Ready Player One, more than VR and games!

A few days ago, I went to the Oden downtown with my friends and watched the Ready Player One. Since I have heard a lot about how this film hides tons of classic video game and movie characters in every scene, I was still very excited while I step in the cinema.

When the film ends, I was surprised by the story. The story is not just about a future VR game world, but a dystopian and cyberpunk society. The video game and movie characters they hide in the scene are “condiments”, not the main point of this film. Hence, this time we will be talking about the dystopian and cyberpunk themes in this film, not those classic characters they hide in the film.

Yes, I mentioned “dystopian” and “cyberpunk” again, some might think I am too mad at these two things and there is nothing else in my brain now. Well, I will totally agree with that 🙂 But this does not bother me to speak out the truth that Ready Player One is a film that full of dystopian and cyberpunk themes.

This picture really fits the definition of cyberpunk – “high tech, low life”

Firstly, we should know about the notion of cyberpunk. Cyberpunk, it is a branch of science fiction literature. It is different from the classic sci-fi literature and film or TV programs (e.g. Star Wars, Warhammer 40K),  cyberpunk is more focus on computer and information technology. A cyberpunk story usually contains a dystopian world, where people are suffering from the corporate giants and corrupt government. Cyberpunk has been considered as a self-correction of the classic sci-fi works because they usually ignore the quick development of information technology. At the same time, cyberpunk is also a pessimist way of science fiction. Differing from the classic science fiction, the future that cyberpunk would like to show is one that full of depressions, antihuman and totalitarian. What it reflects is the fear of corporate giants manipulate the society and the concern of corrupt government and the alienation of the society.


Those cyberpunk writers hope they can use their works to remind the people that the future is not always good and beautiful as we think, it could be pretty bad, and how bad it could be, that depends on the writer. Thinking about the news a while ago that Facebook leak many users’ data, I am afraid that the concern of those writers might be real and well supported.

Back to the film Ready Player One, before it went on the screen, the way how it was advertising has nothing to do with the word “cyberpunk” or “dystopian”, I am thinking that might because of Bladerunner: 2049 used these two words for advertisement and it did not sell well, and they worry about this will happen again in the case of Ready Player One. Although the film did not use cyberpunk and dystopian for advertisement, the story contains many cyberpunk themes. For instance, cyberspace, virtual reality, corporate giant (I0I company),  the expanse of the urban area and slum.


The application of cyberspace and virtual reality has been shown in the film, the virtual world Osias and the popularization of VR devices, I believe it is very impressive for those who have watched the film. The corporate giant I0I company is very powerful in the film, hunting the hero down from online to the offline world, and from that, it is convincing that such corporate giant can easily manipulate the society.  And there are some scenes in the film make audiences feel the great expanse of the urban area and the emergence of the slum. When defining the term cyberpunk, there is an important idea called “high tech, low life”. In a cyberpunk world, the technology has been well developed, while people who are in the middle-lower and lower class of the society did not have a better life, but a miserable life.

This has been shown in the film. Characters are the hero in the virtual world Osias and leading other players toward the final battle. While when they log off and back to the reality, they wake up in broken building or the back of a broken van. Their reality is wandering around the slum that made up of containers and broken vans and falls asleep on a washing machine.


Meanwhile, the name of the virtual world in the film is quite meaningful in a sense. Osias as a paradise for losers in the reality, it is very appropriate. If the reality is a brutal desert, then Osias is indeed the place that we can have a rest or escape away from the real world. Also, judging by the dense slum and the powerful I0I company, there is a giant gap between the rich and the poor in this future society, polarization really exists there. To the rich, Osias is indeed a game, while to the poor, Osias is not only their hope for life but also the dope that helps they get away from the brutal reality,  and it is more like chains which made by the government in order to control them, to avoid social instability, to ease the conflict of interests between different social class.

In the film, they put a giant scoreboard in the reality, encouraging people to sink into the virtual world

Such theory is something that has already been suggested by the term “tittytainment”, which refers to a form of lowest common denominator entertainment designed to appeal to the masses and refrain people from thinking.

Overall, that is why I believe Ready Player One is a film that full of dystopian and cyberpunk theme.

At the end of the story, the hero visits the room of Osias’ creator. There is a red button in his room, and once it been pressed, the whole server of Osias will be shouted down. And I was wondering why the hero did not press it as soon as he knows the function of this red button. Then after the film, I have considered it again and found that it will be very stupid to do so. Just Imagine that there is a guy who shouts down the servers of every single video games on this planet, and tells people that I am saving you all from the trap of “tittytainment” and encouraging you all to go back to the reality and work hard. I believe people would not appreciate that it will be the other way around, the guy will be torn apart by them.



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