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Books & Videogames

Novelisations and Discussions: Jack Jerram introduces us to the relationship between videogames and books.

Part 2: Ready Player One

Words: Jack Jerram

Images: Jack Jerram & Adobe Stock

My aim for this article is to show the wider reach of gaming literature, by reviewing the critically acclaimed novel, Ready Player One. This has inspired games and has been adapted into a movie, making it more accessible, than NieR (last editions focus), as an entry point for people wanting to give gaming novels a try!

Last edition we explored the story and themes of the gaming novel NieR Automata: Long Story Short, I concluded that it deserved a rating of 10/10! Brilliantly combining the genre of science-fiction with philosophy providing an introduction to theories such as posthumanism, serving to intrigue but not overwhelm readers.

Ready Player One is set in the near future, 2045 as the world steadily collapses into chaos and poverty, thanks to climate change and a fossil fuel crisis. Most citizens spend their days traversing the OASIS, a virtual reality world created by the eccentric James Halliday, to escape from their problems. When Halliday dies, he promises his immense fortune to the first person able to solve his digital puzzle – or ‘easter egg’ as he coins it – located somewhere in OASIS. When young Wade Watts joins the contest, he finds himself becoming an unlikely hero in an unpredictable world of: mystery, discovery and danger.

Ready Player One will appeal to everyone; the novel is a classic action-adventure narrative witnessing a hero’s mission to save the world with elements of science fiction and romance which appeal to audiences of all ages – explaining its success in the movies as well as the shelves. Yet, the underlying presence of a speculative future collapsing from climate change and poverty, isn’t so dissimilar from our world – it offers the reader a complex narrative for those wanting more mature content in their novels; it is this which really makes the story stand out. The virtual escape into the OASIS machine could represent transhumanism which believes that people can evolve through technology. If you’re looking for a story which is interesting for all ages, I definitely recommend the novel.

I mentioned that this isn’t a direct adaptation of a game but a story that is heavily inspired by gaming. The success of the novel was directly impacted by the success of the movie – proving that people are willing to watch and read an original gaming story but not one that is inspired or adapted from a video game. A recent survey by Kristie Jolley (a junior high school teacher) showed that readers were either unaware of texts based on video games or viewed the content as simple and immature. Movie adaptations can provide a greater reach to potential audiences like those in the study and in turn create a wider appeal for gaming literature as a whole.

My rating for Ready Player One is 9/10! This novel deserves all the praise it gets for reimagining the classic action-adventure genre – setting the story in a technological future that reinvents the traditional image of a hero. Although the novel is great, elements that engage with mature content aren’t the focus of the novel or movie, resulting in a novel enjoyable for all audiences. So, while they are still a part of the plot, it would be unfair of me to say there isn’t a target audience - around 10 to 16 years old.

If you’re interested in seeing an original gaming narrative or want an entry point into the genre, I’d recommend giving Ready Player One a try. If you’re still not convinced, check out my final article where I give some rapid-fire reviews and create an online discord server for those of you looking to discuss any novels I’ve mentioned or any of your own personal favourites!


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