Episode 509: Consider Yourself a Hero

On the Overthinking It Podcast, we tackle “Ready Player One,” both the book by Ernest Cline and the movie by Steven Spielberg.

Peter Fenzel, Mark Lee, and Matthew Wrather overthink Ready Player One, the different natures of the book and the movie, and the meaning of nostalgia.

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10 Comments on “Episode 509: Consider Yourself a Hero”

  1. clayschuldt #

    I am glad the GoldenEye reference was acknowledged in the podcast. I was excited to hear my favorite shooter referenced in the film. I actually leaned in when they ask which character was his favorite to play as. I was so disappointed to hear it was Oddjobs.
    I know multiple fans of that game that had house rules about playing as Oddjobs because its cheap to play as the short guy. Once again, thanks for acknowledging this fact in the podcast.
    I was taken aback that the film does not reference how cheap it is to play as Oddjobs; especially since they went into enough detail to reference slapper mode and then explain that is the version with no weapon. We get an explanation for the game mode, but no such detail as to why he would play as Oddjobs and no one would call him on it.
    But I have a theory.
    Maybe Halliday only played multiplayer GoldenEye to explore the levels. Maybe he turned off the guns to avoid distractions. The last challenge in the film involved exploring Adventure for the sake of exploring, not to win.
    This would also explain the confusion on why his favorite shooter would be the one in which you were required to be in the same room with your friends despite not being a people person. Maybe he was playing the multiplayer mode by himself. He would setup up a two-player slappers only match in The Temple and just walk around exploring. And maybe he played as Oddjobs because there was on one there to tell him it was cheap.


    • Derdrom #

      Are the classic complaints about playing Oddjob largely anecdotal, or more relevant among players much better/worse than my group was? We quickly dismissed him, but for the opposite reason. He was far too easy for us to shoot in the head, as it is near default aiming height and his hat is part of this critical hit region. The latter weakness kept me from enjoying Baron Samedi in multiplayer as well.


      • DeanMoriarty #

        In a strange coincidence, a week or two before I saw this movie, I hung out at my friend’s new place. During the move, he’d dug out his N64 and we all played Goldeneye, a game I hadn’t played in easily 15-20 years. As soon as we put it in, everyone voiced an objection to anyone playing as Oddjob. And I was pushing for slappers only since I remembered that this was the best way to play if you’re actually terrible at video games, like I am.
        So maybe Halliday wasn’t actually all that good at games, especially the later games he would have had to learn in his 20’s or 30’s. I played a lot of games as a kid. I loved a lot of them. I was terrible at most of them. I’ve tried learning new games in my 20-30’s it’s been a horrible failure. For me, anyway, it’s not far-fetched to think that Halliday liked this 1st person shooter, with this character and this mode, because it was the only one he could suck at and still have fun playing.
        Remember the point of the movie is very explicitly that the prize “really was the friends we made along the way.” But there’s also this whole thing about how games should be about fun. I put all these clues together and posit that maybe Halliday played Goldeneye with Simon Pegg, that neither of them actually cared about winning and were just having fun together.
        Or, I think it can also point to the fact that the Halliday they are all chasing after is a construction created by the real one to ensure that the people who learn the lessons win the prize, as Ben mentions in the comment below. Hence the never ending gobstopper test before he gets the prize. All those “facts” duck face and Norman Bates’ BFF memorized aren’t about a real person. They are just the breadcrumbs Halliday left behind to lead his successors onto the right moral path.


  2. Ben Adams OTI Staff #

    Having not seen RP1 in either incarnation, but willing to be spoiled (/already have been spoiled from listening to the Podcast), a question:

    From your description, this sounds like a 21st century reskin of the classic “Wacky Will” story, where a rich benefactor leaves his will to whoever of his awful relations can discover the buried amulet or survive a night in a haunted house. (See, e.g., “It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World.”)

    And my understanding of those stories is that typically the purpose of the wacky adventure is to teach the participants that they didn’t really want the treasure at all (“The real riches are the friends we make along the way!”) For a bonus, the person who learns the lesson also gets the prize, but they’re not supposed to *want* it at that point.

    That is, in your typical Wacky Will story, “Who will win the prize?” is really a red herring for the real moral of the story, and we’re not really supposed to care who gets the prize.

    But from your description, it sounds like it’s really important to the resolution of RP1 that the good guys win the prize. Am I wrong?


    • Peter Fenzel OTI Staff #

      Both the book and the movie want to have it both ways in a way that doesn’t quite hold together.

      – It would be very bad for someone other than the heroes to win the prize
      – It’s good that the hero wins the prize
      – The hero gets the power to destroy the prize and deprive anyone of it
      – This is suggested to be at least partially to be a good idea
      – There’s no indication the hero is ever going to actually do this
      – It ends with the hero temporarily ignoring the prize and happy he is ignoring it

      It’s like if Charlie in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was given the power at the end to destroy all the candy in the world, and he chooses not to do it, but the book ends with him eating a big pile of vegetables.


      • Derdrom #

        It’s very appropriate that I watched Scoobynatural this week, priming me for 4th-wall breaking and a wacky will. The end of the Scooby-Doo plotline declares the prize irrelevant because it turns out that (48-year old spoiler alert) the late Colonel Sanders (not Harland) left his million-dollar inheritence in confederate currency. Neither the original nor the retread recognized the collector value of such an artifact.


    • clayschuldt #

      The film does state the hero’s big change after winning was to close the Oasis on Tuesdays and Thursday to prevent people from living in it seven days a week. It seems to be a story about moderation.
      He also finally “Clans Up” and makes friends in the real world.


  3. Derdrom #

    Does the movie (or book) acknowledge that proxies for Godzilla and King Kong got the 8-bit treatment in the game Rampage? I doubt their previous encounters fall within the nostalgia windows.
    For that matter, does the movie Rampage have any of these connections beyond its scaled-up ape, lizard, and wolf?


  4. Lavanya Six #

    I know it was only an off-hand comment, but I’d love an OT article or a podcast exploring the question of “Does Star Trek have anything left to say?”

    What happens when one of the titans of twentieth century culture runs its course? Star Wars sometimes gets that jab, but Star Trek had several hundred more hours to its canon. And it’s hard to overlook how, while Voyager and Enterprise (S1+2) wanted to be TNG, everything from Enterprise S4 through Abrams & Discovery has been one form or another of wanting to recapture TOS. Star Trek was ahead of its time in curdling into self-referential nostalgia. But is there anything vital left to it besides nostalgia?


  5. Falconer #

    The transition from difficult video games to toybox games has everything to do with Nintendo Entertainment System and the death of the coin-op video arcade.

    In the one quarter per play paradigm you couldn’t have games that were easy or that would gradually teach you the skills like Super Mario Bros. SMB would not do well in a coin-op arcade. The coin-op games had to be punishing and difficult but satisfyingly rewarding in order to get you to keep putting quarters in the machine. It was very frustrating to Arcade owners back in the day when some phenom would come in and beat the game on one quarter. Ultimately a game that was too easy wouldn’t make much money.

    When the NES made video games, of similar quality to their coin-op counterparts, more ubiquitous and free…. those games could not be hard. Since the market forces were based on selling entire copies of the game rather than single plays of the game. People played (and purchased) fun games vs punishing hard games.

    The coin-op arcade was dead. I just could not compete. This is what ushered in the paradigm shift from games that represented difficult challenges, feats of skill, and badges of honor to toy boxes, simulators, and casual games.


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