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Virtual reality check} ?> As the world we live in grows and shifts, so do the ways we avoid it.
Video games have come a long way since their genesis on the tiny screens of archaic supercomputers. Today, millions of people spend millions of hours inhabiting virtual worlds. But as games get better, some players stop wanting to log out.
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline takes readers on a journey that will cause them to rethink today’s developing technologies.
Ready Player One takes place in a near future where a major war has left much of the planet devastated. Most people live in poverty in major cities; food, power, and shelter are privileges not afforded to everyone.
The only redeeming feature to this reality is the OASIS. More formally know as the Ontologically Anthropocentric Sensory Immersive Simulation, the OASIS is, for all intents and purposes, a video game on an unfathomable scale. The OASIS is so large and successful that virtually all business, including attending school and working, takes place within the digital world.
Players enter the OASIS with an immersive visor and pair of gloves that allow the user to physically interact with the digital world.
The story follows young hero Wade Watts on a journey to answer a series of riddles and puzzles in order to find a treasure of immense magnitude. His journey takes more than a year, and Wade needs to spend more and more time in the game to accomplish his goals.
As his adventure escalates, he eventually upgrades his visor and gloves to a top-end gaming rig complete with full body immersion and direct-nerve interfaces. He spends more time in the OASIS than he does in the real world. And it starts to take its toll.
Wade starts to hate the OASIS. He hates the idea that he likes himself better when he’s inside. He hates that he can only be with his friends when they’re logged in. And soon the dangers of his adventure jump the gap between the game world and his own.
“I created the OASIS because I never felt at home in the real world. I didn’t know how to connect with the people there. I was afraid, for all of my life, right up until I knew it was ending. That was when I realized, as terrifying and painful as reality can be, it’s also the only place where you can find true happiness. Because reality is real.”
—James Halliday, Creator of the OASIS
The OASIS lives up to its name. While it seems like a beacon of life in a wasteland of reality, the closer you get to it the more you see how false it really is.
Wade’s story makes me think about my own virtual presence. I’ve spent more hours than I care to think playing video games. From 16-bit to 1080p, CRT to HD, I saw these virtual worlds as a way to interact with a story. I could be the hero or the villain, the saviour or the avatar of destruction, but I was the one who controlled my character’s destiny.
The world around me was messy, but in these games everything was simple. John the villager needs six bear pelts, I kill six bears, give John the pelts, earn my 50 gold and away I go.
It was simple. But I couldn’t use it as an excuse to log out of reality forever.
Ready Player One is a blast. It’s a thrill ride through a well-inhabited world. But it’s also a stark reminder. It’s something that many of us who have spent our lives through pixels need to be reminded of.
“…as terrifying and painful as reality can be, it’s also the only place where you can find true happiness. Because reality is real.”
Life isn’t a game. There are no 1-ups or bonus levels, no cheat codes or speed runs. But there is an adventure to be had for those willing to play.
Ready player one.
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