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  • Writer's pictureBhuvanesh Tekavade

Inception of Worlds: A Spielberg Art

(Ready Player One, Steven Spielberg, WB Pictures, 2018)

Ready Player One, was my 2nd time watching a movie in a 4D Cinema Experience, that was when the movie came out, and recently I rewatched it as I had decided write a piece on it for the purpose of an assignment. The one thing that did not change from me watching the movie back in 2018 and now in 2022 is my excitement to watch it and live the experiences of all my favorite cult classics.

After all I grew up with these movies, games and anime's. Before even I though of choosing a path in Game Design, I was an avid gamer, from the days of Atari to Nintendo to the old and new PlayStations. It was an escape from reality and Ready Player One delivered that with the added touch of VR, which seemingly might be the future of Gaming.

This is my view. There's something deep that Spielberg and the company have achieved with Ready Player One. It's not whether it was a "good" movie with good acting. It’s not even whether the story makes any sense. I will try to avoid spoilers here in case you haven’t seen it till now (If you have not seen it, "What are you doing my friend?")

I also don't want to talk about whether the changes from the book are good or bad (frankly, the changes weren't big and most were probably unnecessary, but I have to admit that they weren't bad. Plus, who am I? Tell me) Are we still questioning Mr. Spielberg's decision in this regard?)

(Ready Player One [Book], Earnest Cline, 2011)

When I was watching this movie, I thought about the nature of VR/AR, pixels, special effects / CGI, virtual world and "real" world, rather than the nostalgia of the 80's famous in the book.


In fact, watching the Ready Play One was a strange, self-referential and almost surreal experience. It was like a dream in a dream. When you wake up in a dream, you realize that you are late for work or school, get up, and find yourself in your next dream. There were literally scenes from the movie (not the book) where this happened, and the reality was almost indistinguishable from the game.

Let's look at the level of realities shown while you watch this movie in a cinema:

1) I was watching a movie on a 2D screen in a 3D "real" world.

2) With 3D glasses, the 2D screen looked like a real 3D world with depth. This was true for both the "Physical World" (Ohio) and the "Virtual World" (Oasis) in the film. To be honest, I often skip 3D versions of movies these days, but it's worth it.

3) In the film, Plot shows the very depressing "physical world" that follows Wade Watts from real life, and Wade's avatar Parzival and his romantic interest avatar Artemis and various friends. Alternated with the "virtual world" of the oasis where Avatar roams various planets and incredible (virtual) 3D landscapes.

4) In the virtual world, Virtual Avatar tries to find clues to the quest that Holiday has begun by watching a real "real world" video by the actor who plays Oasis creator Holiday and his business partner Ogden. did.

(World within Worlds, 2020, Kerby Rosanes)

This was what made it a surreal — when they showed scenes of the “real world” inside the virtual world, inside the real world, inside the movie, which I was watching in 3d from the so-called “real world”. This led to an effect like the nested Russian dolls or similar to World within Worlds an artbook by Kerby Rosanes, only I lost track of which level I was in and how many levels there were above me.


Let's talk about Avatar. This is the first term coined to describe the character of Habitat, the first MMORPG developed by Randy Farmer and Chip Morningstar at the George Lucas (Lucas Arts) video game company in the 1980s. At Oasis, the world's most successful company in Ready Player One, avatars can look like anything you want or own. The avatars that appeared were everywhere, from wizards (Holiday's avatars, the creators of the oasis) to animated semi-realistic versions (Parzival and Artemis) to giant robots such as Iron Giant and Gundam. The character also had cool weapons, spaceships, and artifacts, from DeLorean to Particle Weapons to Mecha Godzilla!

(Avatars can take any form or shape the player in the movie desires.)

Well, it's not that you can't tell the difference between a virtual world avatar and a real world character / actor. The avatars were portrayed like pixelated characters that could be seen in video games, making us think about rendering and how far the digital representation of people and objects around the world has progressed.

