July 28, 2012

By Andrea Emmes

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You should know that besides gaming, I am an avid reader and read about 3-5 books a week. I’m always on the hunt for any really good sci-fi, fantasy, game design or crime thrillers, when I was serendipitously introduced to one of the most amazing game fan books I’ve ever read. Actually, I was in a meeting at Pixar a week ago, when one of the head writers out of the blue suggested that I read this book. I was so excited after he gave me the break down of what it was all about and I immediately downloaded it to my Nook.  Now let me break it down for you.

Ready Player One is a fiction thriller set in the year 2044 and focuses on an 18 year old kid named Wade Watts  who lives within a virtually simulated reality called OASIS. This world and way of life was created by the world famous billionaire game designer, James Halliday.  It’s very reminiscent to the premise in the Bruce Willis movie, Surrogates, where everyone works,  goes to school, shops, and escapes from the crap that is their real life within an alternate, virtual reality. Cline’s twist to that idea is that everyone in OASIS can of course quest in the largest MMORPG (massively multi-player online role playing game) ever created. Think about World of Warcraft on crack with a million buffs and power ups.  James Halliday sadly passes away, but since he doesn’t have an heir, he created the ultimate quest and left instructions in his will. Whosoever can find the Easter Egg* he hid deep inside OASIS will be the recipient of all of his billions and have sole control over his company. By the way, Ready Player One is a million times better than Surrogates and in no way compares, lol. Seriously.

As you can imagine, everyone on the planet is after Halliday’s Easter Egg and it’s a literal battle to the death as the race ensues. I don’t want to give anything away, but the drama and thrilling “what’s going to happen” next factor in this book is unbelievable. I read this book in one sitting because I just could not put it down.

Halliday had a severe obsession with 80’s pop culture–honestly, who doesn’t?–and infused so much of the 80’s  music, literature, movies and tv shows into his game and reminds us of the great classic games like Zork, Pac-Man, Robotron, Burger-time, Galaga, and a million more.  This, to me, makes Ready Player One,  the ultimate history book of all things games and the 1980’s. I was in geek heaven.

In order to collect the keys that open the 3 gates within OASIS, Halliday created exquisitely clever riddles (or shall I say the genius award goes to Cline, our humble author) that forces the players to absorb all there is to know about the 1980’s and play every game ever made. It is honestly, pure genius and I was continuously amazed at how Cline wove these riddles** around pop culture and found obscure references that linked all things together to point the player and the reader in the right direction.

Not only was I highly entertained but was thoroughly educated about game design and how to put the “fun factor” into gameplay. In looking into Ernest Cline’s background, I noticed that besides being the writer of the cult classic, “Fanboy”, he was not a game designer, but just a geek like us. Albeit the ultimate geek and I bow down before his geekness. The amount of research that this man has gone through to provide us with all of these priceless nuggets of game and 80’s trivia is astounding. AND he managed to write an engaging and addictive story. For this, he has now become my favorite author. Sorry Deaver, Brown, Galehorn, Patterson, Salvatore, Dekker. You have been dethroned. Cline is at the top of my leader board.  OH, and I can’t wait to see the movie!!

Thank you Cline for rejuvenating my passion for games and for challenging me in a way that you’ll never fully appreciate. I hope that I can be a better game designer and gamer geek from here on out. I’m also on a mission to relive the glory days and start playing those old school games mentioned in Ready Player One. I found a great website where you can play classic arcade games for free on your computer here.

I rate this book the highest it can possibly be rated and encourage everyone to go out and read it NOW.  And Cline if you are reading this, I would LOVE  to interview you and share more about you and your geekness to our readers.

 

Read On, Gamers

Game On, Cline—Andrea

 

*—For those who don’t know what an “Easter Egg” is in the gaming world, it is one of those little gifts that game designers like to hide in their games, like secret rooms, inside jokes, names of designers, programmers, etc. that is so much fun for gamers to hunt for.  It was coined by Warren Robinett, programmer for Atari, who created a secret room in the game Adventure. Robinett for some reason wasn’t credited for his work on this game, so he left his mark by hiding his name as an Easter Egg in this secret room. When players collected this white pixel-like egg, his name would pop up.  It’s actually a practice found everywhere. Disney has “Hidden Mickeys” all over their movies and theme parks.—

**—Speaking of riddles and Easter Eggs, Ernest Cline has actually created an Easter Egg hunt for his readers to partake in and become real life “gunters”, or game hunters–a term coined by Cline. The Easter Egg can only be found in the hard cover and paper back books and sadly for me, NOT in the eBooks.  (Guess I’m going to the store).

 

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