The everyday blog of Richard Bartle.

RSS feeds: v0.91; v1.0 (RDF); v2.0; Atom.

Previous entry. Next entry.

12:49pm on Sunday, 1st April, 2018:

Ready Player One


We went to see Ready Player One last night. I don't think it leaves much room for a Ready Player Two, but I really quite liked it.

The movie was better than the book. I'd read the book, but eventually found the relentless references to 1980s pop culture irritating and at times implausible. Winning a game of Pac-Man with a perfect score (which happens in the book, not the film) is hard enough in real life, but winning it while wearing VR gloves? Nah.

The biggest selling-point of the book was its fond, nostalgic view of 1980s nerd culture. The film has them too, but unlike the book it's not defined by them. Now the 1980s were just after my time, but even if they were of my time I wouldn't have really gone for the book's level of veneration in referencing the period. There have always been, and will always be, sub-cultures with members who derive a sense of identify from esoteric knowledge. I remember reading an Azimov story about such a group of Gilbert & Sullivan fans, and I've met people with encyclopaedic knowledge of Sherlock Holmes stories and Hitchcock movies. It's very common in sports, too. People privilege knowledge (or perhaps experience) of a topic, and then in the small world of other people who privilege the same thing, they can be someone respected.

There isn't anything wrong with this, so long as it's harmless. I don't go for it myself, because by definition it's exclusionary. I remember as a teenager, when more and more people were getting into face-to-face role-playing games, complaining that future generations wouldn't know what the dexterity bonus was that halflings got for using a bow; a couple of months later, I thought about it again and decided well, why should they? Time moves on: wanting to keep things as they were simply because I'd invested time in them was an unsustainable, conservative attitude; I should be welcoming new people and trying to help them into the hobby, not shutting them out for not having started three years earlier. True, sometimes expansion and openness can lead to a watering-down of core principles, but this in turn can lead to evolutions and revolutions in ideas (as we're seeing at the moment with MMORPGs).

When it isn't harmless, OK, that would be a problem. As we saw with Gamergate, some people invest too much of their identity into their possession of esoteric knowledge/experience, and they build a culture about what they consider "their" property. Widening the access to this property feels to them like an invasion, taking from them what is rightfully theirs (and indeed what wouldn't even exist without them). You can see why they might resist. You can also see why they're doomed to lose the war. When they see it themselves, then either they acquiesce, or they form sub-sub-cultures, or they adopt increasingly vicious tactics to fight their already-lost battles.

Now the movie, Ready Player One was packed with references to satisfy children of the 1980s and beyond, but these didn't get in the way of the plot or the action. I dare say there will be people watching the DVD and freeze-framing every scene so they can proudly announce to other people doing the same thing that they saw Mei out of Overwatch, and that's fine; the movie is in a way celebrating them, while also telling them that they should get a life (at least two days a week). For people who don't do that, though (the majority of the audience), it worked as a movie regardless. My wife loved it, even though she isn't a gamer, because she liked the story, the characters and the action sequences. For her, it was like me watching a baseball movie: I know nothing about baseball, and couldn't name a single professional baseball player of the past 30 years. Going further back, I think Babe Ruth was one and Joe DiMaggio was one (which I know because he was married to Marilyn Monroe), but that's it. If I watched a baseball movie that required an extensive knowledge of baseball terms and history, which relied on insider knowledge for the plot, well I would consider my time wasted. If baseball was the context and the movie was driven by something else (as in the Jack Lemmon film, The Fortune Cookie), well that's different. I did like that movie.

Ready Player One was a fine piece of hokum, well worth spending £12 to watch on a wet and miserable Saturday evening.

It's somewhat ironic, though, that a movie about virtual worlds coming out in the year of the 40th anniversary of their invention, doesn't seem to be aware of the fact.

Exclude others, and you end up excluding yourself.

Why do the IOI employees all have numbers starting with 6 on their chests when their company logo is 5 in binary?

Latest entries.

Archived entries.

About this blog.

Copyright © 2018 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).