In the early days of video games, characters were represented by unrealistic bitmap icons like Pac-Man and Space Invaders aliens. As rendering technology advances, you'll see more sophisticated renderings like World of Warcraft characters, and virtual world avatars like Second Life or Sims where people build houses and engage in virtual relationships. .. In fact, oasis can even be said to be the second life on steroids. Oasis avatars were more realistic and responsive than most games. In most cases, the actor used a motion capture suit, so all movements were reflected in the avatar. Coincidentally, the movie character did it to control the avatar!

Now we know that we can place a CGI element that looks "real" in a physical location. In fact, Spielberg's Jurassic Park was one of the first big-budget movies to set up virtual characters (if T. Rex can be thought of as a character) in the real world using CGI in the 1990s, and Andy Serkis Golam was acclaimed as a review of the 2000s Lord of the Rings movie. Although the human avatars in Ready Play One, in particular their "hair", it moves with the wind (one of the hardest aspects of CGI), they mostly avoid the "weirdness" by being close but not too close. It's the "strangely familiar or repulsive feeling" we get when we look at humanoid objects that appear to be close but not exactly, like real people."

Well, we can’t expect avatars in video games to be fully realistic, can we? After all they are just pixels on a screen, aren’t they?


Ready Player One's sharpest and most striking shot shows the High Five running through an astonishingly lifelike simulation of The Shining's Overlook Hotel, where Aech - who hasn't seen the Stanley Kubrick movie - bears his horror. Spielberg is an avid Kubrick fanboy, but it's here that he realizes that being a creator means being the undead, trapped in your creation - much like Jack Torrance of The Shining (Jack Nicholson) will always belong to Overlook.

Whenever the High Five overcomes a challenge in the quest, Halliday's Oasis avatar, the benevolent wizard Anorak, appears to hand over a relic: the key to the next stage. It was very Gandalf, very Dumbledore, very Merlin. These close, nerd-like encounters provide moments of awe for Spielbergian's, for Parzival and his friends; and when I looked, I thought I recognized the bronze texture that accompanies it in Alan Silvestri's music.

Then, with Parzival-like flair, I realized: This reminds me of the Holy Grail motif from John Williams' score for Spielberg's Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade in 1989. This motif is heard whenever Indy (Harrison Ford) talks about the cup that should have been filled with the blood of the dying Christ. The tune represents an Arthurian quest not only imbued with the promise of eternal life, but also with sacred chivalry and the esoteric mystery of a direct connection with the divine.

I don't mean that Spielberg intentionally inserted a callback to his previous work in this film. That's the difference between the critical approach that seeks to unlock the author's "puzzle box" and the method that searches for organic cultural correspondence - rhymes of chance across texts, forms, and decades. century.

The Indiana Jones character is, of course, a nostalgic chimera of a Boomer nerd's favorite tricks. Spielberg, George Lucas, and screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan recorded themselves vilifying the Raiders of the Lost Ark for several days in January 1978, and the resulting recording is filled with nationalist cultural references. And the story of Indiana Jones vaguely meditates on who will save the past and why. Indy likes to look for antiques, but like Wade, he does so to prevent bad guys from getting antiques first. And finally, he becomes humble and awe-inspiring to the mysterious powers of ancient sacred artifacts.

Ready Player One has the inherently depressing nature of finding proficiency and satisfaction by repeating the past. It's stuck outside it's own time. Wade's player character, Parzival, is named after the Knight of Arthur looking for the Holy Grail. But where Klein's novel gets clues to the Holy Grail from Monty Python, Spielberg introduces the Holiday Digital Mind with the bitterness of the Knights of the Holy Grail of the Last Crusaders.


There is a plethora of quick shot cultural references cast about every scene. If you consider yourself a savant of pop culture (80s and onward) you’ll find the movie winking at you constantly. Ready Player One (the book) bathes in nostalgia in a way that feels deliciously indulgent. Ready Player One attempts to recreate that experience, and in Spielberg’s hands, does so best in harking older movies, which makes sense as Spielberg’s wheelhouse.


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