Review of “Ready Player One”

William Sikich

For many of us here at Augustana, video games have been a large part of our lives for as long as we can remember. Personally, they remind me of all the time I spent as a kid having a blast in the digital world with my friends and family. In this way, video games have created a new source of nostalgia for our generation and, with the release of Steven Spielberg’s “Ready Player One” on Mar. 29, we were given a way to immerse ourselves in a world of that nostalgia.
“Ready Player One” follows the journey of seventeen-year-old Wade Watts, an orphan living in Columbus, Ohio in 2045. In Wade’s world, a massive, multiplayer, virtual-reality video game known as the OASIS consumes the majority of people’s time and money, and our hero is no exception. After the death of the game’s creator, James Halliday, a posthumously released video of the man revealed the presence of an “easter egg” that would grant its finder control over the OASIS. Following this event, people from all walks of virtual life set out to complete his challenges and claim the most valuable prize in the history of gaming. While most people have given up searching by 2045, Wade, a fully dedicated egg hunter, or “gunter,” still carries on the dream. With the help of his friends, he must race, fight, and study his way to the egg and claim the OASIS before it falls into the hands of corporate greed.
While the film does possess many more profound layers of philosophical theory and social commentary, “Ready Player One” is most importantly a film about a boy and his friends. Throughout the film, we see Wade and his virtual pals playing and fighting alongside one another, bonding in a way only cooperative video game play can allow. One of the things video games do the best is bring people together in a fun and unique way, and the OASIS is really nothing more than a massive video game at heart. Watching Wade and his band of gunters blast their way through a digital universe of familiar fun, I was returned to the days of carefree childhood when I would spend whole afternoons exploring a video game with my cousins, just for the fun of it. Certainly, many adventure films capture the dynamic of childhood friendship, but “Ready Player One” does so in a way that is uniquely familiar to our generation.
Of course, the film also provides some interesting commentary on the potential risks of excessive video game play. Our whole lives, those of us who played video games growing up were told not to play them too much and to “go outside every once in a while.” While this may have seemed ridiculous at the time to some of us, there is a great deal of value in this sentiment. “Ready Player One” takes place in a world consumed by their playtime, and Spielberg does not present that sort of obsession in a positive light. The film accompanies its theme of pure video game fun with a serious and much-needed message about living in reality and not letting opportunities pass by. It manages to perfectly sum up how our generation ought to approach video games as a hobby and a social device, all the while providing one of the most entertaining and engaging movies I’ve seen in a long time.
“Ready Player One” is at once inspiring, emotionally moving, and just plain fun to watch. So, whether you’re a fan of video games or simply enjoy a good story about friendship and adventure, I highly recommend you head to the theater with your friends to enjoy this new classic.