Feb 24, 2020
Tye Sheridan as Wade Watts in “Ready Player One,” a film adaptation of the best-selling novel by Ernest Cline, directed by Steven Spielberg. (Jaap Buitendijk/Warner Bros.)

‘Ready Player One’: pop culture references and a lesson in living life offline

I had very low expectations for “Ready Player One,” mostly due to its trailer doing such a disservice to the plot. On the outside, it looked like a weak dystopian film that plays on the set of a virtual reality game.

But I can admit that I was wrong. This movie is much more than that.   

Filled with pop culture references that ranged from Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” to Stephen King’s “The Shining,” director Steven Spielberg created a film that pays tribute to many of the moments and things we love from pop culture history.

“Ready Player One” takes place in Columbus, Ohio, during the year 2045. Resources are scarce, the population grows exponentially and drones deliver pizza – doesn’t seem too far off, does it?

Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan) is an orphan who lives in a beat-up trailer with his aunt Alice (Susan Lynch) and her controlling boyfriend. To escape his hardships, Wade, along with the rest of the world, finds solace in the OASIS – a virtual reality world created by gamemaker James Halliday (Mark Rylance).

The OASIS is composed of worlds where people can dance, race, battle and interact. They can create avatars of all shapes, sizes, species and genders.

When Halliday dies, it is revealed that he has hidden an “Easter egg” inside the game. The player who finds it will win the title of “Player One” and become the gamekeeper of the OASIS, as well as rich beyond his or her wildest imagination.

I watched as Wade spent hours within the OASIS, learning about Halliday in an effort to win the game. But he wasn’t the only one spending every waking moment trying to become Player One.

Parents and their kids are in the same room, but glued to their own goggles. Businesses have capitalized on technology said to advance the chances of winning. There is an obsession to create an online presence that exceeds other players’ profiles.

It was uncanny and reminiscent of life today, where quite often we go out with friends just to have our eyes glued to our phones. And the idea of being Instagram famous is now considered a viable career option.

This idea trickles throughout the film and, eventually, Wade learns, along with his online friends, to enjoy moments in the real world. I think it was a strong lesson for viewers.

As someone who isn’t too familiar with the video game industry, this movie helped me to realize the craft that goes into video game-making. It also reminded me of the original purpose of these games – to have fun.

“Ready Player One” is in theaters now.

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