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Ready Player One

Ready Player One Summary


Here you will find a Ready Player One summary (Ernest Cline's book).
We begin with a summary of the entire book, and then you can read each individual chapter's summary by visiting the links on the "Chapters" section.

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Last Updated: Monday 1 Jan, 2024

Ready Player One Summary Overview

In 2045, the world is ravaged by environmental devastation, warfare, and poverty and most people seek respite in the OASIS, a vast online virtual universe with countless landscapes and activities. James Halliday, the deceased creator of the OASIS, posthumously announces a competition wherein he will bequeath control of the OASIS and his multibillion-dollar corporation to the first person who can discover his hidden virtual 'Easter egg'. One of the contestants is Wade Watts, an impoverished high school student living in a trailer park in Oklahoma City. Despite the lack of significant progress since the contest's announcement, Wade, his friend Aech, and many others continue to relentlessly search for the elusive prize. Eventually, Wade, under his online persona Parzival, manages to locate the first clue, the Copper Key, propelling him into overnight fame. He encounters a rival yet enchanting competitor named Art3mis, as well as corporate mercenaries, the 'Sixers', who resort to deadly real-world tactics to secure the prize. Struggling to find the next clue, the Jade Key, Wade deepens his relationship with Art3mis, declaring his love for her, only to be rejected. His peers, including the Sixers, successfully secure the Jade Key, but a tip from Aech helps Wade keep pace. The Sixers, however, advance further and obtain the Crystal Key, the final clue. After being informed that the Sixers have killed one of their own in the physical world, Wade clears the second stage and also acquires the Crystal Key. Upon discovering the location of the final challenge, Wade is thwarted by an impenetrable barrier erected by the Sixers and begins to devise a risky plan. In the final stage, Wade infiltrates the Sixers by posing as a prisoner in their industrial complex. Using his computing expertise, he amasses evidence of their illegal activities and orchestrates circumstances that enable his group to access the final challenge. After freeing himself, he alerts his friends and leaks the Sixers' misdemeanors to various media outlets. In a climactic face-off, an army of players battles the Sixers outside the final gate. Wade, aided by Ogden Morrow, Halliday’s former business associate, survives the onslaught and completes the ultimate challenge. Upon winning, he divides the spoils with his allies and finally meets Art3mis in person. They share a tender moment, marking the end of Wade's obsession with the virtual world.


The story opens with Wade narrating the events post James Halliday's demise. Halliday was the genius behind the OASIS, the leading video game and social platform of the time. The year is 2041, a period marked by energy crises, war, catastrophic climatic changes, and famine. The death of Halliday, who had no heirs, sparks a global contest for his fortune and control over the OASIS, valued at 240 billion dollars. Halliday's video message titled "Anorak’s Invitation" reveals his will to all OASIS users. He narrates about Warren Robinett, a 70's Atari programmer, who hid the first video game Easter egg in Adventure. Halliday, in his OASIS avatar, Anorak, reveals that this Easter egg influenced him. He has set up a treasure hunt within the OASIS, where users must find three keys and three gates to win his fortune. Halliday's personal site morphed on his death day, introducing the Scoreboard which tracks the ongoing contest. The Scoreboard also features Anorak’s Almanac, comprising of "Halliday’s undated journal entries". The contest initially captivates all OASIS users, but after four barren years, interest wanes. The remaining hunters, known as "gunters" (short for “egg hunters”), persist. On February 11, 2045, Wade's avatar tops the Scoreboard as the first to find a key. Wade is now telling his story to "set the record straight" about the ensuing events.

chapter 1

Wade Watts, the narrator, wakes up to the sound of gunshots in his densely packed trailer in Oklahoma City, known as the stacks. He shares the space with his aunt, her boyfriend, and twelve others. Coping with the loss of both parents to drugs, he delves into studying old video games and 80s sitcoms to find Halliday’s easter egg, using a laptop he scavenged. He loses the laptop when his aunt finds it and decides to pawn it. Realizing his poverty-stricken status and the dilapidated state of the world, Wade becomes a cynical atheist. His sanctuary is the OASIS, a virtual reality where he can socialize and learn. He leaves his trailer, visits his elderly friend, Mrs. Gilmore, and heads to a junkyard. There, he hides beneath a pile of cars in a partially sunken van, his secret refuge. It holds his prized possessions: haptic gloves, a visor, and the OASIS console. Wade has rigged this space with food, discarded car batteries, and an exercise bike to power them. Entering the OASIS, he sees the message Ready Player One.

