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Your Favorite Thing Sucks: Ready Player One

Hey, Geeks. Welcome to The Geek Embassy’s new series — Your Favorite Thing Sucks! Where I get to point out all the worst parts of your favorite things.

Let’s start with something new that everyone is talking about: Ready Player One. Just so you know, this article only covers the events in the movie, and I’m not going to discuss all the things the movie did differently than the book because I want to go to bed sometime tonight. I’m also not going to discuss the disastrous implications of a society that runs almost exclusively in virtual reality, because I already did that in this article series. You can discuss whatever you want in the comments, however.

Also, make sure you listen to the entire Embassy discuss Ready Player One here.

Everyone Sucks and So Do You

Ready Player One is a visually pleasing — even stunning — movie, and it has its fair share of plot holes. Like Old Man Simon Pegg somehow being the Curator 24/7 or five random people from an insanely large MMO all ending up within walking distance of each other.  But that’s not what makes this move suck. It’s the people. Seriously. They’re all just terrible. And honestly, so are you.

Art3mis/Samantha is the closest thing we have to a genuine hero and she’s not even the main character. She is the only person who gives even a tiny handful of fucks about the real world. You know — that terrible hellscape of stacked trailers and drones that scan everyone when they’re not placing bombs. She is the ONLY person who seems to want to make the real world a little less hellish, and when she’s finally given the financial and political means to do so, what does she and her even-worse boyfriend decide to do?

Lock the doors to the Oasis and force people to miss work and live in their shit-filled lives for two whole days a week.

Unless she and the rest of the High Five are offering means of employment, education, or resource centers in the real world, their end strategy really destroys any of the good things that people actually have in this garbage fire. But hey. At least she feels comfortable enough to show her face now.

You Didn’t Even Figure Out the Real Bad Guy

Seriously. All the High Fivers are like that. But we like them because most of us are nerds and want to back the person who wins with pure skill and a joy of the game rather than the min/maxers, spambots, and every terrible thing about MMOs that Sorrento represents. The people that take the fun out of games by turning it into number crunching and pay-to-win races rather than anything fun. Sorrento is that guy. He is just the worst.

Or is he?

The movie tries to make it seem so. The entire point of the challenge is to remind people that they’re supposed to play for fun. To just enjoy life sometimes. And it delivers it in a super-meta conglomerate of nostalgia and Easter Eggs. Which is where we remember that minmaxers are not the ultimate evil—especially in a world where everyone’s livelihood depends on winning (because, seriously, I don’t think ANYONE in this movie had a real-world job). If you have to win in order to feed your children, min-maxing is the best thing you can do. And for the majority of people in IOI—that was the goal. Just to make it long enough to pay their debts. Do you think the High Five took on all those bills after they started force-closing The Oasis twice a week? I doubt it.

No. You know what the real evil in this is? Think about all those Easter Eggs you saw in the film and how happy it made your heart to see them. Think about how excited you got to see your favorite character for a split second in one scene. Now think about that guy you’re going to watch the movie with someday who is going to pause the film and point out every single character in the frame and chuckle disdainfully when you ask “where are they from?”

You and Your Friends Are Worse Than You Think

There will always be people that notice more or understand more references, and you know how that takes the fun out of the entire experience. Because no matter what you enjoy, someone is always able to make it seem like you DON’T enjoy that because they know more about it than you do. RPO’s entire contest is based around you needing to be that guy. That’s why most people clan up or why IOI hires an entire army of loremasters for it—because who could possibly know everything about everything without being an insanely elitist douche?

That’s right. Z. Z is the elitist we all hate at parties — but the game is designed to reward him for that. Which is ironic since Halliday wanted to create a game for people to just enjoy, rather than obsess over. But then Z comes along and gets to be that guy that knows more about your favorite thing than you, and is thus deemed “better.” He’s that guy that stands in line for a new Star Wars movie saying how much you should hate it while making fun of you for not knowing that the actor who played Wedge Antilles in the original trilogy is Ewan McGregor’s uncle in real life. And him knowing everything about all the things you thought you loved makes him win. You thought you respected and loved Halliday? Well, apparently you don’t or else you would have more keys, wouldn’t you?

In the end, this film is the fantasy fulfillment of every geek out there whose head is filled with useless trivia and video game knowledge, but no real-life skills. That fantasy that maybe all the decades we’ve spent with a controller in hand might amount to something. And who knows? Maybe it has.

