Ready Player One

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Ready Player One
First edition cover
AuthorErnest Cline
Audio read byWil Wheaton
CountryUnited States
SubjectVideo games, Virtual Reality
GenreLitRPG, science fiction, pop culture fiction, dystopian
PublisherCrown Publishing Group
Publication date
August 16, 2011
Media typePrint (hardcover and paperback), e-book, audiobook
Followed byReady Player Two 

Ready Player One is a 2011 science fiction novel, and the debut novel of American author Ernest Cline. The story, set in a dystopia in 2045, follows protagonist Wade Watts on his search for an Easter egg in a worldwide virtual reality game, the discovery of which would lead him to inherit the game creator's fortune. Cline sold the rights to publish the novel in June 2010, in a bidding war to the Crown Publishing Group (a division of Random House).[1] The book was published on August 16, 2011.[2] An audiobook was released the same day; it was narrated by Wil Wheaton, who was mentioned briefly in one of the chapters.[3][4]Ch. 20 In 2012, the book received an Alex Award from the Young Adult Library Services Association division of the American Library Association[5] and won the 2011 Prometheus Award.[6]

A film adaptation, screenwritten by Cline and Zak Penn and directed by Steven Spielberg, was released on March 29, 2018. A sequel novel, Ready Player Two, was released on November 24, 2020, to a widely negative critical reception.[7][8]



In the 2040s,[9] the world has been gripped by an energy crisis from the depletion of fossil fuels and the consequences of pollution, global warming and overpopulation, causing widespread social problems, poverty, and economic stagnation. To escape the decline their world is facing, people turn to the OASIS,[a] a virtual reality simulator accessible by players using visors and haptic technology such as gloves. It functions both as an MMORPG and as a virtual world, with its currency being one of the most stable in the real world. It was created by James Donovan Halliday, founder of Gregarious Simulation Systems (formerly Gregarious Games), who made a posthumous video of his will stating to the public that he had left an Easter egg inside the OASIS, and the first person to find it would inherit his entire fortune, ownership of his corporation as well as complete control of the OASIS itself, which is worth trillions. The story follows the adventures of Wade Watts, starting about five years after the announcement, when he discovers one of the three keys which unlock three successive gates leading to the treasure.


Teenager Wade Watts lives with his aunt in Oklahoma City[10] in the "stacks", a poverty-stricken district constructed of trailer homes piled on top of each other. He spends his spare time as a "gunter" ("egg hunter"), logging on to the OASIS as an avatar under the moniker Parzival, reading Halliday's journal Anorak's Almanac, and researching details of the 1980s pop culture, mainly classic video games and movies that Halliday loved. One day, he realizes that the first key is located on Ludus, the same virtual world as his own online high school, in a re-creation of the Dungeons & Dragons module Tomb of Horrors. He meets Art3mis, a famous female gunter and blogger (and his crush), and advances further than she does when he defeats the AI Acererak at the video game Joust. He is awarded the Copper Key, and appears on the "Scoreboard", attracting the world's attention.

Parzival completes the Copper Gate's puzzles on the planet Middletown, which is modeled after Halliday's boyhood home. He plays through the Dungeons of Daggorath video game in a recreation of Halliday's parents' house and then role-playing Matthew Broderick's character in the film WarGames. Art3mis clears the gate shortly afterwards, as does Wade's best friend Aech. Wade's fame enables him to make a living by endorsing virtual products. It also brings him to the attention of Nolan Sorrento, head of operations at Innovative Online Industries (IOI), a multinational corporation bent on a well-funded effort to find the Easter egg in order to take control of the OASIS and monetize it. When Wade refuses to join IOI, Sorrento attempts to kill him by blowing up the stacks where Wade lives, killing his aunt and disguising the explosion as an accident.

Wade escapes and moves to Columbus, Ohio (hometown of both GSS and IOI), where he assumes the pseudonym Bryce Lynch and lives in an anonymous apartment designed for hardcore OASIS users. He begins a wary friendship with Art3mis, but when he asks her out, she declines.

