Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Ultimate Nostalgia Trip For Gen-Xers

Ready Player One is one great piece of literature. This is a book that not only will get hold of you from page one and never let go, but it will also speak directly to your soul. At the same time, Gen-Xers will have the time of their life in a nostalgia trip of the 1980's like no other.

Wade Watts is an 18-year old orphan living with his heartless aunt in a stacked trailer park. He is obese and suffers from acme and severe lack of social skills but to him it matters little because he is almost always online, getting schooled and hanging out with his friends on a massively multiplayer online environment named OASIS.

OASIS consists of a virtually endless number of worlds, some magical, others cyberpunk and yet others approximating the real world. OASIS is a huge success as in 2044, when the gap between the rich and the poor has grown into an unbridgeable chasm and all of the fossil fuels are gone (but not the environmental problems their abuse caused), life is bleak for the great majority of humanity. The only sane refuse is to get lost in this digital heaven.

When James Halliday, the insanely rich and eccentric creator of OASIS, dies he wills his multi-billion company to the first person who will discover the three keys he Easter-egged into his digital universe. So the worldwide stampede of egg-hunters (known as gunters) starts off, people searching for the ultimate video game prize. Their only clues are Halliday's video message and known 80's fixation. With such a global race, a race that takes the masses back to simpler and happier times, the 80's come back in fashion.

Early video games, taking their first steps just out of the primordial sea and capturing the imagination of an entire generation with only some blinking pixels. Classic Role-Playing Games with dungeon crawling, looting, re-equiping and leveling up. Sit-coms of unique determined optimism, springing from an era of a growing economy and reigned-in capitalism. SciFi TV series offering immersion that was never again replicated. Toys and gadgets that sprung from instances of pure genius. Movies so epic in scope and impact that one developed blind-spots to their cheesy props and plot holes.

Like a good 80's pop-culture narrative the hero (known by his handle of Parzival) has companions (Aech and Art3mis, Shoto and Daito),  he has to face powerful villains (Sorrento and his army of Sixers), overcome insurmountable obstacles and find his destiny. A classic piece of literature that will find its rightful place in the 21st century canon.

The pop-cultural zeigeist shows a strong geek-chic bias lately but even if the 80's were before your time or you never played any MMOGs or even any video games you will still love this book. You will not want to miss a single line of code, you will more fun than Ferris Bueller on his day off and, when done, you will feel the urge to start it all over again. And again.
Because you too will ask yourself: did Ernest write this book especially for me or is the gravity tag of the pop-culture during our teenage years so powerful we have all unknowingly turned into its image?

Can you hear the 28K modem screeching its connecting handshake in the background?


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