My favorite childhood video game was the Atari 2600 title Swordquest: Fireworld. The game takes place in a series of caverns that lead to rooms with mini-games. Every once in awhile, when I beat a mini-game, letters would flash on the screen. I was sure they had meaning, but without access to the game’s instruction manual or a resource like the Internet, I had no idea what. I was also five years old.
Almost 20 years later I was surprised to find out the game had been part of an elaborate contest held by Atari during their golden years. Those who discovered the meaning of the puzzles and completed them alongside a comic in the instruction manual would compete for lavish prizes even by today’s standards. I was disappointed to learn the contest ended about a year before I discovered the game.
I just finished the Ready Player One audiobook, written by Ernest Cline and read by Wil Wheaton. It’s the story of a video game contest with embedded puzzles seeped in 1980’s escapism. I enjoyed the book because it provided a platform to revere so much of the entertainment I liked as a child and rediscovered as an adult. It’s also a good story with a lot of threads that add to the world without being obviously used for foreshadowing.
Ready Player One takes place in an immersive VR future, but it draws on so much of Atari’s past and the excitement and competition an epic contest can bring. I think it’s absolutely realistic in that regard.
Discovering there will be a Ready Player One movie out in 2018 feels like the cherry on top of the cake’s icing considering how good the audiobook narration by Wil Wheaton is. I’m also looking forward to listening to the author’s next book, Armada.