Skip to main content

Ready Player One and "let's talk about your DeLorean for a minute"

The man actually says we have to "make good art"

Every few months the internet gets back around to the "shhh let people enjoy things" phase of its ever-repeating cycle. I agree that there is no need to make fun of someone for enjoying a thing. But sometimes, when I see people deploying "let people enjoy things", I want to respond "let people not enjoy things". If I express a negative opinion or critique about some bit of pop culture ephemera, or a book or film that you love, it is not immediately a moral judgement on you for liking the thing. There is at least one exception, however, where I definitely am, and that is if I am talking about Ready Player One, which I think is probably the worst thing to ever be visited upon humanity in the history of all mankind.

I'm prepared to admit that my hatred of RP1 is pretty irrational, by which I mean I have perfectly rational and explicable reasons for thinking it is rubbish, but the speed at which I go from at rest to standing on my feet yelling about how much I hate it whenever it is mentioned is... intense. Because, and I will freely admit this also, I am very jealous.

It's about a not-so-distant future where everyone is basically living, working and going to school in a super advanced version of Second Life called OASIS, created by a nerd who loved stuff that was popular when author Ernest Cline was a teenager. This dude hid Easter eggs in the OASIS, and whoever finds them all will gain ultimate control of it, and thus basically the entire wold. To get the eggs you need to e.g. really like the movie WarGames.

I'm not going to go hugely into the reasons I dislike it because you'll have heard them all before. It's just self-insert fanfic for men in their 30s and 40s who would normally shit all over fanfic as a concept. So many people recommend it to me because I like books and I like nerd stuff, and each time I'm kind of personally offended that they think it's something I'd like.

Anyway. This weekend Wil Wheaton interviewed Nerd Porn Auteur and author of wold's most cursed Gary Stu fic Ready Player One, Ernest Cline for the Metaverse digivent (a crossover between our pals at New York Comic Con and MCM Comic Con). This interview managed to distil the reasons I hate this fucking book. It is when, about five minutes in, Wil Wheaton says: "let's talk about your DeLorean for a minute."

Watch on YouTube

Yes, let's.

The ever presence of Cline's DeLorean, which I believe he had custom built from scratch, kind of makes me feel sorry for him. Like, yes, it's awesome to have things you like. I have a bunch of Funko Pop dolls, even. No shots fired from that perspective. But he's always pictured with it. He's made it, like, his trademark. A thing invented by and designed by someone else and popularised by a film made by yet more people who are not him. A few years back I had a bright red mohawk and I made having hair my 'thing' online, so it's not like I'm not a loser, but at least I actually grew the hair.

"It is legendary for what you have done with it," says Wheaton. "You got it into your movie, you put it into your book."

Which is the point, right? Because Ernest Cline didn't invent 'his' DeLorean. That was Giorgetto Giugiaro working for the DeLorean Motor Company. And the DeLorean as a time machine was invented by, presumably, Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale, writers of Back To The Future (I say presumably because who knows how many people actually write a script).

So basically Wil Wheaton just praised Ernie Cline for three to four levels of hitting CTRL+C CTRL+V. And I guess that's why I hate Ready Player One: it is a man continually getting money and success for repeating other people's ideas, and you know what? Yes, I am jealous. I am jealous that I can't write "Remember the thing you like?" for hundreds of pages, and get millions of dollars for it. I am jealous that a book can just reference a car being a DeLorean and it apparently still counts as writing, rather than saying something cool like "my car looked like a seagull fucked the 80s".

If I tried that shit, I 100% would not be given that much leeway. I'd just get emails being like "Oh yeah you like Star Wars (one of the most popular franchises in the world, and even the very first film broke box office records)? What was the name of Luke Skywalker's home planet??". Yet I came up with that awesome seagull/80s line, so who's the real loser?

Writers of acknowledged fanfic have to come up with some new ideas, whereas upcoming trash sequel Ready Player Two is just the plot of Ready Player One again. I'm not exaggerating, it's the same fucking book. So the answer is: It's me. I am the loser.

Wheaton says that when Ernest Cline wrote Ready Player One, virtual reality was science fiction. Ready Player One came out in 2011. Occulus Rift stated a Kickstarter in 2012. Give me. A fucking. Break. "Are you willing to take credit for helping to design our expectations for the virtual world?" asks Wil Wheaton. And Ernest Cline says, "I am willing to take all the credit that is lobbed in my direction." I admire the honesty.

Read this next