chapter 2

Wade's character in the OASIS, known as Parzival, appears in his virtual school. His avatar's basic clothing reflects his real-world poverty, as OASIS has its own currency which he lacks. He selectively uses his avatar name for anonymity, except in school where real names are compulsory. Unlike other students anticipating graduation, Wade fears it, knowing he can't afford further education. Instead, he commits to winning Halliday’s game. Wade recalls past experiences in real-world public schools and being victimized for his weight and awkwardness. His shift to virtual schooling post-sixth grade happened on Ludus, the planet designated for all public schools in the OASIS, safe from player violence. He then talks about the universally despised Sixers, agents of a large corporation called IOI, tasked with finding Halliday’s Easter egg. He also mentions his regular visits to Arty’s Missives, a blog by fellow player, Art3mis, on whom he has an online crush. Prior to class, his only friend, Aech, contacts him.

chapter 3

Wade steps into a virtual gathering place known as 'the Basement', run by his friend Aech. Aech's avatar is a large white male, and he is a high-ranking gamer in the OASIS. The Basement, adorned with 80s collectibles, a TV, and old gaming systems, is a popular spot for gunters invited by Aech. Being a rich gamer, Aech has the liberty to explore various OASIS worlds in search of the Copper Key, unlike Wade who can seldom afford such trips. In this session, Wade and Aech indulge in an intense discussion about 80s movies, each trying to downplay the other’s favorites and debating their relevance for gunters. Suddenly, another avatar, I-r0k, shows up and begins to mock Wade. Despite his avatar's low status and limited belongings, Wade is well-versed with Halliday and 80s trivia. As I-r0k mocks Wade’s restricted mobility and low-grade avatar, Wade retorts by pointing out I-r0k’s ignorance. Eventually, I-r0k leaves the Basement, feeling defeated. Just then, Wade receives a notification about an impending class and plans to watch 80s movies with Aech post-school.

chapter 4

During a school History lesson, Wade marvels at the technology of his digital school, highlighting the option of virtual field trips. He discusses how OASIS users travel, many using their personally owned spaceships, inspired by various popular sci-fi franchises. The OASIS began with a few hundred programmed worlds but has grown to include renowned sci-fi and fantasy locales from intellectual properties like Star Wars, Star Trek, Firefly, Middle Earth, Magrathea, and Discworld. These worlds feature NPCs (non-player characters), computer-controlled entities that OASIS users interact with. Wade mentions that his school's world, Ludus, lacks adventure and monsters, making it challenging for him to earn experience points and level up his avatar. As a gunter, Wade knows he needs to explore dangerous worlds. He has achieved level three but fears expulsion from the digital school if he skips more lessons to quest. Expulsion would mean losing his OASIS gear and going back to a public school. Given the ongoing Great Recession and a high unemployment rate, Wade is unsure how to gather the resources he'd need to continue his gunter journey.

chapter 5

Wade provides a brief biography of James Halliday. Halliday was a brilliant but socially awkward child, who lived in poverty with his neglectful parents. His first real friend was Ogden Morrow, another schoolmate who invited him to play Dungeons & Dragons. This friendship expanded Halliday's social circle and eventually led to a business partnership with Morrow. Together, they created Gregarious Games, a video game company that made them millionaires. Despite his success, Halliday was challenging to work with and was often misunderstood. The duo's crowning achievement was the release of the OASIS by Gregarious Simulation Systems (GSS) after years of secret development. The OASIS was a game-changer in the world of online gaming, thanks to its immersive equipment - a visor and haptic gloves - and efficient software that allowed countless players to access the game at once. The entry fee was just a quarter, making it accessible to all. GSS's revenue came from renting digital real estate to corporations and selling virtual items within the OASIS. As Wade recalls, “The lines of distinction between a person’s real identity and that of their avatar began to blur. It was the dawn of a new era, one where most of the human race now spent all of their free time inside a video game.”

chapter 6

Wade is engrossed in Anorak’s Almanac, obsessively consuming every piece of media that Halliday loved—books, movies, songs, and video games. His dedication leads to the discovery of a hidden limerick within the Almanac, hinting at 1978's Dungeons & Dragons adventure, The Tomb of Horrors. This limerick, once obscure, eventually comes to light, frustrating genuine gunters. Wade speculates that the real tomb exists somewhere in the OASIS, holding the Copper Key. Despite the planet Gygax's dedication to Dungeons & Dragons and numerous discussions on message boards Wade visits, the tomb's location remains undiscovered. Then, during his virtual Latin class, an idea strikes Wade.

