Literature Study GuidesReady Player OnePrologue Chapter 0000 Summary

Ready Player One | Study Guide

Ernest Cline

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Ready Player One | Prologue, Chapter 0000 | Summary

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Summary

The Prologue is titled "Chapter 0000," and in each subsequent chapter, the chapter numbers are styled with zeroes in front of the numerals. In the 2040s the planet is in crisis and human civilization is declining. To escape their brutal, impoverished lives, people spend much of their time logged in to the OASIS, an online multiplayer video game that has become a "globally networked virtual reality." Before his death, eccentric billionaire and OASIS creator James Halliday prepared a video message called Anorak's Invitation—named for his avatar, Anorak—to be played after he was gone. In the message, he announces he has hidden an Easter egg—a secret feature—somewhere inside the OASIS, and the first person to find it will inherit his fortune as well as control of his company. Finding the Easter egg depends on locating three keys—Copper, Jade, and Crystal—and passing through three gates. Halliday includes a clue consisting of a few cryptic lines of verse.

After Halliday's death, people around the world from all walks of life begin searching within the OASIS for his Easter egg. The contest spawns a subculture of egg hunters, known as gunters. Looking for clues, gunters obsessively scrutinize Anorak's Invitation as well as Anorak's Almanac, a sprawling collection of Halliday's journal entries focusing on his obsession with 1980s pop culture. Gunters become experts on 1980s pop culture, believing this knowledge is crucial to finding the Easter egg. Years pass without anyone finding the first of the three keys, and enthusiasm for the contest diminishes. Five years after Halliday's death, a gunter finally locates the Copper Key. This gunter, a teenager living in poverty on the outskirts of Oklahoma City, is the book's narrator.

Analysis

Chapter 0000 presents the book's premise—the quest for the Easter egg inside the OASIS—and familiarizes the reader with the novel's dominant elements. An Easter egg is an unexpected object hidden inside a video game. In 1980 programmer Warren Robinett, upset because Atari wouldn't credit him for his work, hid his name inside the game Adventure, thereby creating the first Easter egg. The titles Anorak's Invitation and Anorak's Almanac refer to Halliday's OASIS avatar, Anorak, "a tall, robed wizard with a slightly more handsome version of ... Halliday's face." Inside the OASIS, players are represented by avatars of their choosing. The OASIS allows both anonymity and personal transformation. An avatar may be wildly different in both appearance and personality from the person controlling it.

In 2040 environmental destruction and collapsing economies have made life unpleasant and difficult for most of humanity. The OASIS offers escape from a difficult and brutish existence, but it is not merely a diversion. Events inside the OASIS have real-world consequences, and Halliday has upped the stakes even more by offering his fortune and control of his company to whomever can find the Easter egg. Absurdly, access to this power and wealth depends on acquiring a prodigious knowledge of 1980s pop culture. Halliday's obsession with 1980s pop culture is a key component of the text, which makes frequent references to the books, movies, music, and video games of that era. Halliday's obsession inspires a similar obsession in gunters who hope to lay claim to his fortune.

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