After five months pass, Art3mis finally finds the Jade Key, and Parzival believes it to be on Archaide, a planet containing a copy of every video game ever published, where he plays a perfect game of Pac-Man, thinking it part of the Egg hunt, but receives only a quarter as a prize. Aech, after finding the Jade Key, provides a hint leading him to the planet Frobozz where he solves a recreation of the text adventure game Zork and whistles a 2600-hertz-sound through a Cap'n Crunch Bo'Sun whistle. Sorrento establishes a base there to farm Jade Keys for their company's avatars, unlocks the second Gate, and rapidly acquires the Crystal Key as well through trial and error. Shoto, another high ranking gunter, tells Parzival that members of the IOI have killed his partner Daito, passing it off as a suicide.

Parzival unlocks the Jade Gate, a Voight-Kampff machine, by entering a privately owned Blade Runner-themed building, and completes the arcade game Black Tiger and is awarded a virtual mecha as the prize and another clue: a red star in a circle. He acquires the Crystal Key on planet Syrinx, and after playing the "Discovery" section of the song "2112", finds a clue regarding the conditions to unlock the final gate. As he messages Art3mis, Aech, and Shoto with instructions on how to get through the Jade Gate and obtain the Crystal Key, Sorrento ends his covert attempts to clear the third gate, located in the fortress of Halliday's avatar, Castle Anorak, on planet Chthonia, and places an indestructible force field around it.

Wade manipulates his assumed identity in order to be arrested and placed in indentured servitude in IOI's tech support department. He then uses black market passwords and security exploits to hack into IOI's intranet and acquires a wealth of incriminating information: footage of Daito's murder, the attempt on his own life, as well as plans to abduct Shoto and Art3mis and force them to find the Easter egg for IOI, then kill them afterwards. Aech remains anonymous due to his mobile setup. After escaping the corporation, he shares his information with his friends and publicizes a gathering of avatars to storm the castle. They are interrupted by Ogden Morrow (the co-creator of the OASIS), who offers them a safe haven at his home in Oregon. Wade meets the real-life Aech and Ogden, but not Art3mis or Shoto, who are already hooked into Ogden's immersion pods.

The day of the battle, Wade uses a previously deployed booby trap to bring down the barricade, and a massive fight among avatars ensues. Parzival, Art3mis, Aech and Shoto use their mechas to fight Sorrento's Mechagodzilla Kiryu, though Parzival has to use his Ultraman artifact to defeat and kill Sorrento's mecha and avatar. IOI use a doomsday device artifact called the Cataclyst to destroy the castle and all avatars in the entire sector. Parzival survives because having the Pac-Man quarter granted him an extra life. As he enters the Crystal Gate, he announces that if he wins the final challenge, he will share his fortune with the three of his friends. He plays Tempest, role-plays King Arthur and various other characters in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and retrieves the Easter egg in Adventure. His victory grants him control of the OASIS. Sorrento is arrested for the murder of Daito and conspiring to kill Wade and the others. Back in Oregon, Wade and Art3mis, whose actual name is Samantha, meet in person and rekindle their relationship with a kiss.


