Ready Player One: First Impressions

You know that game that’s coming out next week that you are all excited for, but there’s this one friend you have who can always get an advanced copy and start playing before anyone else?

In this case, the “game” is Ready Player One, the new movie by master auteur, Steven Spielberg. We’ve seen it, and it’s amazing. Jam-packed with nostalgia, beautiful visuals, and the clever addition of easter eggs, this sci-fi epic makes for a decent first impression, targeting gamers and geeks, as well as for those of you who don’t know a joystick from a joypad.

With a name like Ready Player One, the image of a video game world might seem natural, and it’s not entirely wrong. After all, there are hints – lots of them, in fact – of the gaming culture in the original novel, which was penned by Ernest Cline back in 2011. Set in a dystopian 2044, the story follows protagonist Wade Watts (aka Parzival) on his search for multiple easter eggs in a virtual reality game. The prize? The inheritance of a huge fortune in the real world, which has wrecked by an energy crisis.

Of course, nothing is free in the world. Great effort and a thorough understanding of pop culture are definite prerequisites in locating the three keys required to crack the puzzle. It’s an all-around geek feast, and if you think you know just about everything in the realm of geekdom, this movie will make prove you wrong.

But what makes this book to movie adaptation stand out? The master storyteller himself, Steven Spielberg, who brings with him all that he loved about the 80s (come on. He practically wrote the guide book on 80s pop culture movie icons), which includes books, movies, cartoons, videos game and anime.

As someone belonging to the Generation Z group, some older hints, cameos and references easily went over my head, but there were modern nods as well, from Overwatch’s Tracer, Halo’s Master Chief (eh, several of them in fact), The Iron Giant, Mechagodzilla, and the RX-78-2 Gundam. I dare you to watch this movie once, and catch all the brief cameos, including familiar pop icons such as Borderlands 2 and Space Invaders.

The act of paying homage to 80’s culture is not only limited to films and games. Popular songs during that time period were played as companion pieces to certain scenes, such as Bee Gees’ Stayin’ Alive. Older fans (ie, not me) would appreciate the effort, and the added sense of nostalgia certainly helps to fuel the sentimentality.

Having read the novel, it’s safe to say that the character development in the movie feels more flat and linear, especially where the sidekicks are involved. Even Watts’ growth as the main character didn’t really feel significant, which is a slight letdown. What I liked a lot about the ragtag group, however, is the varied array of personalities, and how they are able to meld together in both a virtual and real-life setting alike. The experience is made more authentic with the cast members’ natural chemistry.

In a way, this is an accurate portrayal of the gaming community in real life. Having a collective of like-minded individuals to share one’s interests with is what makes the whole culture exciting, despite the toxicity in some circles. The feeling of being accepted is much welcomed, especially when everyone is treated equally on the online space, regardless of gender, race, and the like.

Watching the movie has reaffirmed my love for games and films. Every easter egg spotted was like a present, carrying much excitement in tow, and satisfying my inner geek self. It’d have been interesting to see how most individuals started on their journey to geekdom – but of course with a set runtime, there’s only so much that can be addressed.

Are you ready, player one, for when the movie releases on March 29, 2018? You’d better be.

PS: And I implore you. If you have not watched Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. Please, PLEASE. Watch it before you catch Ready Player One. Don’t be H, and be caught totally unawares.

And watch this space Geek Culture fans, as we have a Ready Player One surprise in store for you.