'Ready Player One' bring bestseller to life with virtual reality

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Ernest Cline is a geek. He said so himself. He’s proud of it and he has good reason to be. In 2011, he published a novel called “Ready Player One” and promptly ascended several mountaintops simultaneously.

The book became a New York Times bestseller. Warner Bros. won a bidding war to buy the film rights to the novel — one year before it was published. Then, Hollywood’s most popular filmmaker of all time, Steven Spielberg, signed on to the direct the adaptation.

Yes, life has been good to Ernest Cline. He grew up in the 1980s during the rise of Atari, Nintendo and Sega and nearly all of his works revolve around his love of video games. “Ready Player One” is a love letter to the games and the times of the 80s.

The book is full of pop culture references of the era, and the film will certainly contain its share, but don’t worry if you don’t recognize them. The film will be a feast for the eyes, first and foremost. It premieres next Thursday, March 29 at Westwood Cinema in Brenham.

The story is set in 2045 and in this not-so-distant future, the world has become the dirty, mechanical, overcrowded nightmare that is so prevalent in other futuristic films. The only escape from the “real” world is a massive video game called Oasis. It is a virtual reality simulation that allows players to become whoever and whatever they imagine.

When the creator of the game dies, he ignites a contest that grips the planet. Before his death, he announces that he hid three secret items inside his virtual world and whoever finds them will inherit his entire fortune and corporation.

Thus, the race is on.

Players from across the globe converge in Oasis to track down the secret items. The film follows the adventures of Wade Watts, a teenager in Oklahoma City, who is determined to win the contest. He collects a group of friends along the way and together they battle an evil conglomerate that would achieve unrivaled power if it won control of the game.

The core of the film is its virtual reality component and just as technology advanced in the fictional story to create a digital world for the characters, technology has progressed in our world so the actors and the director could exist on a virtual movie set.

For the sequences that take place inside the Oasis video game, the actors were forced to perform on a huge white sound stage with literally no reference points. There was no set. There were no props. Nothing in the video game existed in physical form. It was entirely digital.

So, Spielberg and the cast put on virtual reality headsets nearly identical to the ones worn by the characters in the film. Once the headsets were on, the participants could see the rudimentary digital set around them. They could see each other, as well, but not as they existed in the real world.

While looking through the headsets, the actors actually saw themselves as their video game characters inside Oasis. There are so many layers to the concept that it almost makes a person’s head hurt.

But don’t worry. If you’re confused, just go watch the movie preview online.

Virtual reality is the wave of the future and “Ready Player One” is the first major motion picture to capitalize on the growing phenomenon. Rest assured, it will not be the last. By 2045, who knows what might be possible?

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