Reading Ready Player One: Society

Ready Player One book cover illustration by WHISKYTREE.

Reality often sucks. For many, just attempting to make a living takes more effort than they can muster, and most countries have a very clear upper and lower class. In North America, where the middle class is still a dream we are attempting to keep, it gets harder and harder to maintain hope that things will improve. Poverty increases, debt is at an all-time high, and if we don’t run out of fossil fuels soon, their use will probably ruin our climate to the point that we can’t live like we do anyway. Ready Player One depicts a world in the not-too-distant future that attempts to answer the question: what will North America be like if we don’t change anything?

“At a time of drastic social and cultural upheaval, when most of the world’s population longed for an escape from reality, the OASIS provided it, in a way that was cheap, legal, safe and not technically addictive.” The OASIS provides the escape from the brutal reality of life. For the rich, it’s a place to fulfill the desires that reality can’t or won’t offer, and for the poor it’s a chance to be an ideal version of yourself.

How do you escape uncomfortable realities?

The OASIS is a chance to travel, to adventure, and to escape drudgery. It’s a place where the obvious hopelessness of poverty can be circumnavigated through questing and avatar apparel. It’s such a successful escape, that even the in-game currency is more stable than anything else in the world. But not only does it offer an escape from reality, but an enticing puzzle as well; when its founder, James Halliday, died, he left controlling interest in the OASIS and his billions of dollars to the player who finds an easter egg he’s hidden within the worlds. Halliday tied this quest to everything he loved and wanted to pass on to others: mainly, the geeky and nerdy pop culture from the 70’s and early 80’s. So not only is the OASIS an escape from reality, but with the introduction of the Egg Quest, it is also a place where there is hope of drastically changing your fortune. All it requires is mastering ‘80’s pop culture lore.

This idea is the thing that hooked me as a reader. Being able to escape the monotony of life and the insignificance of my place in the world is one thing. But the chance at a bazillion dollars that could be gained from obsessing over geek trivia is another; that’s a secret little dream come true. As a child of the ‘80’s, if someone told me that my ability to play arcade games and knowledge of Star Wars would make me rich, I’d laugh, but secretly long for them to be right. The OASIS and the Egg Hunt offer both an escape from the real world that isn’t always kind, and an escape from the socioeconomic bottom that most of the world lives in. But at what cost to humanity?

Discussion Questions

  • Is the dystopia of Ready Player One a possibility?
  • What are the most beloved things that you’d want to pass on to others after your death?
  • How do you escape uncomfortable realities?

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!

Dustin Schellenberg

Dustin Schellenberg

Contributing Writer at Area of Effect
Dustin spends his time exploring the far reaches of space, understand the ancient ways of might and magic, and wandering the post-apocalyptic wastes. If it has a reasonably open world, a crafting system and some way to sneak around, he'll be there. When not gaming, he's probably planning his next D&D character (because his DM keeps killing off the old ones). He is a competent bass player and guitarist, mediocre mid laner and outright awful FPS player. He is father of two, husband of one, a sometimes theologian, and all-times pastor of Crestview Park Free Methodist Church in Winnipeg, MB.
Dustin Schellenberg