Reading Ready Player One: Loneliness

Ready Player One book cover illustration by WHISKYTREE.

Everything falls out beneath him after Wade confesses his love to Art3mis. Art3mis, full of concern about the basis of their relationship and desiring to put the contest for the egg as her focus again, ends all connections with him.

Heartbroken, Wade retreats into frustration and sadness before diving headlong back into the contest. He buys state of the art equipment, shaves every inch of hair off his body (don’t ask), and spends day and night trying to decipher the clues that will lead him to the next piece of the puzzle, the jade key. But even with a singular focus in his life again, Wade doesn’t seem any happier. He longs for something more, something beyond what he can disguise under an avatar and username. Virtual reality can only provide him so much; it doesn’t cover the dissatisfaction Wade feels with who he is outside of the OASIS:

“In real life, I was nothing but an antisocial hermit. A recluse. A pale-skinned pop culture-obsessed geek. An agoraphobic shut-in, with no real friends, family, or genuine human contact. I was just another sad, lost, lonely soul, wasting his life on a glorified video game.”

Before he met Art3mis, Wade seemed content with living a life focused on his desires and wishes. What changed?

Wade’s obsession with the hunt for the egg is understandable. Who doesn’t want to play endless video games and watch your favorite pieces of media day in and day out, with only yourself to worry about? A hedonistic lifestyle is all about pleasure; why worry about others when you can live in self-indulgence? Living for you brings elation in the moment, but it’s what happens afterwards that sucks, when you feel a sense of emptiness, when all that energy you poured into yourself proves to be meaningless. You discover that when life is all about you, it feels empty indeed.

And as an exclamation point on how Wade has been living, even after he “improves” himself through technology and reinvigorated effort, it’s Art3mis, a player who wants to change the world for others, who beats the boy wonder to the punch and finds the jade key first. Though unhappy, until then Wade could at least hang his hat on being “first” and having the top score in this game, but no more. The contest goes on, and Wade is left behind: clueless, depressed, and without realizing that what he needs isn’t a set of keys—it’s something of far more value that begins with looking beyond himself.

Discussion Questions

  • Can dissatisfaction with real life be replaced with a fulfilled digital life?
  • Do you respond to loneliness by hiding, or by reaching out to others?
  • Do you find it challenging to use your energy and resources on others rather than on yourself?

Area of Effect is reading Ready Player One in preparation for the upcoming movie! Read along with us as we post our chapter commentaries every Friday and post an answer to one of the questions in the comment section!

Charles Sadnick

Charles Sadnick

Contributing Writer at Area of Effect
Converted from the moment he first heard Han Solo reply, “I know,” Charles resisted his nerdy urges until Hayao Miyazaki, Spike Spiegel, and Evangelion Unit-01 forced him to confront the truth of his inner geekery. Baptized into otakudom, Charles masks himself in the not-so-secret identity of TWWK as he blogs endlessly about anime and faith.

He can also be found, however, feeding his other nerd habits, including A Song of Ice and Fire. Charles also remains hopelessly stuck in the 90's, maybe best demonstrated by his unexplainable passion for The Phantom Menace.

A historian and director at a government agency by day, Charles joins in the work of college and digital ministry is his off-time, while growing each day in the round-the-clock charge of being a husband and father.
Charles Sadnick