  • Wade Owen Watts a.k.a. Parzival: The viewpoint character, an orphan living with his aunt in the "stacks", a poverty-stricken area in Oklahoma City, OK. Wade names his OASIS character Parzival after the Arthurian knight involved in the quest for the holy grail. Wade's character was based on a mix of Cline as well as his geek friends.[11]
  • James Donovan Halliday a.k.a. Anorak the All Knowing: The creator of OASIS. His avatar's name is based on a British slang term for an obsessive geek. His character was initially inspired by Willy Wonka who Cline described as a "rich eccentric holding a fantastic contest". Cline used the personalities of Howard Hughes and Richard Garriott, and placed Halliday's birth year around the same as his own so that his pop culture interests would coincide with Cline's "and the other middle-aged uber-geeks I know".[11][12]
  • Aech (pronounced like the letter HCh. 33) a.k.a Helen Harris: Wade's best friend, fellow gunter, and rival in the quest to find the egg. Although Aech's avatar is an athletic white heterosexual male,p. 38–39 Aech is played by an African-American lesbian named Helen Harris, who grew up in Atlanta, Georgia and is about the same age as Wade.Ch. 33 Aech is based partly on Cline's friend Harry Knowles as well as himself and other geeks, both men and women.[11]
  • Samantha Evelyn Cook a.k.a. Art3mis: A famous female gunter and blogger. She chose her avatar's name from the Greek goddess of the hunt.[b] Like other characters, Cline based Art3mis on himself and other geeks, both men, and women.[11]
  • Ogden "Og" Morrow a.k.a. The Great and Powerful Og: Co-creator of the OASIS and best friend of James Halliday. His appearance and personality are described in the book as being "a cross between Albert Einstein and Santa Claus". Ogden's character and relationship with Halliday were inspired by Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, with Morrow being more like Jobs as a "charismatic tech leader",[12][13] while his avatar's name is inspired by the Wizard of Oz.
  • Daito: One of the two Japanese gunters who rise to the top of the scoreboard early on in the hunt, working in a team with his "brother" Shoto. He took his avatar's name from the name of the long sword in a daisho set, which is a katana on its own. They are both based on otaku: Japanese geeks who enjoy movies and anime, as well as hikikomori: people who live as recluses inside their family's homes, referred to in the book as "the Missing Millions".[11] Daito's real name is revealed to be Toshiro Yoshiaki after he is killed by the IOI.
  • Shoto: The second and younger of the two Japanese gunters working as a team in their quest for the egg.p. 129 He took his avatar's name from the name of the shorter sword of a daisho set, which is a wakizashi on its own. Shoto's real name is Akihide Karatsu.p. 292
  • Nolan Sorrento a.k.a. IOI-655321: The head of operations at Innovative Online Industries (IOI), the multinational corporation that serves as an Internet service provider for most of the world. Cline said that he named Sorrento after Nolan Bushnell, founder of the video game company Atari and said "Not that I think Nolan is a bad guy or anything. It’s meant as a subtle tribute!"[14]



Ready Player One was a New York Times bestseller.[15][16][17] Among those praising the book were Entertainment Weekly, The Boston Globe, The A.V. Club,, io9, and Boing Boing. USA Today wrote that the novel "undoubtedly qualifies Cline as the hottest geek on the planet right now."[18] NPR said that the book was "ridiculously fun and large-hearted". Cline "takes a far-out premise and engages the reader instantly" with a "deeply felt narrative [that] makes it almost impossible to stop turning the pages."[19] Janet Maslin of The New York Times wrote that "The book gets off to a witty start" but noted that it lacks at least one dimension, stating that gaming had overwhelmed everything else about this book.[20] Rebecca Serle of HuffPost described the book as "the grown-up's Harry Potter" and that it "has it all – nostalgia, trivia, adventure, romance, heart and, dare I say it, some very fascinating social commentary."[21] The book has been translated into over 20 languages.[22]


Discussion on the book was renewed in the months leading up to the release of Steven Spielberg's film adaptation. In contrast to the book's contemporary reviews, which were generally positive, these were substantially more negative and triggered a social media backlash towards the book and the then-upcoming film adaptation. Upon the release of the film's trailer in July 2017 various passages from the book quickly became viral on Twitter and other social media platforms, mocking Cline's writing style and the book's extensive use of 80s pop culture references.[23][24] Nick Shager, writing for The Daily Beast shortly before the release of the film adaptation, offered a scathing review that criticized the book's narrative style by stating "It’s... a terribly written piece of adolescent fantasy that, at heart, exemplifies everything wrong and repellent about modern nerd culture" and challenged its coming-of-age premise by calling it "a stunted-adolescent story". Regarding the abundance of pop culture references, Shager called the book "an unbearable celebration of nostalgic juvenilia". He summarized his argument against the book by stating "It’s a lionization of immature things (and immaturity) as an end to itself, rather than as the building blocks of more mature – and worthwhile – creations". Shager also lamented the book's "Peter Pan-ish infatuation with childishness, which comes coated in a stench of stale Doritos, Jolt Cola and lowbrow smugness".[25]

