In our previous installment, we discussed the world of Ready Player One and the set-up for the story, along with a recap of the events of the first chapter or so. It’s interesting to note the OASIS is shaped like a Rubik’s Cube and contains 27 sectors. It may even seem like a “Weird Al” Yankovic reference to those of us who know about such things.
An integral part of the previous chapter — one we sort of glossed over — is Wade’s overall world view. There’s an entire section involving his thoughts, philosophy and bits of cynicism as he destroys robots in his video game. Wade has learned a great deal about the world via the OASIS and feels lost within it.
The Easter Egg hunt changes all that. We rejoin Wade Watts, now safely set up in his hideout — the back half of a large van in the midst of a vehicle graveyard — and the book shows us the OASIS for the first time.
Now that the character of Wade is firmly established, the story begins. At this point, the reader knows about Wade’s friend Aech and the Gunters (a slang term used to refer to the hunters of Halliday’s Easter egg) and has been immersed in extreme amounts of 1980s pop culture. I think that’s part of the charm of the story, at least in my case.
After a bit more exposition, Wade sits in his school and becomes lost in his own thoughts. He does tend to go on a bit, but the big takeaway here is that he’s finally ready to truly take on the challenge of the Easter Egg hunt.
Somewhere around Chapter Six, the story starts picking up, leading to the quest for the Copper Key.
Through a rather long rumination during class, we get a sense of who Wade is: the nerdy, ’80s obsessive, video game loving parallel to James Halliday. It may seem like exposition, but it’s more like introspection from a solitary, lonely young man. Wade is given an opportunity to learn from the person he idolizes and he does so during this thinking session.
It is through this bit of introspection that the path to the key is revealed via a 67-year old Dungeons & Dragons module, The Tomb of Horrors. For the uninitiated, Tomb of Horrors is a module written by D&D co-creator Gary Gygax, intended for high-level play. The tomb is fraught with traps and is home to the evil demi-lich Acererak. Wade finds the tomb on his school’s planet within the OASIS and proceeds to delve into the dungeon, as it were.
He proceeds to take out all the monsters and traps (of course!) and finds himself face-to-face with the lich king. Here comes the twist: instead of a battle, the lich challenges Wade to a game of the old arcade game Joust. Despite a few tense moments, Wade proves victorious and winds up with the Copper Key. As he exits, he is introduced to the heroine of the story Art3emis. They have an interesting, slightly heated exchange. Realizing the that Wade has already won the Copper Key, Ar3emis traps him in the tomb for 15 minutes via a “barrier” spell and turns away.
After the spell is completed, Wade heads to a copy of Halliday’s childhood home and plays through an old TRS-80 game, Dungeons of Daggorath. The soundtrack scores for both Conan the Barbarian and Ladyhawke play by themselves as he tries to defeat the game. Once he finishes, a literal wrought-iron gate appears in the wall of the room. Wade steps through and finds himself acting out the plot of the 1983 Matthew Broderick film WarGames. Upon completion, his score is updated and all Hell breaks loose…
Get in the game …
Of all the pop culture mentions in this section, many of them are readily available online. One can easily play Joust in a browser. The Tomb of Horrors was recently released as part of the fifth edition D&D book Tales from the Yawning Portal. Both of the soundtracks are available on Google Play Music for streaming and the film WarGames can be watched via streaming or taking a trip to you local library. Dungeons of Daggorath can also be found in Google Play’s app store, although a thorough search online may lead you to the original disk.
Join us next time as we search for the Jade Key and the next gate. Also, the film is just one week away. Don’t forget to hold in the reset button when you press power, to maintain the integrity of your save data.