Released in 2011, Ready Player One by Ernest Cline made waves upon release for its unapologetic fixation on nostalgia — specifically nostalgia-inducing media properties of the ’80s, ’90s, and today.
Cline’s novel is set in a dystopian near-future wherein a virtual reality space called the OASIS has come to be humanity’s main mass distraction. When the simulation’s dying inventor reveals he’s left a literal Easter egg inside the digital world that will grant whomever finds it administrative powers over his creation — as well as all of his billions — the aimless users of the OASIS are suddenly inspired with new purpose.
Over the course of the next five years, one user, Wade Watts, embarks on a quest with the rest of the world to compete against and collaborate with each other on a frenzied hunt for the treasure.
Wade, who goes by the name of Parzival when he’s online as his digital avatar, comes to be known as one of the OASIS’ many active “gunters,” a.k.a. “egg hunters” — groups of users or solo players all working to decipher the developer’s clues and be the first to find the egg.
Thanks to the inventor’s own personal nostalgia for his childhood in the 1980s, finding the egg requires players to become living catalogs of antiquated pop culture, taking the world’s shared memories and turning their finer details into vital, life-changing knowledge. In this world, an encyclopedic memory of pop culture doesn’t make you a nerd — it makes you a hero.