chapter 7

Wade figures out that the Tomb of Horrors could be on Ludus, the planet with all the schools. He thinks that Halliday might have wanted a student to discover it. Using image recognition, he searches Ludus for a hill shaped like a skull, the tomb's signature shape. Once he spots a potential match, he comes up with a plan to get there without spending money. He obtains a teleportation pass from his school, claiming he needs to attend a sports event near the suspected location. During his trip, he dodges a call from Aech, excusing himself with a made-up homework excuse. Once he arrives, he's certain he's found the Tomb of Horrors and expects to find the Copper Key there. Cautious of potential hazards, he makes his way down the hill and locates the entrance. He uses a digital version of the original game as a map and boldly steps inside the tomb.

chapter 8

Parzival, Wade's virtual persona, navigates through the dungeon, informed by the ancient Dungeons & Dragons adventure supplement. He successfully bypasses various adversaries and obstacles, acquiring valuable treasures and magical items. Eventually, he reaches the throne room, where he encounters Acererak, a demi-lich. He informs the zombie king of his quest for the Copper Key. The quest prompts Acererak to challenge him to an arcade game, Joust, transforming the throne into a 1982 arcade cabinet. Despite losing the first match, Wade identifies patterns in Acererak’s programming, allowing him to secure victories in the subsequent games. Acererak then morphs into Anorak, the previous avatar of James Halliday, rewarding Wade with the Copper Key. Wade's avatar ascends to the tenth level. The key has a hint printed on it which Wade interprets as a direction towards a zone that mirrors 1980s Middletown, OH, Halliday’s birthplace. He is supposed to play a rare game on a TRS-80 computer in Halliday’s residence. Despite his fatigue, Wade’s excitement drives him forward. However, an unknown avatar confronts him as he leaves the tomb.

chapter 9

Wade encounters Art3mis, a hefty female avatar, as he's leaving. She's been a crush of his for a long time. They exchange playful banter, with Wade lying about not defeating Acererak. Despite both being contestants, they hit it off and share their contact details. Art3mis grows suspicious during their talk and checks the Scoreboard, finding out that Wade has got the Copper Key. She is upset, mainly at herself, as he succeeded on his first attempt while she had been trying for weeks. Art3mis eventually cools off and they chat about how Wade's newfound fame will impact his life. He assures her that he won't be foolish enough to disclose his real-life identity, given the billions of dollars on the line. She shares her dream of using the money to make a difference in the world. Although skeptical, Wade advises her to try the left side of the Joust cabinet, which helped him win. She is grateful and he departs.

chapter 10

Wade emerges from the dungeon to find a flurry of messages from Aech, noticing that Wade has made it to the Scoreboard. Rather than respond, he sends Aech a quick note that he'll be in touch soon. He then teleports to a replica of 1980s Middletown, Ohio, awestruck by its intricacy and reminiscing how even low-income families owned houses fifty years ago. Wade spots that Art3mis has also secured a Copper Key on the Scoreboard. He visits the lifelike replica of Halliday's house, confused as to why Halliday would reproduce a place linked with unhappy childhood memories. He bypasses the TV and Atari console in the lounge, enters Halliday's room, and starts the TRS-80 using a Dungeons of Daggorath tape. Being familiar with all games inside the replica house, Wade quickly completes the game. This action opens a gate in the wall where after using the Copper Key, his avatar is plunged into a star-studded field.

chapter 11

Wade finds himself in an old-school arcade, playing Galaga. He spots Matthew Broderick's reflection on the game screen and quickly understands that he has become David Lightman, the protagonist from the movie Wargames. His task is to re-enact all the important scenes from the film, including the dialogues. Being a fan of the movie, Wade successfully performs the task, with only a few slip-ups. Reaching the end credits, he mentions that the idea of playing through films, termed Flicksyncs, is later patented by GSS when they discover Halliday had already designed one. His performance advances his avatar to level twenty and increases his Scoreboard points. He is rewarded with a clue for the Jade Key, though he struggles to understand its meaning. Logging out at 6:17 AM in reality, exhaustion overwhelms him, and he falls asleep. His sleep is plagued by a troubling dream of failing to protect a glass egg from a surge of enemies.

chapter 12

Wade wakes up after an unusually long sleep, missing his classes. He finds numerous articles about his victory on his OASIS dashboard, and observes that Art3mis too has surpassed the First Gate. He watches Ogden Morrow, the ex-partner of James Halliday, in an interview, advising gamers to steer clear of media associations, and criticizing IOI and the Sixers for their manipulative strategies. Wade ponders over Morrow and Halliday's past, mentioning the late Kira Underwood, Morrow's wife, who was part of their 'nerdy' circle. Morrow later quit GSS, dubbing the OASIS a “self-imposed prison for humanity.” He then focused on creating educational games with Kira, until her untimely demise in a car accident. Afterward, Wade contacts Aech, who greets him with genuine admiration. Aech shows he's near the Tomb of Horrors, awaiting its reset. He deduced its location must be in or near Ludus, considering Wade's financial constraints. Wade wishes Aech good fortune, hinting about “jousting skills,” but offers no further help. Wade also stumbles upon a cordial and teasing email from Art3mis. After revising his reply multiple times, he finally sends her a friendly message.

