SeedSing Classic: Last Generation Gamer: "Ready Player One"

SeedSing classic is a look back at our most influential articles. These pieces have been presented in their original form. No Star Warsesque special editions. Enjoy

When it comes to pop culture, Generation X tends to get the short end stick. The “Greatest Generation” is still portrayed as the heroes who saved the world from Adolf Hitler and the Nazi scourge. The Baby Boomers are still in the forefront of all pop culture, just look at the music (The Beatles, The Rolling Stones), movies (any serious Oscar bait film that comes out), and television (Mad Men, anything on CBS that portrays the other generations as doofuses) that everyone considers as the best. The Millennials have been taking over music with people like Lorde, Taylor Swift, Ed Sheeran, and many more. The only part of the pop culture that Generation X gets to claim as their own is that of early video games. Atari, Intellivision, Apple, and early Nintendo, that is the legacy Generation X holds as it’s own.

In 2010, screenwriter and spoken word artist Ernest Cline sold is very first novel. Ready Player One was instantly a hit, and the film rights were purchased by Warner Brothers immediately after the novel’s release. The story takes place in a future that is quite grim. Society has inevitably succumbed to a massive energy crisis, food is scarce, and the wealth disparity has put the majority of the world firmly in the category of being poor. The one shared escape everyone has a massive online virtual world called the OASIS. Kids go to school on one of the worlds in the OASIS, people work and conduct business, it is the one place left that gives opportunity to anyone. The creator of the OASIS, James Halliday, announces in a video posted after his death that he is going to give away his vast fortune, and total control of the OASIS to the person who can find an Easter Egg he has hidden in his virtual universe. The idea of a game Easter Egg famously started with the Atari game Adventure, which Halliday references in his death video. Since that time, game programmers have been installing Easter Eggs for the most determined, and obsessive, players out there. Halliday’s Egg would be one for the ages. The players need to find three keys, and open three gates to reach the final challenge. The story kicks off with our narrator, Wade Watts, telling us how he was the first person to find the first key.

What follows in Ready Player One is an exciting story filled with pop culture references geared towards anyone who grew up in the 1980’s. James Halliday lived in a small town in Ohio in the 80’s, and he found his escapes from his own difficult life in the movies, television, and video games of the Reagan era. He recreated this comfort in his super successful OASIS game/virtual reality. The universe of the OASIS is chocked full of pop culture gems from that time. Music from Schoolhouse Rock, Oingo Boingo, and Rush are crucial to the plot. Locations in the OASIS are built to look like worlds from Dungeons and Dragons, Family Ties, and the classic text adventure computer game Zork. There are classic Japanese mechs, flying Deloreans, and cabinet arcade game units scattered all over the OASIS. Ready Player One may take place in mid 2040’s, but anyone born in the 1970’s will feel nostalgic comfort in the virtual world built by the fictional Halliday.

The real world depicted in Ready Player One is depressing, all too real at the same time. Poverty is extremely widespread because our leaders did not care to move the world to sustainable energy, and the reality of global climate change has altered the planet in terrible ways. Access to the internet has been consolidated under one behemoth of a monopoly, and they are determined to find the Easter Egg so the company can monetize Halliday’s mostly free OASIS. The subject of Net Neutrality comes to one’s mind reading about the corporate mindset in Ready Player One. The fictional world imagined by Cline in the 2040’s seems uncomfortably real if we continue on the same self-destructive path we are allowing our world leaders to bring us down.

There is a movie of Ready Player One, currently in post-production, that is directed by Steven Spielberg. The fact the Spielberg has been responsible for some of Generation X’s greatest film moments has many people excited for the project.  If the story is left alone, and the pop culture references are as plentiful as they are in the book, the film version of Ready Player One will be a huge success. The book is like an encyclopedia of Generation X culture, the movie can let the world know that the small group between the Boomers and Millennials had some cool stuff. Generation X will finally have a seat at the table of awesome pop culture.

Ready Player One celebrates the entertainment of the 1980’s, but the book belongs to everyone. Much like the incredible Netflix show Stranger Things, Ready Player One uses the era of Gen X youth, and tells a story worthy of anyone’s time. Before the movie takes over the public conciseness, go read the book. We may not have the OASIS, but Cline's incredible story will bring into a world that is exciting and hopeful. Just be warned, you will be humming some old Rush tunes when the book is finished.


RD Kulik is the creator and Head Editor for SeedSing. He is considering picking up one of those knockoff Atari boxes from the store so he can test his Adventure and Pac Man skills. Only 20 some odd years to practice for Halliday's Hunt.

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