Last Updated on November 21, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 630
Marie Lu’s Warcross describes the events of a virtual reality game of the same name. The game, now in its tenth year, has risen to international acclaim and, for the first time, is hosting the first International Warcross Tournament. For some, the game is a form of escapism; for others, Warcross is a lifestyle or a source of income. The game is embedded into the cultural landscape of the novel, as the protagonist, Emika Chen, explains:
Some people still say that Warcross is just a stupid game. Others say it's a revolution. But for me and millions of others, it's the only foolproof way to forget our troubles. . . . tonight, I can join in with everyone else, put on my glasses, and watch magic happen.
Emika’s assessment indicates the centrality of Warcross in Lu’s fictional world. Similar to the world of Harry Potter and the role quidditch plays, Warcross is the setting where characters are developed and the plot unfolds. Though it is a virtual world, it is real in the sense that it has real-life consequences. With money on the line and lives intricately entangled in the game, Warcross is as real as it gets. In addition to the world of Warcross, there is the Dark World, which runs parallel. It is at first assumed by the protagonist that the Dark World is where illegal gaming takes place. However, we come to learn that it is the world of Warcross that is corrupt.
Warcross was pretty simple: two teams battled each other, one trying to take the other team's Artifact (a shiny gem) without losing their own. What made it spectacular were the virtual worlds the battles were set in, each one so realistic that putting on your glasses was like dropping you right into that place.
The mechanics of the game are relatively straightforward: much like a game of capture the flag, players are assigned to teams. The players then compete to both protect their artifact and steal from other teams. Players dwindle as the teams compete. Star players are chosen to compete in the international tournament. While the game is well-known across the globe, its secretive creator, Hideo Tanaka, is not.
At first, Hideo is quiet and unsuspecting. He is a charming and disarming man, yet Emika’s initial impression of him is far from the truth. The pair slowly grow closer, and a romance begins to blossom. However, as the novel draws to a close, Emika learns that Hideo is not what he first appeared. The Neuro Link glasses which connect readers to the virtual world of Warcross do not turn off after players exit the game; instead, they control their minds without their consent. This plot twist makes Hideo the ultimate antagonist of the story, which he reveals to Emika, saying:
Maybe I was wrong, and maybe someday I'll look back and regret lashing out like that. I'm still not entirely sure why I threw myself into the fire over this specific incident. But sometimes, people kick you to the ground at recess because they think the shape of your eyes is funny. They lunge at you because they see a vulnerable body. Or a different skin color. Or a difficult name. Or a girl. They think that you won't hit back—that you'll just lower your eyes and hide. And sometimes, to protect yourself, to make it go away, you do. But sometimes, you find yourself standing in exactly the right position, wielding exactly the right weapon to hit back. So I hit. I hit fast and hard and furious. I hit with nothing but the language whispered between circuits and wire, the language that can bring people to their knees. And in spite of everything, I'll do it all over again.