chapter 13

Aech conquers the first gate, landing third place on the Scoreboard. I-r0k blackmails Wade and Aech, threatening to leak their information unless they assist him. Despite their refusal, I-r0k spills that they're both Ludus students, gaining attention. Soon after, Daito and Shoto surface on the Scoreboard, evidently teaming up. Wade struggles with the subsequent clue. He combs through his emails, agreeing to endorsements on the condition of conducting business solely in the OASIS, ensuring his anonymity. With the earnings, he intends to rent an apartment. He also gets a proposition from Sixers. The message warns that they'll approach his rivals if he declines. Despite his suspicion, Wade decides to hear them out and consents to a conversation with Sixers leader, Nolan Sorrento, once a video game designer.

chapter 14

Wade's digital persona arrives at a sophisticated space station where he is introduced to Nolan Sorrento. Sorrento attempts to recruit him for IOI, leading him to IOI-1, the Sixer's digital domain. Wade feigns interest in their initial offer, a position as the research department head, only to dismiss it with a biting retort. Sorrento's subsequent proposal involves offering Wade a hefty $5 million in exchange for tips to surpass the first gate, which Wade also rebuffs. Sorrento's final proposition takes a darker turn. He recites Wade's personal details, showing a live feed of his residential trailer. Sorrento then threatens Wade's life unless he accepts the $5 million deal and assists them. Wade deduces that his principal, the only OASIS individual with access to his private data, must have been bribed by Sorrento. He concludes they are either making empty threats or plan to kill him after he serves their purpose. He logs out shortly before an explosion occurs. On leaving his refuge, he witnesses the fiery remains of his aunt's residence. His aunt, her partner, and even Mrs. Gilmore have perished. In a panic, Wade retreats to his shelter and reaches out to Aech.

chapter 15

Wade reenters the OASIS and witnesses Sixer gunships landing on Ludus. He informs Aech about the incident at the trailer park stacks. Despite Aech's offer of shelter and funds, Wade refuses. They arrange to have a confidential conversation in Aech’s Basement, inviting Art3mis, Daito, and Shoto. Art3mis shows up first, getting on well with Aech, inciting jealousy in Wade. Shortly after, brothers Daito and Shoto join them. They converse about the danger to Wade's real-world family and the importance of protecting their true identities. They also discuss the Sixers' newly erected force field barrier around Ludus' Tomb of Horrors, making acquiring the Copper Key a challenge for other gunters. Wade shares his recent interaction with Sorrento and his observations of the Sixers' virtual base: numerous researchers, cutting-edge equipment, and a system to switch users between accounts depending on the task. While they consider an alliance to combat the Sixers, Daito and Shoto strongly object, exiting the conversation. The remaining trio concur that they function better as lone gunters, and Art3mis also departs. Finally, Aech teases Wade about his clear infatuation with Art3mis.

chapter 16

After his chat session, Wade notices that Sixer accounts have filled the remaining positions on the Scoreboard. Despite the united gunter clans breaching the Sixer's barrier to obtain the Copper Key, many Sixers have already completed the First Gate. When Wade's endorsement money comes through, he buys a ticket to Columbus, OH, the location of the OASIS's central server, providing the most secure connection. He travels for several days on an armored bus for protection from wasteland bandits. During the journey, Wade logs into the OASIS and uses his newfound wealth and popularity to alter his identity, assuming the name Bryce Lynch, aged 22. He quickly adjusts to his new reality as a fugitive living under an alias, with dangerous individuals seeking his life. As Bryce, he uses his digital riches to lease a heavily fortified apartment in Columbus with a high-speed fiber optic connection to the OASIS. Upon settling into his bare, new home, he commits himself to not leave until he has won the contest.

chapter 17

Parzival, also known as Wade, engages in a conversation with Art3mis. Initially, Art3mis believes they should keep their distance as they are rivals. However, Wade confesses his longstanding crush on her and jokingly hopes she isn't an older man hiding behind the avatar. Art3mis confirms she's indeed a girl in reality. Wade also mentions his goal to reach level ninety-nine, the highest attainable level in the OASIS. As the story progresses, Wade spends increasing amounts of time with Art3mis in the OASIS, sidelining the latest riddle tied to Halliday's egg, and moving away from his friend, Aech. Wade manages to solve a portion of the clue, related to the whistle toy from Cap’n Crunch cereal used for hacking phone systems. Still, he struggles to determine its relevance. Despite Art3mis's refusal to delve into her personal life, they persist in their virtual OASIS dates, one such occasion involving a viewing of The Rocky Horror Picture Show where they share a kiss. The segment wraps up with Wade admitting his feelings for her, stating, “then one night, like a complete idiot, I told her how I felt.”