Shortly after the book was published, Gamergate became a focal point in the culture wars during the 2010s. This led some critics to re-examine Ready Player One and accuse it as pandering towards more toxic elements of online gamer culture. Constance Grady of Vox wrote that "for readers in Cline’s target demographic in 2011, [the book] felt empowering. For readers who weren’t, it felt like a harmless piece of affirmation meant for someone else. Everyone deserves a silly escapist fantasy, right?" to "But in this world [...] only things that affect straight white dudes really matter".[26] Writer Chris Isaac of Tor disagreed with these criticisms, stating that the backlash towards the book was an overcorrection in response to backlashes against similar books aimed at an audience of young women, such as Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series. He notes a then-recent video essay from young adult author Lindsay Ellis, previously dismissive of Meyer’s writings, that defended the writing of the Twilight books while singling out Ready Player One for its writing. Isaac writes “I don’t think the lesson from Twilight should be that Ready Player One needs to be blasted in the same fashion, but rather that you can acknowledge the flaws of something without joining a hate mob or attacking anyone else for enjoying it. By the end of Twilight’s shelf life, people talking about how much they disliked the series had become far more tiresome than those who enjoyed it."[27]


Michael J. Nelson's and Conor Lastowka's book review podcast series 372 Pages We'll Never Get Back was named after the number of pages that comprise the book's paperback edition. The book was the inaugural subject of the podcast, which is devoted to reviewing literature the hosts consider to be of dubious quality. They criticized the book for defective worldbuilding, repetitive and excessive pop culture references in place of descriptive writing, and weak plot.[28]


Short story[edit]

Lacero, a fan-fiction short story by Andy Weir, was published online in 2014,[29] and later included in the 2016 limited edition of Ready Player One published by Subterranean Press.[30]

It functions as a precursor to the main novel, and is considered canonical to the Ready Player One fictional universe.[31][32]

Sequel novel[edit]

As early as 2015, Cline had been reported to be working on a sequel to Ready Player One from screenwriter Zak Penn.[33] Cline confirmed the sequel was in progress by December 2017, and would have a different story-line involving all of the characters, while still exploring pop culture references like the first book.[34] Penguin House released the sequel, Ready Player Two on November 24, 2020. The plot follows Wade as he embarks on a new quest after discovering a new technology developed by Halliday. Between the weeks of November 29 and December 20 of 2020, it was number one on Amazon's fiction chart.[35]

In other media[edit]

Easter egg hunt promotion[edit]

Ten months after the first edition's release, Cline revealed on his blog that Ready Player One itself contained an elaborately hidden Easter egg. This clue would form the first part of a series of staged video gaming tests, similar to the plot of the novel. Cline also revealed that the competition's grand prize would be a DeLorean.[36] The Easter egg was a URL hidden in the book for This was the first stage of the contest where the 2011 Atari 2600 game The Stacks by developers Mike Mika & Kevin Wilson[37] was featured.[38] The game Ultimate Collector: Garage Sale by Austin-based developer Portalarium was featured in the second stage of the contest.[39][40] The final stage of the contest was announced on August 1, 2012, and was to set a world record on one of several classic arcade or Atari 2600 games. This was completed on August 9, 2012, by Craig Queen, who set a new world record in Joust. He was awarded the DeLorean on the TV series X-Play.[41]

Film adaptation[edit]

The film rights were purchased by Warner Bros. on the same day Cline finalized his publishing deal with Random House, one year prior to the novel's publication. Dan Farah brought the project into the studio and produced it with Donald De Line. Cline adapted his novel into a screenplay.[42] Over the years, Eric Eason and Zak Penn assisted Cline with rewrites.[43]

Steven Spielberg signed on to direct in March 2015.[44] Spielberg and Kristie Macosko Krieger of Amblin Partners also joined Deline and Farah as producers. Warner Bros. initially announced a release date of December 15, 2017.[45] On February 9, 2016, the release date was pushed back to March 30, 2018, to avoid competition with Star Wars: The Last Jedi.[46] The movie began production in the spring of 2016 and was filmed in both the United States and the United Kingdom.

On June 9, 2016, Variety stated that Spielberg's regular collaborator John Williams was planning on composing the film's score.[47] However, scheduling conflicts with another Spielberg film, The Post, led to Spielberg signing Alan Silvestri for the score.

