Abstract

Ernest Cline's 2011 novel Ready Player One offers an imaginary world that is simultaneously utopian and dystopian, because it portrays an immersive game-obsessed world that fuses high-tech virtual reality with 1980s nostalgia. Characters contrast their grim apocalyptic reality with escapism through worldwide gaming in the OASIS, a massively multiplayer VR world allowing players to travel into space, experience high fantasy, attend lavish parties, or simply socialize with friends. Cline's novel achieved significant acclaim, but few writers have considered the scholarly merits of the book, particularly as an example of the overlapping functions of gaming and utopianism. This article examines Ready Player One alongside Bernard Suits' philosophical approach to defining games and utopia. Ready Player One explicitly plays with ideas of eutopia and dystopia, games within games, reality and escapist play. As such, it is an excellent environment to examine Suits' philosophy of games and showcase why gaming is essential to utopian fiction, particularly in the early twenty-first century. For Cline, games are equally necessary for a dytopia for much the same reason—they allow a creative and social “escape hatch” from the grim realities of futuristic decline.

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