In many ways, Ready Player One (RPO) was a visually stunning movie. It can be considered as thus for the simple fact that the majority of the movie took place in a virtual reality world in which any and everyone went to in order to desperately get away from the ills of reality. If that is the case, one could wonder what is going on with the real world that has essentially caused humanity to retreat from the real world. Has humanity also just given up on reality and has accepted its fate?
SPOILERS WILL FOLLOW
While it was one of the overarching themes of the book, when visualized in the movie as people literally stacked on top of each other in trailer homes, we really see how bad it is. It’s a scary thought to know that living conditions have gotten so dangerous that not only are the poorest people living in shanty towns but the shanties are piled together like Jenga bricks.
It’s a testament today that in most major cities there is a trend that there are abandoned houses that sit for years with a slow crawl of revitalization to make affordable housing possible, or there is outright gentrification where sections of cities are rebuilt where those that have just enough money to live. On the other side of this is where we have urban sprawl where our population has become so vast, that we are on the brink of unbalancing ecosystems that has sustained life for centuries just to make a quick buck for new condos and million dollar homes. The near future reality of RPO shows the prospect of overpopulation but quietly asks the question, “If there is no place left to go, how did we get here?” In further examination of the movie, even at the end, it’s also asked have we gotten to the point that we are doing nothing to fix this problem?
Virtual Economy and consequences of death
If the last few weeks’ worth of news about the economy hasn’t been enough to scare you, then the concept of gaming literally for a living should. It’s not enough that people are scraping and scrounging every little bit they can get to play a game but the price of loss is very deep. If your avatar dies in a game, there is no corpse run to recover your loot, you lose EVERYTHING. There is a scene early in the movie where the concept of in-game death is being narrated, a Japanese salaryman’s avatar dies.At the point of his avatar’s death, the salaryman immediately leaps out of a window. That’s how deep it is to lose your items and your avatar. Some of the items are obtained via micro-transactions and as evidenced by some characters, it has helped them get ahead in the game as well as (virtual) life. Also, on the quiet, slavery is a concept introduced in this movie. Look at the practices of IOI.
If you become indebted to the game, they own you and you are forced to play and they reap all of the profits. For gamers who hate ads in their games, did you catch early on that IOI is hoping to stay profitable by introducing ads in the hopes that people will either click them or pay more to ignore them? This sounds too familiar, but it also brings again the question of how did we get here? Yes, we know that this VR world was addictive but how addictive could it have gotten that people started relying more on a virtual economy to survive in real life to play a game?
These are just two concepts that should make one take pause when considering the dystopian world of Ready Player One. Even if you look at all of the nostalgia and pop references that have been sprinkled in during the movie, outside of IO’s influences, there is nothing that defines the world of 2045. This is a future where it looks as if humanity has given up on reality and is more content with escapism into a world where they can become anything. Even if you look at the main protagonists of the game, once they have overcome the story’s obstacles, at the very most, they simply make the virtual environment a better hole to hide one’s head in except for two days a week. However, nothing is ever mentioned about fixing the reality that everyone should be facing.