The film stars Tye Sheridan, Olivia Cooke, Ben Mendelsohn, Lena Waithe, T. J. Miller, Simon Pegg, and Mark Rylance with Philip Zao, Win Morisaki, and Hannah John-Kamen in supporting roles. It premiered at South by Southwest on March 11, 2018, and was theatrically released by Warner Bros. in the United States on March 29, 2018. It received generally positive reviews from critics who praised its visuals and brisk pacing, the performances of Sheridan and Rylance, and noted it as an improvement on the book. The film nonetheless received criticism for its lack of character development and its "achingly regressive" view of pop culture fans.[48][49]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ OASIS is an acronym for Ontologically Anthropocentric Sensory Immersive Simulationp. 48
  2. ^ Art3mis chose the leet spelling as her username because the original spelling was already taken.p. 93
  • ^ The terms "Ch.." and "p." are shortened forms for chapter and page, and refer to chapters and pages in the Ready Player One novel in its first American edition.


  1. ^ Coll, Kevin (June 21, 2010). "Cool Novel Ready Player One Gets Publishing Rights and Movie Deal". Fused Film. Archived from the original on November 21, 2010. Retrieved February 13, 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  2. ^ "Ready Player One by Ernest Cline". Random House Publishers. 2011. Retrieved September 12, 2011.
  3. ^ McWeeny, Drew (August 16, 2011). "Review: 'Ready Player One' is the geek book event of the year: Ernie Cline's first novel offers nostalgia, the future, and a gamer's dream". HitFix.
  4. ^ "You want to accept Anorak's Invitation. Trust me. -". August 15, 2011. Retrieved February 7, 2017.
  5. ^ "YALSA's Alex Awards". American Library Association. 2012. Retrieved February 24, 2012.
  6. ^ Libertarian Futurist Society. "PROMETHEUS AWARD WINNERS ANNOUNCED". Retrieved July 13, 2012.
  7. ^ Couch, Aaron (July 8, 2020). "'Ready Player One' Book Sequel Sets November Publishing Date". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved July 8, 2020.
  8. ^ Kemp, Ella (December 1, 2020). "The first reviews for 'Ready Player Two' are in: "An AI could write a better book"". NME. Retrieved July 30, 2022.
  9. ^ Newitz, Annalee (August 16, 2011). "Read the first two chapters of Ernest Cline's new novel, Ready Player One". Retrieved April 16, 2018.
  10. ^ Poppe, Nathan (February 1, 2018). "Why isn't Steven Spielberg's 'Ready Player One' movie set in OKC?". NewsOK. Retrieved April 4, 2018.
  11. ^ a b c d e Sims, Tony (June 22, 2011). "A Few Minutes With Fanboys Writer Ernest Cline on Ready Player One". Wired.
  12. ^ a b "How Lord British Inspired Anorak | Ernie's Blog". October 19, 2011. Retrieved July 7, 2012.
  13. ^ Bilton, Nick (August 22, 2012). "One on One: Ernest Cline, author of 'Ready Player One'". The New York Times. Retrieved February 14, 2017.
  14. ^ "The Geek Genius Behind Ready Player One: An Interview With Ernest Cline". September 23, 2011. Retrieved March 17, 2017.
  15. ^ "Best Sellers: Hardcover Fiction: Sunday, September 11th 2011". September 11, 2011. Retrieved March 17, 2017 – via
  16. ^ "Paperback Trade Fiction Books - Best Sellers - July 1, 2012 - The New York Times". The New York Times. Retrieved March 17, 2017.
  17. ^ "Paperback Trade Fiction Books - Best Sellers - December 25, 2016 - The New York Times". The New York Times. Retrieved March 17, 2017.
  18. ^ "Most Popular E-mail Newsletter". USA Today. August 19, 2011.
  19. ^ Schaub, Michael (August 22, 2011). "'Player One': A Winning, Geeked-Out Page-Turner". NPR. Retrieved July 7, 2012.