Because I bet you think you can point out more references than your friends.

3 thoughts on “Your Favorite Thing Sucks: Ready Player One”

  1. It has been a day and an age since I’ve written – so I’m going to disclaim here and say that I’ve read this a few times and I don’t think that the tone is uncivil, but if it is, please feel free to critique it and tell me which sections were too on the edge . Well then! Let us get started, shall we?

    You first posit that Art3mis/Samantha is the closest thing to a genuine hero; I tend to disagree, but I think I have to counter points you make further on in your article before I can address this appropriately.
    So instead, lets start with the decision our protagonists make at the end of the movie – I will say I think this was an odd place to start your article with since, well, it’s the end of the movie and the beginning of the article. But I digress.

    You are making a logical assumption that this is all that the High Five do. However, we as an audience have very few indicators of just how long has passed. The end of the movie could have happened the next day, next month or next year. We know not too much time has passed since they still look relatively the same. Is it a realistic expectation that these five teenagers, who have spent their entire lives learning everything they know from a virtual reality world, would solve all of the world’s problems in such a short period of time?

    We have real life examples of this situation, there are plenty of ridiculously rich and powerful people in the world. Some of the are straight up geniuses and will be remembered in history for a long time for the accomplishments that they have wrought on the world. Have any of them fixed it?

    It’s irrational to believe that these teenagers would have all the answers just because they became extremely rich and gained a bunch of power. Honestly, shutting down the Oasis for two days a week to force the world to recognize reality was a fucking brilliant move on their part. They have just forced everyone to at the very least, look at the world around them and see just what kind of garbage fire they exist in.

    I’m going to skip right over your Bad Guy point, because I didn’t really see a point made.

    “You and your friends are worse than you think.” I’m really confused here. You articulate that Z is an elitist, and all of your language makes me believe that we should hate him. But you don’t really give us any reason to… I mean, okay, Z is an elitist. Is Z Parzival? I hope so, otherwise this argument isn’t really going anywhere. Apparently being elite at something is bad. Or are we arguing that the idea of all this power going to the one person that’s most elite in trivia about Halliday is a terrible concept?

    What are we arguing about here? Being an elite at Halliday trivia knowledge and being smart enough to figure out Halliday’s puzzles was pretty much the most genius application of, well, applying to take over Halliday’s empire.

    Halliday wanted someone like him to take over, someone he felt he could trust. So, he wanted someone interested in the things he was interested in, smart enough to figure out why those things interested him and good enough at the game to apply those things to the game he built. I mean, one, Halliday is fucking smart. Two, pretty sure this is standard hero’s journey fare that you are picking on.

    You missed the one thing I was sure you were going to nail. You skipped right over the part where his aunt, the one relative Wyatt sort of liked, gets blown up by IOI – which, by the fucking way, is a pretty good indicator that Sorrento is the bad guy since he orders the strike – and then within a couple hours, without shedding more than a tear or two, is back in the game hunting for the keys. Seriously. This was the only part of the movie where I had to stop and think about whether what I just watched actually happened. If I hadn’t known better, I would have thought I temporarily blacked out and missed at least fifteen minutes of the movie. But, luckily, I was with friends and I double checked – nope, that happened.

    Back to the genuine hero that is Art3mis. You said she’s the closest thing to a genuine hero we have. In terms of what? In terms of current world America? In terms of the story? How do you define a genuine hero?

    All of the High Five members have traits we could call heroic, especially within the construct of the story that is being told. Daito uses his artifact to buy them time – in probably the most bad ass way possible I might add. He’s one guy that takes on the single richest and most equipped bad ass in the game, the owner of IOI piloting God-fucking-Zilla. Watching that scene brought back memories from all my MMRPG days of taunting the boss once the tank died on my Ret paladin and buying just a few more seconds for the DPS to finish them off as well as teenage memories of binge watching anime – only to get zeroed out in the end. Zhou – proving that even an 11-year-old can play the game, not to be underestimated. Aech – Regina probably has enough material with this character for a weeks’ worth of classes.

    I also think that you could say that no one is a hero if we take them outside of the construct of the story. But what is the fucking point of a hero outside of their story? Is King Arthur still a hero if he’s running around in Africa? No – because he needs Camelot for his story to work and Camelot ain’t in Africa. Is Harry Potter a hero if we take him out of his story? No, he’s a whinny little bitch placed in any other story – arguably, in his own story as well.

