I’ve read the book and I’ve also seen the film. Ready Player One isn’t out of my mind yet though. Even though it’s ‘just’ a fun story from the mind of a geek, there are elements that have stayed with me that I keep thinking about. I’ve not seen the film a second time yet but I am looking forward to doing so. I’ll probably wait for the 3D Blu-Ray though.

Cline really did create a “world of pure imagination”, with everybody in the OASIS being able to explore every nook and cranny of Halliday’s passions and imagination. That reference is, of course, not accidental, as Ready Player One owes a considerable debt to Roald Dahl’s ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’, with James Halliday out to find a worthy successor to run his virtual reality wonderland. It is even rumoured that Spielberg approached Gene Wilder for the role to underline the link, but that he respectfully declined.

Image by JMortonPhoto.com, CC BY-SA 4.0

Of course, Dahl’s masterpiece is just one of the thousands of nerdy nods in a film that is popping with pop culture, from the ‘Back to the Future’ DeLorean to the T-Rex from ‘Jurassic Park’, plus endless references to classic 80s video games. Some of these are writ large, such as the extended sequence from Stanley Kubrick’s film version of Stephen King’s ‘The Shining’ or the ‘Saturday Night Fever’ dance-off, complete with that classic colour block dance floor, which is so iconic that it was sold last year for $1.2 million. Other references are far subtler, with just a line of dialogue here or a poster on the wall in the background there. But together, they weave a rich tapestry of nostalgic threads that may only ever be revealed by burning out the pause function on your DVD player. You’ll want to go back and see the film again just to spot all the Easter eggs that you missed while being flung along by the action. I’ll certainly be doing that and trying to find the references that I missed in the theatre. For example, I’ve heard there were Gremlins somewhere, but I didn’t see them on my first viewing.

But it’s got me thinking about what life in the OASIS would be like. Firstly it would be great to have access to all of those 80s arcades on the planet Archaide mentioned in the book. But I’d also love to try out some of the Flicksyncs. I’d certainly start with WarGames myself, but I reckon I could have a fair pop at Star Wars, The Rocky Horror Picture Show and The Blues Brothers word for word too.

Photo by Gage Skidmore, CC BY-SA 2.0

Alongside all the non-stop action and advanced-level geekery, Ready Player One, the book and the film, also have some social messages. It makes you think about how much time we spend in cyberspace, glued to our phones and our consoles, pretending to be someone we’re not rather than spending time as ourselves with real people in the real world. These are certainly relevant messages just now. Only today Wetherspoons pub chain announced that they were coming off social media, with one advantage being that their staff can do more real work rather than managing online accounts. Also Samsung have recently announced a new phone that won’t be able to go online, in order to stop students getting distracted with social media. And with the recent Facebook data scandal many people are threatening to leave the social media giant for good. Are we seeing a shift away from living online? Or are we still destined for a future of being totally plugged in 24/7?

Ready Player One may have a dystopian vision of 2044, but plenty of people think that Cline and Spielberg aren’t far off, and that virtual reality will shape our future world, from shopping online to even visiting the casino. For example, PokerStars and Samsung have been improving the usability of VR. While PokerStars is adding a touch of VR fun to their Championship tournament in Monte Carlo this spring, Samsung provides the VR Live Pass of events such as UFC best moments. With so many forms of entertainment becoming mainstream in VR, it’s easy to see how it could be tempting for people to spend their lives in a virtual reality world.

I think this is one of the best aspects of Ready Player One. What initially seems like just a nostalgic, list-laden geek-fest, actually keeps asking questions about our future and our interaction with others in society. Ready Player Two anyone?