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Virtual Reality: Mankind's Future

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Corey Gross

Dr. Hartman

English 23

April 3, 2015

Virtual Reality: Mankind’s Future

Audience: gamers that have not read Ready Player One

        At the young age of four, I received my first video game console, the Nintendo 64, for my birthday. I remember playing Donkey Kong with my father on the system, thinking it was the greatest thing ever invented. Then, over the years, I got many more systems. When I got the Xbox 360, however, I remember thinking that the graphics were amazing - it was almost as if I was playing a movie. That being said, I didn’t think game companies could outdo themselves in the next years. And I could not have been more wrong. The graphics capabilities in the next generation console (Xbox One) superseded my expectations tenfold. Then, I found out about a new concept - one that would revolutionize the gaming industry - virtual reality. I was reading an article about a book that had been released a few years back based upon the virtual reality concepts. The book was entitled Ready Player One. Of course, being the intrigued person I was, I decided to read it. After reading Ready Player One, I believe that virtual reality will become the future of mankind as we know it.

        Virtual Reality, though new to most people in general, has actually been around for quite some time now - with the earliest forms of “virtual reality” (if I can call it that) has been around since the late 1800s with 360 degree wall murals, which put the viewer inside of an environment outside of reality (Stein). This is essentially the concept of the virtual reality technology. However, there are so many other uses for the technology. Virtual reality has been in the medical field for a fairly long time with virtual surgical training and preparations for surgeries. The modern-day sense of the term “virtual reality” has its origins in the mid-1950s with a single user console, called Sensorama, that included a stereoscopic display, fans or emitters, stereo speakers and a moving chair. This enabled the user to watch television in three dimensional ways. Then, in 1961, the first head mounted display (HMD) was invented by Philco Corporation engineers known as the Headsight (History of Virtual Reality).

        In the early years, virtual reality was crude - with the definition of virtual reality difficult to formulate. Developers had not yet begun to grasp what they themselves were capable of creating out of mere machines (computers).

        Ready Player One is a sci-fi novel written by Ernest Cline. It revolves around the life of Wade Watts in the year 2044. The United States has become neglected and has essentially become a wasteland with the energy crisis. Many people that don’t live in the major cities (such as Columbus, Ohio) live in what are known as “the stacks” - which is where Wade lives with his aunt and about twelve other people. The stacks, essentially, are quite literally stacks of mobile homes on top of each other - much like skyscrapers made of these mobile homes. The stacks are what we know as “the projects,” or the low income areas of a particular city. What is interesting about the futuristic setting is that the kids, though they have the option to, don’t usually go a public school. Now, when I say “public school,” I mean school in the real world. Most of the kids go to school through the OASIS (Ontologically Anthropocentric Sensory-Immersive Simulation) which is a virtual reality simulation that the people can use to escape the horrid reality that the United States has become. Wade is one of the students that go to school through the OASIS. Now, the OASIS originally started out as an MMORPG (massively multiplayer online role-playing game) and has since evolved into a life simulation where people can escape their otherwise boring lives. On the OASIS, users are able to be anything they want - they can chose from a multitude of different races. Essentially, users are able to become anything that they can imagine.

        Students in the OASIS are only allowed to be a human character in schools, however, and have their own school user ID. This is so everyone is uniform in school and the users keep their school-work and other activities separate. While the students are out of school they can be anything imaginable, as stated previously.

        The creator of the OASIS, James Halliday, has set up a game for the players in his final will. The game is set up much like Willy Wonka’s golden ticket hunt in the fact that the users are looking for what is known in the video game world as “Easter Eggs.” Essentially, these eggs are hidden within the coding of each world within the OASIS. The users that are looking for these eggs are called “gunters.” Wade is a gunter - probably the most famous of all of the gunters because he was the first to find the first egg, the Copper Key. Now, there are three keys that open three gates within the game. The first person to open and get past the third gate wins the game and, in turn, wins Halliday’s entire fortune (his net worth is in the billions of dollars).

However, with the game being presented, there is a group known as Innovated Online Industries, or IOI, that is trying to find the eggs for themselves and take control of the whole OASIS. What this means for the users is that they would have to pay to play on the OASIS, and this goes against everything Halliday stood for. What Wade is trying to do is preserve the game for what it is meant to be and beat IOI in finding the three keys and gates. IOI is a team of, dare I say, “geniuses” that all have something special to bring to the table. There are different divisions within IOI, each specializing in something beneficial in terms of finding the easter eggs. They also are able to control each other’s avatars in-game, meaning that if somebody were to get stuck on one of the puzzles, one of their experts in that specific field can take control and solve the puzzle for them. Obviously, this is cheating and the other gunters are beginning to discover IOI’s motives.

        Now, virtual reality, as depicted in Ready Player One, is used for one primary use - and that use is for gaming. Its use in gaming in the real world has had its ups and downs - especially with Nintendo’s Virtual Boy (being rock bottom). Many people were disappointed with the system and believed that virtual reality for games would always be mediocre. However, recent technology advances enabled engineers to develop the Oculus Rift, as well as other virtual reality gear. The equipment that Wade starts out with at the beginning of Ready Player One can be described as “barebones” because he really only had a visor, old haptic gloves and a visor, or HMD (Cline 28). Essentially, this is where the current technology that is available for the average consumer in the real world.

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