Are You Ready For Player One?

Recently I heard a number of the younger generation commenting on the movie “Ready Player One”.  So, I took my son and we went and watched it. It’s based on a book by the same title written by Ernest Cline.  Even though I’d never heard of the book, after watching the movie it intrigued me enough to cause me to get a copy and read it.
I can’t recommend the movie or book super highly because of the language.  I can tell you that it’s very interesting in that it feels as if Mr. Cline has nailed where this generation is headed . . . without Christ!
This is another in a long line of very popular dystopian books such as “The Hunger Games” series and the “The Maze Runner” series.  By the way, this genre has been around for a while now. The first book that I remember reading as a very young man was either Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451” or George Orwell’s, “1984”.
The quality of the movie’s production is nothing short of amazing.  Steven Spielburg is a genius filmmaker. In addition, the technology to make fake worlds look absolutely real is unbelievable.  And that’s one of my concerns!
What this film/book addresses very powerfully is a generation that has checked out of reality and is living in a fantasy world.  You don’t have to be very observant to see that in our world today. The question is, “What world are they checking into and is it having an impact on the ‘real’ world?”  The answer to the second question is, Yes, it is having an impact on the ‘real’ world.  Just turn on the news to see how much of an impact it’s having.
As for the first question, that scares me.  The world that many are checking into is not good.  The world that’s depicted in the book is similar to what you see in the movie, with one major difference.  The book explained in much more detail why the world was.
Steven Spielburg did a good job of lightening the message up and making the movie more fun.  The real message though was clearly stated in the book:
“I wish someone had just told me the truth right up front, as soon as I was old enough to understand it. I wish someone had just said: “Here’s the deal, Wade. You’re something called a ‘human being.’ That’s a really smart kind of animal. Like every other animal on this planet, we’re descended from a single-celled organism that lived millions of years ago. This happened by a process called evolution, and you’ll learn more about it later. But trust me, that’s really how we all got here. There’s proof of it everywhere, buried in the rocks. That story you heard? About how we were all created by a super-powerful dude named God who lives up in the sky? Total ……… The whole God thing is actually an ancient fairy tale that people have been telling one another for thousands of years. We made it all up. Like Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny.
Oh, and by the way … there’s no Santa Claus or Easter Bunny.  Also ……… Sorry, kid. Deal with it.”
Cline, Ernest. “Ready Player One” (pp. 16).
Movie goer’s didn’t get to hear this.  And there was even more:
“You’re probably wondering what happened before you got here. An awful lot of stuff, actually. Once we evolved into humans, things got pretty interesting. We figured out how to grow food and domesticate animals so we didn’t have to spend all of our time hunting. Our tribes got much bigger, and we spread across the entire planet like an unstoppable virus. Then, after fighting a bunch of wars with each other over land, resources, and our made-up gods, we eventually got all of our tribes organized into a ‘global civilization.’ But, honestly, it wasn’t all that organized, or civilized, and we continued to fight a lot of wars with each other. But we also figured out how to do science, which helped us develop technology. For a bunch of hairless apes, we’ve actually managed to invent some pretty incredible things. Computers. Medicine. Lasers. Microwave ovens. Artificial hearts. Atomic bombs. We even sent a few guys to the moon and brought them back. We also created a global communications network that lets us all talk to each other, all around the world, all the time. Pretty impressive, right?”
“But that’s where the bad news comes in. Our global civilization came at a huge cost. We needed a whole bunch of energy to build it, and we got that energy by burning fossil fuels, which came from dead plants and animals buried deep in the ground. We used up most of this fuel before you got here, and now it’s pretty much all gone. This means that we no longer have enough energy to keep our civilization running like it was before. So we’ve had to cut back. Big-time. We call this the Global Energy Crisis, and it’s been going on for a while now.”
