Ready Player One Summary

Ernest Cline

Ready Player One

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Ready Player One Summary

SuperSummary, a modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, offers high-quality study guides that feature detailed chapter summaries and analysis of major themes, characters, quotes, and essay topics.  This one-page guide includes a plot summary and brief analysis of Ready Player One by Ernest Cline.

Ready Player One is a dystopian science-fiction novel written by Ernest Cline in 2011. It was a New York Times bestseller, won an Alex Award from the American Library Association, and won the 2012 Prometheus Award. There is currently a film adaptation directed by Steven Spielberg, set to be released in spring of 2018. The novel includes notable themes such as multiple versions of reality, identity, competition, immortality, and the underdog versus “The Man.” Ready Player One is packed with pop culture references, including literature, video games, movies, music, and more.

Ready Player One is a dystopian novel, and as such, takes places in the futuristic setting of the year 2044, with the entire world held in the clutches of many global, economic, and social problems. Global warming, overpopulation. and mass unemployment are just some of the larger issues at hand. Many people, including the teenaged protagonist Wade Watts, use a virtual reality video game called OASIS as an escape from these hardships. The realistic simulations and developed technology allows players to immerse themselves entirely within the game. It is a type of MMORPG, or Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game. The game was created by James Haliday, who had announced on his deathbed that he had left something called an Easter egg inside OASIS. To find the egg, a player must find three keys and unlock three gates. The first person to find the Easter egg would inherit Halliday’s massive fortune and the entire corporation of OASIS.

Five years after this announcement, Wade lives with his aunt in a poverty-stricken district called the stacks, so-named because of the trailer homes piled on top of one another. His life is spent almost entirely logged onto OASIS, playing as his avatar, Parzival. He is an egg hunter, or “gunter.” One day, Parzival discovers the location of the Copper Key in the Tomb of Horrors, a recreation of a Dungeons and Dragons module. He defeats the challenger Acererak, wins the Copper Key, and is shot into virtual stardom after his name appears at the top of the scoreboard. Wade is able to make a profit through the game by endorsing virtual products. This gets the attention of another gunter, a female named Art3mis.

Parzival completes the Copper Gate through a series of puzzles from many other real-world video game and movie references. Art3mis and Aech, Wade’s friend, both also make it through the gate. Unfortunately, a multinational corporation, Innovative Online Industries (IOI), also notices Wade. The company’s main goal is to take complete control of OASIS and monetize everything. The head of operations, Nolan Sorrento, sends Wade an email, offering him a job to help IOI find the Easter egg. Wade refuses. Sorrento offers him five million dollars to tell him where the first key and lock are; again, Wade refuses the offer. Sorrento moves to threats, telling Wade he will kill him in real life if he refuses to help. Still the teenager says no, and shortly after, the trailer where Wade and his aunt live is blown up under the guise of a meth lab explosion. Wade narrowly escapes, but his aunt does not.

Wade goes undercover, changing his name to Bryce Lynch and moving to Columbus, Ohio, near the IOI headquarters. He tries to ask Art3mis out on a date, but she refuses. Five months pass, Parzival is estranged further from Art3mis and Aech, and no one has made any progress. Then Art3mis finds the Jade Key, and Parzival quickly plays a perfect Pac-Man game, but is disappointed when he earns a regular quarter as his prize. Aech tells him of a hint that leads Parzival to the planet Frobozz. In a quick turn of events, IOI begins tracking Art3mis and Aech, and successfully unlocks the Jade Gate, finding the Crystal Key before anyone else. IOI throws another of Wade’s friends, Daito, out of his real-life apartment building, killing him.

Parzival unlocks the Jade Gate in a combined effort of Blade Runner, arcade games, and the band Rush, and finds a clue that IOI could not have known. He tells his friends of his discovery, just as Sorrento publicly announces the location of the Crystal Gate, and his heavy defense surrounding it.

Parzival goes undercover to infiltrate IOI, disguising his avatar and using black market passwords and security exploits to hack the company’s system. He finds damnable evidence, including footage of Daito’s murder, the attempt on his own life, and future plans to kill his other friends. He is able to escape, and the group plans a gathering of avatars to take IOI down. Wade, in real life, gathers with several friends at a safe haven in Oregon, and they prepare for the final showdown.

Wade is able to use his tech skills through Parzival to hack IOI’s system and bring down their defenses surrounding the Crystal Gate. An epic battle ensues. Parzival unlocks the gate, but IOI uses an item called a Cataclyst to destroy everything: the castle, the gate, and all the avatars. Parzival, though, has an extra life (from the Pac-Man game quarter previously thought useless), and finally enters the Crystal Gate. He plays through many different characters from video game and movie pop culture, and gains complete control of OASIS. He resurrects his friends and wipes the IOI avatars.

Back in reality, Sorrento is arrested, and the friends wake up together in Oregon. Wade and Art3mis finally meet in person. He thinks she is beautiful, just as he thought she would be, and the two kiss.