Themes in Ready Player One
Social Networking—Aesch, Artemis, & Wade meet and interact solely online. Are different social skills used online vs. offline? Is it possible to fall in love online?
Identity Theft & and online privacy—Wade buys a new identity to carry out his plan to infiltrate the IOI corporation. What are the pros and cons of pervasive surveillance to society?
Online education—Wade attends a virtual school on a different planet (in the OASIS simulation). Is the future of education?
Nostalgia—Halliday has romanticized 80’s pop culture RP1. Why do we develop nostalgia for earlier times?
Videogame and technology addiction—Can people become addicted to online gaming? What are the implications for physical and mental health? Wade programmed his virtual assistant to remind him to exercise.
Financial literacy—Online currency (credits and E-Vouchers), are used online and to buy things out of the OASIS (Wade often orders pizza). Citizens who go into debt become indentured servants with little hope of paying off the debt due to the IOI’s unfair business practices.
Net Neutrality—How is online access provided and who has access?
Reality or escapism—Which is preferable? Is the Oasis (Internet) a safe place and great equalizer in Wade’s world?
Identity & Gender representation—How do we present ourselves (avatars) online vs. real world? Does the freedom to be anyone you want online make up for that lack of freedom in real life? Aesch states that “the OASIS was the best thing that had ever happened to women and people of color” – How does the online world marginalize and/or empower women and people of color?
Cultures—The Gunters and Sixers are two groups competing to finish the quest. How do they function as groups?
Wordplay, riddles, and poetry—Halliday’s clues are riddles in quatrain form.
Competition—Video game competitions are achieving traditional sports status (Hawkeye’s new team), fierce competition for Easter egg.
Perseverance—It takes 5 years for someone to solve the first riddle.
Immortality—Could people continue to live online after they die?
Technical advances in virtual reality—Wade has a haptic chair and electronic assistant (Max Headroom).
The Future—Utopia or dystopia? Could our world look like the world Kline portrays in the opening chapters? Would the world be better if Wade choose to press the red button? What if we had that for social media today?