“Also, it turns out that burning all of those fossil fuels had some nasty side effects, like raising the temperature of our planet and screwing up the environment. So now the polar ice caps are melting, sea levels are rising, and the weather is all messed up. Plants and animals are dying off in record numbers, and lots of people are starving and homeless. And we’re still fighting wars with each other, mostly over the few resources we have left.”
“Basically, kid, what this all means is that life is a lot tougher than it used to be, in the Good Old Days, back before you were born. Things used to be awesome, but now they’re kinda terrifying. To be honest, the future doesn’t look too bright. You were born at a pretty crappy time in history. And it looks like things are only gonna get worse from here on out. Human civilization is in ‘decline.’ Some people even say it’s ‘collapsing.’’
“You’re probably wondering what’s going to happen to you. That’s easy. The same thing is going to happen to you that has happened to every other human being who has ever lived. You’re going to die. We all die. That’s just how it is.”
“What happens when you die? Well, we’re not completely sure. But the evidence seems to suggest that nothing happens. You’re just dead, your brain stops working, and then you’re not around to ask annoying questions anymore. Those stories you heard? About going to a wonderful place called ‘heaven’ where there is no more pain or death and you live forever in a state of perpetual happiness? Also total ………”
Cline, Ernest. “Ready Player One” (pp. 17-18).
There’s a message of hope!  But the truth is that this is the philosophy of every one of the dystopian books.  In “The Hunger Games” it’s not spelled out until you’re almost completely finished reading the final book, but this is the worldview that each of the books in this genre are espousing.
When you think about it, if that history is true, and your present circumstances are as bad as depicted in the book and movie, where does your hope lie?  The truth is, in a fake reality. You have to find a way to deceive yourself into thinking there’s something better. In “Ready Player One”, that hope is in the “Oasis”.  A virtual world where you can look like you want to look and be pretty much anything you want to be, if you have enough money.
When you lose that money though, where does it leave you?  Back in reality with nothing! When you find yourself there, here’s the results you can expect:
“I’d already lost Art3mis, and now I was going to lose the contest, too. I’d already decided what I was going to do when it happened. First, I would choose one of the kids in my official fan club, someone with no money and a first-level newbie avatar, and give her every item I owned. Then I would activate the self-destruct sequence on my stronghold and sit in my command center while the whole place went up in a massive thermonuclear explosion. My avatar would die and GAME OVER would appear in the center of my display. Then I would rip off my visor and leave my apartment for the first time in six months. I would ride the elevator up to the roof. Or maybe I would even take the stairs. Get a little exercise. There was an arboretum on the roof of my apartment building. I had never visited it, but I’d seen photos and admired the view via webcam. A transparent Plexiglas barrier had been installed around the ledge to keep people from jumping, but it was a joke. At least three determined individuals had managed to climb over it since I’d moved in. I would sit up there and breathe the unfiltered city air for a while, feeling the wind on my skin. Then I would scale the barrier and hurl myself over the side. This was my current plan.”
Cline, Ernest, “Ready Player One” (p. 239).
We have a message of HOPE even in the midst of a world such as the one depicted in this movie and book.  Are we sharing it? In the movie the “hero”, Wade, makes the following statement when calling on all of the other gamers to come to his assistance to overcome Nolan Sorento, the head of IOI which is basically trying to take over the world.  Both game and real.:
“Are you willing to zero out in the name of the Oasis?”
Remember, the Oasis is a computer program, it’s a fake world.  He’s asking them to give up everything to save a “FAKE” world!
I think of what Jesus told the rich young man in Matthew 19:21 who had enquired how he could get into heaven, a real place.  Jesus told him to sacrifice everything, and he went away sad because he wasn’t willing to give that much. How much are we willing to give up for the truth?