chapter 18

Wade gets an exclusive invite to Ogden Morrow's 73rd birthday bash, a VIP-only dance party. Despite the risk of his avatar being killed in the unrestricted combat zone where the party is held, he decides to attend, knowing Art3mis will be there. He outfits his avatar in a Buckaroo Banzai-inspired gray suit and flies in with a DeLorean. He encounters Art3mis in the party, held in an enormous zero-gravity sphere, with Ogden's avatar, The Great and Powerful Og, as the DJ, spinning 80s remixes. During the party, Wade confesses his love to Art3mis while they dance, leading to an argument as she insists he doesn't truly know her. She proposes they cool off as they have been too absorbed in each other's company and neglecting the competition. Emotions run high. Their disagreement is interrupted by an onslaught of armed Sixers targeting the dance attendees, particularly Wade and Art3mis, due to their leaderboard standings. They retaliate but eventually, Ogden's avatar wipes out the aggressors. In the aftermath, Wade searches for Art3mis, who leaves after sharing one final look.

chapter 19

Waking up in his home, Wade shares the details of his everyday life. He's been struggling with Art3mis' departure and to cope, he's created a digital assistant modeled after Max Headroom. He's remorseful about having let his desires control his actions, specifically the time he owned a lifelike sex robot for a week before getting rid of it due to its distracting nature. His morning routine involves a workout, overseen by his computer, which also manages his diet. His computer prevents him from accessing the OASIS until he's completed his daily exercise. He's invested in top-notch OASIS equipment, a complete haptic suit, and a double-layered metal safety door. Over several months, he sheds weight and achieves the best shape of his life. The chapter concludes with the revelation that he has changed his OASIS login phrase: previously a quote from The Last Starfighter, it's now a line from a They Might Be Giants song, “No one in the world ever gets what they want and that is beautiful.”

chapter 20

Wade has established a secure base in the OASIS by buying a virtual asteroid, constructing an armored dome with a command center, and securing full control over visitor access. He also discusses a new feature in the OASIS: the personal OASIS vidfeed, which allows users to host their own TV channels. His channel showcases 80s content and commercials from his sponsors. Despite his attempts to reach out to Art3mis, she has severed all contact with him. His relationship with Aech has also soured, resulting in frequent disputes. Despite this, he has managed to form friendships with Daito and Shoto. Wade involved them in a quest themed around the Japanese Ultraman TV show, earning them a Beta Capsule - a prop from the show. He lets Daito and Shoto keep the prize rather than selling it. Wade also maintains a job at an OASIS call center using a fake identity. After a mundane workday, he logs back into the OASIS to find out that Art3mis has discovered the Jade Key.

chapter 21

Wade grows anxious when Art3mis secures the Jade Key, not merely for her gaining the lead, but also because of the Sixers' response. He discusses the acquisition of rare items in the OASIS, notably the Cataclyst and Fyndoro’s Tablet of Finding, being the priciest. The Cataclyst, a one-time explosive, would annihilate all avatars in a sector, including the possessor. It was thought the Sixers possessed this. They also owned Fyndoro’s Tablet of Finding, a device informing the user of an avatar's estimated whereabouts in the OASIS once per day. The more distant the avatar, the vaguer the tablet's information. After Art3mis obtained her Key and updated the Scoreboard, the Sixers, using the tablet, transported a large force to Sector Seven. Despite only understanding half the clue for the Jade Key, Wade equips his exploration tools and embarks on his personal starship, the Vonnegut, toward Sector Seven. He speculates, although he acknowledges it's a feeble guess, about Halliday's trophies exhibited in Sector Seven. Fortunately, the Sixers only narrowed their search to the sector, which is home to hundreds of planets.

chapter 22

Wade reaches Sector Seven, aiming to find the Jade Key. He first visits Archaide, the OASIS's biggest video game museum, populated by replicas of old-school arcades, bowling alleys, and pizza places. He explores this subterranean museum until he stumbles upon static reproductions of Halliday's Game Designer of the Year awards. He spots an incongruity—a Pac-Man game marked as "out of order," puzzling in a virtual world. Intrigued, he boots up the machine and discovers it's just 10 points short of the highest possible score—a feat achieved less than twenty times, needing four straight flawless hours of gameplay. Wade devotes at least six hours to reach this milestone. Instead of a clue for the competition, he gets an immovable 1981 quarter in his inventory. A message from fellow contestant Aech, who has just found the Jade Key, includes an image of a retro game and a note implying they are on par. This leads Wade to his next stop: Frobozz, a planet from the game Zork.