  20. ^ Maslin, Janet (August 14, 2011). "'Ready Player One' by Ernest Cline – Review". The New York Times.
  21. ^ Serle, Rebecca (August 17, 2011). "Ready Player One: An Interview with Author Ernest Cline". The Huffington Post. Retrieved March 5, 2023.
  22. ^ "Ready Player One". Retrieved February 7, 2017.
  23. ^ Baker-Whitelaw, Gavia (March 14, 2018). "Why the internet is so ready to hate 'Ready Player One'". The Daily Dot. Retrieved June 7, 2023.
  24. ^ Purdom, Clayton (July 24, 2017). "The Ready Player One backlash has begun". The AV Club. Retrieved June 7, 2023.
  25. ^ Shager, Nick (December 31, 2017). "How is Steven Spielberg going to make a great movie out of this god-awful book?". The Daily Beast. Retrieved December 30, 2019.
  26. ^ Grady, Constance (March 26, 2018). "The Ready Player One backlash, explained". Vox. March 26, 2020
  27. ^ Isaac, Chris (March 12, 2018). "Why So Much Backlash? Ready Player One is Basically Twilight for Nerds". Tor. March 12, 2020
  28. ^ Vanderbilt, Mike (March 30, 2018). "Exclusive: It's game over when RiffTrax alums take on Ernest Cline and Ready Player One". News.
  29. ^ "Lacero". December 13, 2010. Retrieved February 7, 2017.
  30. ^ "Ready Player One Limited Edition". Retrieved July 22, 2020.
  31. ^ Brock Wilbur (March 28, 2016). "How 'The Martian' Impacted the 'Ready Player One' Movie". INverse.
  32. ^ Lussier, Germain (March 21, 2016). "The Author of The Martian Wrote Ready Player One Fan Fiction, and Now It's Canon". Retrieved April 16, 2018.
  33. ^ "Ernie Cline Reportedly Writing Ready Player One Sequel". January 16, 2015. Retrieved May 2, 2017.
  34. ^ "Ready Player One sequel: Everything you need to know". Digital Spy. September 13, 2018. Retrieved October 17, 2018.
  35. ^ "Amazon Charts Top 20 Books". Amazon.
  36. ^ "Three Hidden Keys Open Three Secret Gates | Ernie's Blog". June 5, 2012. Retrieved July 7, 2012.
  37. ^ "Stacks, The Play online - The Stacks (Atari 2600) :: DJ OldGames". Retrieved September 5, 2018.
  38. ^ "Contest Winners Level Up In The Ready Player One Easter Egg Hunt | Giant Freakin RobotGiant Freakin Robot". July 11, 2012. Retrieved September 5, 2018.
  39. ^ "Contest Winners Level Up In The Ready Player One Easter Egg Hunt". Giant Freakin Robot. July 11, 2012.
  40. ^ "For Ernest Cline, author of Ready Player One, success is measured in DeLoreans and geeked-out fans". August 2012. Retrieved February 7, 2017.
  41. ^ "Ready Player —One Author Ernest Cline Gives Away a DeLorean on X-Play". August 30, 2012. Archived from the original on January 14, 2013. Retrieved September 1, 2012.
  42. ^ Fleming, Michael (June 18, 2010). "Warner Bros and De Line Pictures Win Book Auction For 'Ready Player One'". Retrieved March 25, 2015.
  43. ^ Sneider, Jeff (January 13, 2010). "Eason to rewrite 'Player' script". Variety. Retrieved March 25, 2015.
  44. ^ Busch, Anita (March 25, 2015). "Steven Spielberg To Direct Sci-Fi Cult Favorite 'Ready Player One'; Back At Warner Bros". Retrieved March 24, 2015.
  45. ^ Zumberge, Marianne. "Steven Spielberg's 'Ready Player One' Slated for 2017 Release".
  46. ^ Lang, Brent (February 9, 2016). "Steven Spielberg's 'Ready Player One' Pushed Back to Avoid 'Star Wars: Episode VIII'". Variety. Retrieved February 9, 2016.
  47. ^ Burlingame, Jon (June 9, 2016). "AFI Honoree John Williams Looks Back on Six Decades of Iconic Themes". Variety. Retrieved June 9, 2016.
  48. ^ Jagneaux, David (March 13, 2018). "Ready Player One Movie Review Roundup: Another Spielberg Classic?". UploadVR. Retrieved March 26, 2018.
  49. ^ Casey, Henry T. (March 14, 2018). "Ready Player One Review Roundup: Pretty, Flawed". Tom’s Guide. Retrieved March 26, 2018.

External links[edit]