A friend recommended reading Ready Player One. I was due for a fiction book so the timing was perfect. This was a quick read for me as I found the story equal parts terrifying and entertaining.
Trying not to give too much away, the scary factor is how likely we could end up living in a world like the book. I think some of us already are…
After an energy crisis, the citizens of Earth have given up on reality and spend their time, and money, in the virtual world called the OASIS. The OASIS allows them to become whoever they want, and do whatever they want. Think of it as a new life within an endless, virtual video game. Society is all in. Kids can even attend school in the OASIS. Millions of people begin to live their lives solely through their online avatar, rarely interacting or meeting others in the real world.
With some of these games out there, this doesn’t seem inconceivable right?
In fact, a lot of OASIS reminded me of what I have heard so far about Fortnite – haven’t played as I am a gamer at heart and envision a lot of my productivity would get wiped out as I get sucked into the game… Know thyself.. Anyways, OASIS is also free to download and access and then users are expected to pay to improve their avatar and experience.
In real life, just as in the book, we are seeing video game companies capitalize on people’s willingness to spend real money on their virtual lives:
“Video game companies appear to have cracked the code on monetizing digital engagement through direct-to-user microtransactions. France’s Ubisoft, like its peers Activision, EA, and Take-Two, has shifted its strategy from releasing annual blockbusters to reinventing franchises such as Assassin’s Creed and Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege as digital live services. For Ubisoft, games as services, wherein players purchase digital content on a recurring basis, are four times as effective at retaining monetization in their second year after the purchase as traditional packaged media games (see “Recurring Revenues from Live Games”). In Assassin’s Creed Origins, these purchasable digital items include gear such as a $4.99 “unicorn mount,” a $2.50 “lord of bones predator bow,” and $2 maps that provide time-saving shortcuts. These in-game microtransactions, or what Ubisoft refers to as “recurring player investments,” grew 87 percent in fiscal year 2018, and now represent 27 percent of total company revenue.” (Article)
Those are some staggering numbers on what are truly worthless items. People’s willingness to upgrade their avatar’s “skins” is making the gaming companies flush with cash.
Back to the book:
The protagonist, Wade, provides a snapshot of what someone growing up in virtual reality’s childhood looked like:
“I’d attended school in the real world up until the sixth grade. It hadn’t been a very pleasant experience. I was a painfully shy, awkward kid, with low self-esteem and almost no social skills—a side effect of spending most of my childhood inside the OASIS. Online, I didn’t have a problem talking to people or making friends. But in the real world, interacting with other people—especially kids my own age—made me a nervous wreck. I never knew how to act or what to say, and when I did work up the courage to speak, I always seemed to say the wrong thing. My appearance was part of the problem. I was overweight, and had been for as long as I could remember.” Highlight(yellow) – Chapter 2 > Page 30 · Location 558
Wade goes through entertaining challenges as he attempts to solve a series of puzzles. Slowly, he begins to see his virtual life for what it is:
“I’d been so proud of all this high-tech hardware when I’d first purchased it. But over the past few months, I’d come to see my rig for what it was: an elaborate contraption for deceiving my senses, to allow me to live in a world that didn’t exist. Each component of my rig was a bar in the cell where I had willingly imprisoned myself.” Highlight(yellow) – Chapter 19 > Page 198 · Location 3527
Ready Player One provides villains, action, a sappy romance and tons of 80’s movies, music and gaming knowledge. Did the author know all that about the 80’s already? Wild in and of itself.
The book then come full circle with the creator of the OASIS giving final words of warning about the downside of his reliance on a virtual life.
“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.” Highlight(yellow) – Chapter 38 > Page 364 · Location 6424
I thought this was a good book (I’ve heard mixed reviews on the movie) that weaved an interesting premise and lessons through an entertaining story.
Let me know what you think!