chapter 23

Worried that the Sixers may defeat him, Wade directs his spaceship on auto-pilot and uses precious resources to instantly transport himself to Frobozz. On arrival, he finds himself in one of the 512 identical locations that are part of the game, Zork. Angry at himself for not making the connection sooner, Wade plunges into a white house where he discovers a Cap’n Crunch box. He obtains the whistle it contains and starts unraveling the game’s layers. In just over twenty minutes, he finishes the game and blows the whistle, which promptly morphs into the Jade Key. Taking a quick peek at the next clue, “Continue your quest by taking the test,” he dashes to his spaceship, narrowly escaping a swarm of Sixers. A fierce battle ignites on Frobozz, pitting the Sixers against an alliance of gunters. As his ship undergoes repairs, Wade sends an email to Aech expressing gratitude for his assistance and apologies for his previous behavior. Predictably, Sorrento’s name pops up on the Scoreboard, closely trailed by Shoto’s. To his astonishment, instead of a string of Sixer names, it is Daito’s name that appears next. Even more shocking, Daito’s name vanishes from the Scoreboard, indicating that Daito’s avatar has been slain.

chapter 24

The Sixers attempt to establish a perimeter around the planet, but fail due to their scarce resources. They instead establish a stronghold at ten identical locations on Frobozz's south pole. Wade is interrupted in his thoughts when Sorrento assumes the lead on the Scoreboard after conquering the Second Gate. Wade, in desperation, reaches out to Aech, Art3mis, and Shoto, but to no avail. Days later, Sorrento has managed to get the Crystal Key, indicating that the Sixers are closer to victory. The top ten spots on the Scoreboard are eventually dominated by Sixer avatars, who have all passed the Second Gate and obtained the Crystal Key. Wade contemplates suicide if the Sixers emerge victorious. He is then contacted by Shoto, who requests a meeting at Wade's stronghold. Shoto claims to possess something left to him by Daito in his will. Wade is puzzled because Shoto could retain all of Daito's possessions until he creates a new avatar. But Shoto clarifies that Daito won't be creating a new avatar and promises to explain the details when they meet.

chapter 25

Shoto visits Wade's fortress in a distressed state. He recounts their adventures on Frobozz, where they were trying to secure the Jade Key. Despite Shoto successfully finishing the Zork game, Daito was busy battling the Sixers outside, even morphing into a gigantic alien using the Ultraman Beta Capsule to devastate their vessels. Post Shoto's victory, they aimed to reach their spaceship, but Daito panicked, revealing his fear of someone invading his home. Shoto reveals to Wade that the Sixers ambushed Daito in reality, violently ejecting him from his haptic rig, resulting in him falling from his 43rd-floor apartment. He backs his claim with a Japanese news report that labels the incident as a suicide. Shoto admits that he and Daito, though they never met in the physical world, had bonded in a virtual support group for lonely teenagers. He expresses a shift in his goal from winning the contest to avenging Daito's death. Shoto hands over the Beta Capsule to Wade, believing Daito would have wished the same. They pledge to persist in their endeavour, parting ways on a friendly note.

chapter 26

Delving deeper into the next clue, Wade makes a breakthrough. He figures out that the "test" is the Voight-Kampff test from Blade Runner. On his journey to the closest replica of the Tyrell Building from the same film, he combats the armed guards inside. The Jade Key opens the Second Gate in the conference room, leading him to a star-filled realm. Contrary to the First Gate, he isn't transported to a movie but to a bowling alley. Here, he's cast into the 1987 arcade game, Black Tiger. Knowledge of this game being a favorite of Halliday's proves useful. Upon completing it, he's offered a selection from a collection of massive robots. He notices that some have been claimed by the eleven Sixer accounts ahead of him. Without a moment's hesitation, he selects the Leopardon robot from the Supaidaman show of 1970s Japan. The clue for the Crystal Key, a five-pointed red star, is also quickly identified by him.

chapter 27

Wade delves into his Rush band research, an obsession of James Halliday, and notices a matching red star symbol on the 2112 album cover. This leads him to Syrinx, a planet themed after the album, where he stumbles upon a digitally recreated version of Alex Lifeson’s guitar in a cave. Upon playing a tune from 2112, despite never having strummed a guitar beyond OASIS, he is given a hint that he "cannot unlock the Third Gate alone." He suspects the Sixers haven’t caught this clue yet. Trading in the guitar for the Crystal Key, his last clue points him towards Castle Anorak, James Halliday’s self-built fortress. Upon reaching, he finds the castle under siege by Sixers, who've set up a new impenetrable barrier, only vulnerable if the holder logs out or deactivates it. Wade, formulating a risky strategy, messages Art3mis, Aech, and Shoto instructing them on acquiring the Second Gate and Crystal Key.

