Today, it was announced that the 2011 novel Ready Player One is getting a sequel. Because numbers are sequential and Ready Player One happens to end with a number, Ready Player One’s sequel will be titled Ready Player Two.
For those that don’t know, Ready Player One is a story about a virtual reality that is inhabited by people in a dystopian world. The not-so-subtle world building frames virtual reality and immersing yourself in video games and your interests as a form of escapism from the awful truth of the real world. You can imagine how that might resonate with a specific demographic.
Friends, I did not read the novel Ready Player One, but I did see the 2018 film adaptation directed by Steven Spielberg. And let me tell you this: I haven’t had a film watching experience that uncomfortable in a hot minute. The main reason being that characters in Ready Player One are seemingly incapable of having a conversation without name dropping and referencing big nerd franchises.
If you’ve ever been in an environment dedicated to nerd things, whether that be a convention, a hobbyist store, or maybe you just happened to stumble upon a stranger or acquaintance who recognizes your hoodie or messenger bag, you know there’s a weird dance happening in the conversation as you both assess just how far it can go without anyone being uncomfortable. In the best of times, you start with a very general discussion, and after you’ve sussed out whether or not someone is as into the topic as you are things can get deeper. Ready Player One doesn’t have that sense of decorum with its references, it just lives in a world where everyone talks almost exclusively in references and in-jokes with the intensity of the most toxic gatekeepers in fandom. There’s also a lot of weird reverence for the virtual reality’s developer that is uncritically examined in the same way some cult of personality tends to form around real-world creators.
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It’s all very gross, and as I squirmed uncomfortably in my theater chair, there were some folks in the theater who were just loving it. I don’t fault them for that. I mean, in theory, some of these things can be cool? There’s a huge battle scene with characters from a multitude of franchises. This includes games like Overwatch and Mass Effect, comic book characters like Joker and Harley Quinn, and at some point He-Man was there too. See! I can’t even talk about it without having it boil down to a list of different properties the film got the rights to. But it’s all wrapped up in this extremely masturbatory aura of gatekeeping and uncritical nostalgia that doesn’t sit well with me. There’s not an ounce of sincerity in Ready Player One’s universe.
This is a long way of getting around to what happened at the end of the movie, where I’d been sitting a row away from a fine gentlemen who exclaimed, “let’s go play some video games!”
But the entire thing had made me feel so filthy, so wrong, and so ready to do anything other than play a video game, especially after seeing ones I love used in this context. So here’s a list of things I would rather do than play video games in the name of Ready Player One or experience anything else in the Ready Player One universe:
- Set my video game consoles on fire.
- Ban video games worldwide.
- Read a book. But not Ready Player One or its sequel Ready Player Two.
- Shed all my worldly possessions to live among a flock of deer and learn their ways.
- Donate my body to science while still living.
- Hike the Appalachian Trail. They say that the isolation of doing that alone is the hardest part, but it’s not like I’m seeing people right now while in quarantine.
- Remove the Final Fantasy, Danganronpa and Injustice tattoos I have and just let the tattoo artist scribble over where they used to be.
- Go back to working for Walmart.
- Invent a time machine to go back in time and stop myself from setting my video game consoles on fire and instead donate them to a family that might make better use of them.
- In this process I would also stop myself from banning video games worldwide. Instead, I would ban only video games featured in Ready Player One for their crimes.
- Host a whole ass funeral for the Mass Effect franchise because it wasn’t until I started writing this post that I found out my favorite series had betrayed me by putting Commander Shepard in this movie.
- Charge people gross amounts of money to use my previously-mentioned time machine
- Then use that money to build an entire house in my backyard exclusively for my dog to live in and be pampered.