Chapters 1–4 Summary and Analysis
The year is 2045, and our eighteen-year-old protagonist, Wade Watts, lives in the Portland Avenue Stacks, west of Oklahoma City. In this dystopian world, civilians live in "stacks," or mobile home-tower communities. Wade lives with his aunt Alice in a trailer at the top of a twenty-two-unit stack. A patchwork array of solar panels above the topmost trailer provides electricity to every unit. There are three bedrooms in the trailer; one is occupied by Aunt Alice and her boyfriend, Rick, while the other two are rented by the Deppert and Miller families.
Wade is an orphan, and his only friend in the stacks is Mrs. Gilmore, a rich source of 80s trivia. Since he isn't allowed his own bedroom, Wade spends most of his time in the laundry room. When Aunt Alice catches him there with his laptop, she confiscates it to pawn off for money. Upset by the loss of his computer, Wade makes his way to his hideout van in an abandoned car lot at the settlement's eastern perimeter. The van is where Wade attends online school, does his homework, plays video games, reads, watches movies, and engages in his quest to find James Halliday's Easter egg. It is also where the familiar words "Ready Player One" flash across his visor when he enters the virtual world of the OASIS.
Upon logging on to the OASIS, Wade's avatar materializes in front of his virtual high school locker. In the OASIS, virtual possessions are purchased with OASIS credit. Halliday's company, Gregarious Simulation Systems (GSS), ensures the confidentiality of real-world identities, retinal scans, and fingerprints through encryption. Our protagonist's school avatar is known as Wade3, and his school campus is located on the virtual world of Ludus. Because online anonymity is assured, Wade is spared the bullying he endured during his real-world schooldays.
Before school begins, Wade scans the message threads at the Hatchery, a popular gunter forum. His favorite threads are those devoted to the vilification of the Sixers, employees of Innovative Online Industries (IOI), a company that has attempted several hostile takeovers of GSS and OASIS. All Sixers sign IOI contracts promising to surrender their rights to Halliday's fortune if they discover his Easter egg. In return, they are rewarded with...
(The entire section is 1110 words.)