to take my word for it…”