Ready Player One

In 2044-2045, due to various geopolitical events, many of Earth’s cities have become slums; its inhabitants regularly escape into the virtual reality universe called OASIS. Its co-founder, the late James “Anorak” Halliday, announces a contest in which players must find an Easter egg inside a gate that requires three keys hidden in OASIS; the winner to receive full ownership and control of OASIS. This attracts huge numbers of “Gunters” (egg hunters) as well as the video game conglomerate Innovative Online Industries (IOI), headed by Nolan Sorrento, who employs a large number of researchers, top gamers and indentured servants called “Sixers”.[a]

In Columbus, Ohio, Wade Watts, an orphaned 17-year-old Gunter, lives with his aunt Alice in the “stacks”, makeshift towers of trailer homes. His avatar Parzival, and his online friend Aech, a male first-person shooter expert and virtual mechanic, participate in the first quest: a vehicle race across ever-shifting roadways in Manhattan. Parzival befriends a well-known Gunter named Art3mis by saving her from being “zeroed out” by King Kong, which would have wiped her character progression. At Halliday’s Journals virtual archives, containing video clips reconstructing Halliday’s life, Parzival gets an insight from a comment that Halliday made to his former business partner Ogden Morrow, and on the next race, uncovers an underground shortcut to the finish line to acquire the first key. Aech and Art3mis, as well as players Daito and Sho, soon follow; they appear atop the global scoreboard as the “High Five”.

Art3mis and Parzival checks one of Halliday’s memories for a clue, and Parzival wins a coin on a small bet with the archive’s curator. At an OASIS dance club, i-R0k, Sorrento’s mercenary, overhears Parzival tell Art3mis his real name. Sorrento requests Wade to join IOI. Wade refuses, whereupon Sorrento and his aide F’Nale Zandor to bomb Wade’s stack, killing Alice. Wade is taken to a Gunter hideout where he meets Art3mis’ controller: Samantha Cook. They discover that Halliday had regretted something during a movie date with his love interest Kira. The High Five enter a re-creation of The Shining where they traverse a series of frightening events to eventually reach Kira and acquire the second key…

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