    With any given subject matter, assumptions can paint a different picture. Most of the time when analyzing something, we have to make, at least some, assumptions. The trick is to make assumptions that make sense with the evidence that we have. I feel like your article has made assumptions contrary to the evidence that is presented.

    Until next time!
    P.S. Pick something good.

    1. Hi there, Micah. Thanks for stopping by.

      You make some good points. Let’s see if I can cover them all.

      1) You’re right– I made the logical assumption that the points listed above are ALL the High Five do because that’s all I saw them do. In the epilogue we got, they pointed out the things that they apparently determined were most important in the aftermath of their victory. Since it was narrated, they could have said something like “we set up learning centers and bought all of IOI’s debt over the next ten years” or “We built a real-world Willy-Wonka factory and Daito got diabetes.” Both of those are equally possible eventualities from the ending we got. But they didn’t say anything like that, so I couldn’t assume they did anything like that. I have to work with what I have. And I don’t think what we have is enough to label them as good people.

      2) I think that you read this and thought I was implying that being an elitist is a bad thing in The Oasis. But that wasn’t my intention at all. This was not an attack on Parzival– this was a look at all the people like him in the real world. I was pointing out that being an elitist douche that ruins people’s favorite things is a bad thing for the people in the audience who are eventually going to do exactly that–this movie just glorified that in addition to giving elitist douches everywhere a ton of new things to hold over other people’s heads. Z (and yes, Z is Parzival because that’s what they call him in the movie) is the perfect person to win the contest if we continue to gloss over that Halliday wanted to make something people could just enjoy instead of winning or obsessing over (before setting up an archive that people had to obsess over in order to win). But my vitriol wasn’t directed at Z or Halliday or anything in the movie– but rather the people in real life that demonstrate and idolize that mindset. The movie creates a storyline in which the ultimate elitist is worthy of being rewarded in this one instance– but we all know that this one instance is not going to happen in real life. So the plot just justifies a particular mindset that has no positive real-world applications, and is thus a bad movie at its moral core.

      3) You are completely right in that I should have mentioned the dead aunt. I’d actually forgotten that had happened by the time I finished writing this. It seemed to mean absolutely NOTHING to Z (which still cements in my mind that he doesn’t care at ALL about what happens in the real world and thus is not deserving of the real-world power and money that came with his victory). But, since that particular scene didn’t hold any emotional impact, it appears it didn’t come to mind while I was writing this. My bad. Point to you.

      4)Yes– all of the High Five are definitely heroes– in the game. They sacrificed a lifetime of in-game loot and leveling to help their friend/clan/hoarde/server/whatever win the battle. And they were treated as heroes for it. But I still didn’t see that heroism transfer over into the actual world– which fits well with your Arthur without Camelot analogy. That’s all these kids are. Heroes in a game.

      More importantly, though, the battle scene isn’t as significant for the movie as it was for my actual target– the audience in the theater watching the battle scene. In real-world terms, the entire final battle was really just another feeding of the nerd fantasy fulfillment that was crafted specifically for and then spoon-fed to this audience– that the things we do in MMOs might actually matter someday (when, in fact, they will NEVER actually have any effect on the outside). It gave every person in the audience with more trivia knowledge than real-world skills a few moments of thinking that that might save the world someday, because they could have helped do that in this movie. (Well- they COULD have helped save the world, but I’m still going to argue that that didn’t happen in the film we got). Again, if I’d seen some proof of the High Five using the power/funds that accompanied that victory to do something positive for the crackfire that is their life (other than force people with incredible debt and no means to fix the problem to stare at it for two days a week) I might have considered those in-game sacrifices noble or important. But, as it stands, they were lovely cinematic cutscenes of pixelated death that ended with no bearing on the real world. Yeah, Daito used his artifact to take on MegaGodzilla and he lost. That is a really sad thing in the Oasis. But now he’s got the ability to buy whatever mods he wants several times over. It seems more likely to me, in this moment, that he’s going to use the money for that rather than setting up a trade school in Columbus.

      So, overall, you’re right– every time we see or read something we have to make some assumptions in order to fill in the blanks. That’s if we want a complete and fulfilling story. I chose not to fill in the blanks and leave it as-is. It’s not my place to make this story whole, complete, or fulfilling, just as it wasn’t my place to assume what those kids would do– I only acted with what I know they did. Which wasn’t much.

      P.S. Got a suggestion on what “good thing” I should pick in the future?

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