Ready Player Two author sees the dark side of virtual reality

Technology | Roberto Ontiveros 11 Jan 2021

Ernest cline's 2011 debut novel, Ready Player One, a kind of Willy Wonka-meets-Tron adventure story, validated the digital diversions of gamers and 1980s enthusiasts alike with its arcade in-jokes and allusions to John Hughes movies.

With the release of Ready Player Two, the author tweaks the expectations of his own brand of nostalgic escapism with an Easter egg of ambivalence regarding the addictive nature of the very internet-based obsessions that initially inspired him. "Well, I am 10 years older than when I wrote the first book, and 20 years older than when I started the first book," he said. "I've matured."

Cline actually has a love/hate relationship with the internet and its corresponding technology. Regarding the warnings of too much social media and screen time in his sequel, he said: "I try to show the good side and the bad side of technology, but this one is definitely more of a cautionary tale."

In Ready Player Two, our hero, Wade Watts, who has gone from living the life of a poor gamer to winning control of the virtual reality system OASIS, finds out about a technology called ONI that has been kept from the public. This suppressed technology enables users to experience OASIS with all five senses to record and even upload real life experiences.

ONI is a highly addictive, potentially brain-damaging simulation that will change the world forever. "That's the end point in the evolution of video games and virtual reality,' he said. "When it becomes indistinguishable from reality. Then it would feel the same as reality and become highly addictive - especially since it is a reality that you have control over."

If Cline is ambivalent about the technology he writes about, he is also unsettled about how the more dystopian aspects of his first novel (such as reality TV stars entering politics and the havoc caused by a worldwide pandemic) have become real.

"It was strange to see so much of the story come true," he said. "I set it 25 years in the future. A lot of its dystopian elements were something that I just threw in there, that I was not thinking would come true, much less in less than a decade."

Regarding the uncanniness, he said: "I worry sometimes that the only thing you need to be prescient is to be pessimistic."

The Dallas Morning News (TNS)

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