Something that really surprised me was that an actual Christian character was in the book, but not in the movie.  Her name was Mrs. Gilmore. Take a look:
“Mrs. Gilmore was a total sweetheart. She let me crash on her couch when I needed to, although it was hard for me to sleep there because of all her cats. Mrs. G was super-religious and spent most of her time in the OASIS, sitting in the congregation of one of those big online mega-churches, singing hymns, listening to sermons, and taking virtual tours of the Holy Land. I fixed her ancient OASIS console whenever it went on the fritz, and in return, she answered my endless questions about what it had been like for her to grow up during the 1980s. She knew the coolest bits of ’80s trivia— stuff you couldn’t learn from books or movies. She was always praying for me too. Trying her hardest to save my soul. I never had the heart to tell her that I thought organized religion was a total crock. It was a pleasant fantasy that gave her hope and kept her going— which was exactly what the Hunt was for me.”
Cline, Ernest. Ready Player One (p. 23).
She is killed a little later when the IOI blows up Wade’s home and it all falls down on her.  Four more times the character Wade refers to Mrs. Gilmore in the book.
        Page 36 – his friend
        Page 146 & 339 – Sweet old Mrs. Gilmore
        Page 149 – One of the sweetest people he’d ever known.
It’s interesting to me that someone who believes that all we do is live and die and there’s no meaning in life recognizes kindness, but can’t understand that kindness doesn’t have a place in a world without a God.  We can recognize kindness, because there is a God, which means there is a right and a wrong way to treat people. I believe we’re seeing an increasingly mean spirited culture because they are being consistent with the worldview they hear constantly.  And that is one of secular humanism and it’s being programmed into them.
In America the typical “gamer” spends over 2 hours a day, which is 14 hours a week playing games. By the way, Colorado leads the nation in residents who play games on a typical day and Hawaii has the least.  Hmmm, maybe the climate has something to do with that! [1]
By the time a young person in America is 21 they will have spent 10,000 hours playing games.  This is 24 hours less than they spend in all of middle and high school combined. And that’s only IF they have perfect attendance.[2]
There are approximately 5 million “gamers” in the United States that spend over 40 hours a week, playing video games. [3]  And that number is growing.
By the way, it’s not just here in the United States.  The average time a 12-15 year old in the UK spends playing games is over 12 hours a week.[4]
I also find it interesting that as of 2016, 15% of 25 to 25-year-olds in America still live in their parent’s homes.[5]
So, suffice it to say we have a generation that’s living in a world that is quite different from the one that I grew up in and in many cases it seems to be a “dream” world.
Are we willing to “zero out” to let a generation know that there is another way?
In the book Wade recognizes that the Oasis was a prison:
“I’d been so proud of all this high-tech hardware when I’d first purchased it. But over the past few months, I’d come to see my rig for what it was: an elaborate contraption for deceiving my senses, to allow me to live in a world that didn’t exist. Each component of my rig was a bar in the cell where I had willingly imprisoned myself. Standing there, under the bleak fluorescents of my tiny one-room apartment, there was no escaping the truth. In real life, I was nothing but an antisocial hermit. A recluse. A pale-skinned pop culture– obsessed geek. An agoraphobic shut-in, with no real friends, family, or genuine human contact. I was just another sad, lost, lonely soul, wasting his life on a glorified videogame.”
Cline, Ernest. Ready Player One (p. 198).
What can we do to let this generation know that they are imprisoning themselves and that there is a better way?
Surprisingly, the very last two paragraphs in the book give us an answer on what we can do.  Take a look:
“Some time later, she leaned over and kissed me. It felt just like all those songs and poems had promised it would. It felt wonderful. Like being struck by lightning.
It occurred to me then that for the first time in as long as I could remember, I had absolutely no desire to log back into the OASIS.”
Cline, Ernest. Ready Player One (p. 372).
When he finally had a real relationship in the real world, he had no desire for the lie!  I’m not telling you to necessarily go kiss someone today, but if a holy hug and kiss is what it takes, I pray you’re willing.  We need to establish real relationships, with real people so we can introduce them to a real Savior named Jesus. Who is real and really will come back in the future.  Are we ready, player one?
Stay Bold!
[3] ibid
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