chapter 28

Wade narrates his ordeal with the IOI Indentured Servant Retrieval Transport as they remove him from his home. He's been expecting it, as they announce over the intercom that Bryce Lynch is in debt by over 20,000 dollars due to missed credit card payments. His belongings will be auctioned and he'll be forced into a work program to clear the debt. As the IOI forces break into his apartment using plasma torches, Wade quickly confirms that the Sixers haven't advanced further on the Scoreboard. He also notices that Aech, Art3mis and Shoto have all passed the Second Gate and have the Crystal Key, ignoring their messages since he sent them guidance. He decides they wouldn't be of any help and may even discourage his plan. He initiates a sequence to wipe all data from his computer. Once inside, the IOI officials remove his haptic suit, replacing it with a gray jumpsuit. He is then gagged, handcuffed and whisked away with other "indents" to commence his new job.

chapter 29

As Wade travels to the IOI headquarters in Columbus, he observes the widespread poverty and refugee crisis. Once in the Indentured Employee Induction Center, his skills are tested. He performs well on OASIS technology but deliberately fails those related to Halliday and the competition to avoid Sorrento's division. Wade is equipped with a shock or tranquilizer-delivering anklet and an ear tag camera. Life at IOI is prison-like, from low-grade cafeteria meals to monitored bathroom visits. Wade is assigned a "hab unit", much like a coffin-sized cell, and he notes that escape from IOI's hold is near-impossible. He maintains that this was all part of his plan. Within his hab unit, he possesses a screen and visor but is limited to a single IOI news and propaganda channel, IOI-N. Aware of his surveillance, he consumes training videos until sleep takes over. His confidence wavers as he questions the wisdom of his risky decision.

chapter 30

For his IOI customer service job, Wade toils away in a barren cubicle, often falling asleep due to his late night activities in his hab unit. He employs a sarcastic tone with customers, yet it's automatically eliminated. Prior to his arrest, he acquired IOI intranet passwords and administrator rights through a shady online source which previously aided him in identity alteration. He manipulates the entertainment panel in his hab unit to gain admin access and avoid surveillance. To glean information from Sorrento’s files, Wade procures a storage disk and plugs it into his hab unit’s service port. He unearths that the Third Gate is located inside Castle Anorak, though the Sixers are clueless about its operation. He stumbles upon a video of Daito’s assassination and a scheme to abduct Shoto and Art3mis to crack the Third Gate. He glimpses a photo of Art3mis; she resembles her avatar except for a distinctive birthmark that engulfs half her face, which he finds attractive. He initially planned to abscond after a delayed financial transaction that would erase his debt. However, the clearance is still a few days away. To protect Shoto and Art3mis, he resolves to break out earlier than intended.

chapter 31

Wade capitalizes on his admin access to free himself from his anklet and ear tag. He acquires an IOI maintenance uniform and modifies his anklet to function as a security bracelet, enabling him to exit the IOI premises unchallenged. Wade discards the anklet upon leaving and heads to a local post office center. He had previously arranged for a portable OASIS console to be delivered there before becoming IOI's indentured servant. He contacts Art3mis, Aech, and Shoto, cautioning them about IOI’s surveillance and the need for them to relocate for safety. Checking the citizen registry, Wade observes that Bryce Lynch is already sought after by the law. He alters his retinal pattern and fingerprints back to his original identity, Wade Watts. He acquires a flak vest and handgun from a dispensing machine. He finds an OASIS parlor that is not under IOI control, renting the priciest private room available for half a day and demands the highest upload speed. He uploads all his pilfered IOI data to his OASIS account and broadcasts evidence of Daito’s murder, his dialogue with Sorrento, and the plot to kidnap Art3mis and Shoto to all news media. On logging into Aech’s basement, he finds Art3mis, Aech, and Shoto awaiting him.

chapter 32

Wade catches up with his friends, revealing his forced servitude under the Sixers and his theft of their information. Art3mis is initially upset with Wade for viewing her picture but later appreciates his alert. He then unveils the Sixer recording showing Sorrento's failed attempt to unlock the Third Gate with his Crystal Key. The phrase "Charity. Hope. Faith." appearing over the Third Gate is explained by Wade as a nod to "Three is a Magic Number," from Schoolhouse Rock. He believes it suggests that three Crystal Key holders have to collaborate to open the gate. He shares the final stage of his plan, the downfall of the invincible force field surrounding Castle Anorak in the span of 36 hours. His friends question his strategy to beat the entire Sixer army and access the castle once the force field is gone. Wade promises to assemble every gunter to battle the Sixers. They touch upon the difficulties of staying hidden in reality. Suddenly, Ogden Morrow’s avatar, the Great and Powerful Og, materializes in the Basement chatroom. He curiously inquires if they have ever visited Oregon, mentioning how charming it is during this time of the year.

