Ready Player One is set in the year 2045 in Columbus, Ohio. In this future, cities have become a hive-like construction of containers stacked on top of each other. Reality coexists with a virtual reality world called OASIS (Ontologically Anthropocentric Sensory Immersive Simulation), which was created by the late James Holliday (Mark Rylance). People can interact, work and play in both worlds. Embedded within OASIS is a game called Anorak’s Quest, in which players search for three keys. Each key has a clue to the location of the next key and ultimately the location of a golden Easter Egg. The prize for finding the golden egg is inheriting Holliday’s fortune and becoming the sole owner of OASIS.
Players who hunt for Holliday’s hidden egg are called ‘gunters’. Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan) is a gunter, whose OASIS avatar is called Parzival. Parzival’s best friend is Aech (Lena Waithe), a mechanic who can build and fix anything. Parzival’s other friends include infamous gunter Art3mis (Olivia Cooke) and the brothers Darto (Win Morisaki) and Soto (Philip Zhao). These five gunters become known as the ‘High Five’ when Parzival discovers the secret to gaining the first of the three keys and his four team mates go on to find the other keys soon after.
Also hunting for the egg is the CEO of Innovative Online Industries (IOI), Noland Sirrento (Ben Mendelson), who wants to own OASIS. Sirrento has an army of indentured players called ‘sixers’. After Parzival wins the first key, Sirrento hires a bounty hunter called I-Rock (T.J. Miller) to discover Parzival’s real identity and kill him. To survive, Parzival/Wade must infiltrate both real and virtual worlds to stop Sirrento from claiming Holliday’s egg and gaining the ultimate prize.
Science fiction; virtual reality; computer games; friendship; relationships; death of a parent or loved one
Ready Player One has extended sequences of intense science fiction and fantasy action and violence. Some of the sequences happen in a virtual reality world where blood is shown as an explosion of gold coins and death just means the loss of special weapons, wealth and strength. In the real world, there are scenes that show gun-related violence, multiple violent deaths and large-scale mass destruction. Some scenes show blood and gore and gruesome images. Here are some examples:
Ready Player One has extended sequences of intense science fiction and fantasy action and violence. Some of the sequences happen in a virtual reality world where blood is shown as an explosion of gold coins and death just means the loss of special weapons, wealth and strength. In the real world, there are scenes that show gun-related violence, multiple violent deaths and large-scale mass destruction. Some scenes show blood and gore and gruesome images.
Here are some examples:
Ready Player One has low-level sexual references and innuendo throughout. For example:
- An older teenage boy talks about his aunt having a string of sexual partners. He calls them losers.
- An older teenage boy refers to a woman as ‘hot’.
- An older teenage boy tells an older teenage girl that he’s in love with her.
- A teenage boy says, ‘She’s hacking at your heart to get at your mind’.
- A woman talks about virtual dating and says, ‘As if that works’.
- A man talks about his deepest fear, which is kissing a woman.
Alcohol, drugs and other substances
Ready Player One shows some use of substances. For example:
- One scene shows tables with partly drunk bottles of beer and glasses of champagne.
- A man uses a handkerchief with a drug on it to render a teenage boy unconscious.
Nudity and sexual activity
Ready Player One has some nudity and some sexual activity. For example:
- Many scenes show female avatars with low-cut tops, exposed cleavage and bare shoulders, backs and midriffs.
- An older teenage couple are dancing in their avatar forms. The girl asks the boy if he has come prepared. She then asks him if ‘he can feel this’ as she caresses his torso in a sensual way. Glowing handprints appear on his suit.
- A nude woman sits in a bath. The tops of her shoulders and her back are shown. She steps out of the bath and walks towards a man in a suggestive way, showing her bare back and the top of her buttocks.
- Two teenage avatars dance and embrace in a club. The girl asks the boy about the sensitivity of his suit. Glowing handprints appear on his arm as she caresses him, and then on his chest and crotch. He flinches.
Ready Player One has many references to movies and movie characters from the past 50 years.
Ready Player One has some coarse language and name-calling throughout.
Ideas to discuss with your children
Ready Player One is a futuristic, science fiction Spielberg movie, largely based around nostalgic pop culture from the 1980s. The virtual world of OASIS is actually more interesting and exciting than the real world and its visual imagery is stunning. The movie is well acted and will certainly entertain its target audience of mature teenagers and adults.
The main message from this movie is that reality is far more interesting and important than any virtual world.
Values in this movie that you could reinforce with your children include:
- teamwork and friendship – for example, throughout the movie, friendship and teamwork result in greater success
- self-sacrifice – for example, throughout the movie, friends sacrifice themselves to save others.
This movie could also give you the chance to talk with your children about real-life issues like separating reality from fantasy. Time spent in virtual worlds needs to be balanced with more time spent in reality. In particular, younger children can have trouble understanding the difference between reality and fantasy and are more likely to be disturbed by a threatening fantasy world.