06 October 2011
Post 433: Ready Player One
As much as this book is about nerd culture, there is also a strong underlying theme of confidence (the lack thereof and the eventual gaining of it). Wade, like many 19 year old nerd boys is trying to find his place in the world. He has not had much success in the real world, facing the usual bullying and body awkwardness that comes with puberty. But in the OASIS he is a legend.
Of course, Wade doesn't start his story there, and the narration matches Wade's confidence as it grows throughout the story, as if by writing/telling his story he is embarking on a new adventure all over again. And for all we know he is; he may indeed be gaining confidence in his storytelling abilities as he tells the story for "the first time" to us, just as he gained confidence from doing the original actions.
What is remarkable about Wade is that what he learns in the online world eventually transfers to the real world. Yes, he gains notoriety online, but first he has to obtain specialized knowledge about Halliday, the creator of the OASIS, in order to achieve his goals. Gaining this knowledge is itself a step towards gaining confidence as it gives Wade abilities that few others have. He may not be the only one with this knowledge because many people are after Halliday's inheritance, which he has hidden in the game, but he knows more about Halliday and is better at many of the games mentioned in the journal than other people. With this comes a sense of self worth for Wade, because he has obtained knowledge that others seek. Eventually he also becomes the first player to find one of three keys Halliday hid in the OASIS.
Wade could rest on his laurels, but he continues to build his knowledge base and hone his skills and eventually his physical body so that he is better prepared to find the final keys and gates. By the time Wade reached the last gate, he was fully capable of functioning in the real world as a confident and well rounded person.
While this may not happen for many game players, I do think it is possible to use gaming as a tool to achieve this kind of success in the real world. And by success I am not referring to wealth and riches, but honing techniques and skills needed to function successfully in the real world (i.e. socialization, the aforementioned confidence, a desirable knowledge base, etc.). The key is figuring out which games might be helpful in doing so.
Also, read this damned book. It is awesome, especially if you spent any portion of your life in the 80's..
The Word Zombie does an excellent job of reviewing this novel. Especially love the line, "I realized about half way through that this is the book my 13 year-old self didn’t know he was preparing my 40 year-old self to love."
This is one of the few books where Kirkus Reviews and I disagree. Too much puzzle solving? You sirs and madams have not played enough D&D (which is probably another reason you didn't like the pacing).
LibsNote: Library copy.