chapter 33

The group learns from Ogden Morrow’s avatar that he has superuser access and has been monitoring them from their initial gathering. Morrow reveals that he was instructed by James Halliday to “protect the spirit and integrity of the contest.” While he can't assist them in the OASIS contest, he offers to aid them in the physical world, granting them sanctuary from the Sixers and arranging private flights for them. Wade receives a warning from Aech about the stark difference between his avatar— a white male, and his actual appearance. When Aech, who turns out to be a young black female, similar in age to Wade, comes to pick him up in her RV for the airport journey, Wade is taken aback. Aech explains her choice of avatar as a way to combat racism, a strategy her mother used in the business world. Aech also reveals that her mother rejected her when she came out as gay. Despite these revelations, Wade assures Aech that their friendship remains unaffected by her race, gender, or sexual orientation. Once in Oregon, they are led by Morrow into his mansion where he has top-tier haptic rigs. Morrow informs Wade that Art3mis and Shoto chose not to meet in person until the end of the battle to avoid any distractions. This leaves Wade feeling a mix of relief and disappointment. Before using his rig, Wade inquires about the rift between Morrow and Halliday. Morrow discloses that Halliday fostered romantic feelings for Kira, and was hurt and jealous when she wed Morrow.

chapter 34

Wade prepares his avatar for the impending conflict and sets his Leopardon robot into action within his fortress. The robot grows to an enormous size and Wade's avatar rides an elevator to the control room in its chest. Wade heads out to Castle Anorak piloting his colossal robot, joining Aech, Art3mis, and Shoto, who are all controlling their massive robots earned by clearing the Second Gate. They are met by an unprecedented assembly of avatars and spacecraft, all gathered to witness or join the conflict. Sorrento and ten additional Sixers approach the protective force field, each activating their own giant robots, rewards from surpassing the Second Gate. Sorrento controls Mechagodzilla, a robot twice the size of Leopardon, prompting an exodus of surrounding avatars. Wade recounts a chain of events he kickstarted, but didn't witness. A Sixer supply robot, acting on delayed instructions from Wade's time as an indentured servant, collects a bomb and takes it to the avatar in charge of the artifact creating the force field. The bomb explodes, bringing down the protective barrier.

chapter 35

When the defensive barrier drops, an epic skirmish erupts between the amassed gunters and the Sixer forces. Wade, Aech, Art3mis, and Shoto struggle to cause damage to Sorrento’s Mechagodzilla using their huge robots. The group decides to use Shoto as a decoy, a plan that works until Wade's ambition overtakes him. He yearns to not only beat Sorrento but also to embarrass him publicly. Activating the Beta Capsule, Wade morphs into Ultraman and, successfully defeating Sorrento’s robot, confirms Sorrento's avatar is indeed dead using the Scoreboard. Wade rejoins the others at the castle. Aech praises him, while Art3mis criticizes him for potentially jeopardizing their mission. Each of them reveal their Crystal Keys and on Wade's utterance, "Three is a magic number," three keyholes emerge, revealing the Third Gate. As they prepare to step through, a loud blast is heard. Wade states, "And then we all died."

chapter 36

The Cataclyst's explosion has reduced all game characters, items, and even Castle Anorak to nothing, a strategy hatched by the Sixers aware of Wade, Aech, and Art3mis' imminent Third Gate entry. Miraculously, Wade finds his avatar resurrected, albeit devoid of any equipment. He detects his 1981 quarter, once won in a flawless Pac-Man game, has transformed into a mere quarter. It has given him an extra life, a rarity in the OASIS universe. Ogden Morrow enables Aech, Art3mis, and Shoto to view Wade's OASIS experience and communicate with him through his headset. They exchange quick words, warning Wade about the approaching 20 Sixers and his limited time. Before stepping into the Third Gate, Wade commits to sharing the contest's prize with his comrades. He acknowledges their collective effort in reaching this point and their indispensable role in his journey to the Third Gate. Determined to clear the Third Gate in one go, considering the impending Sixers, he seeks their assistance, which they willingly lend. Wade then proceeds into the unknown.

chapter 37

Wade's character materializes in a vacant room, the sole occupant being a 1980 Tempest arcade machine. A voice instructs him to outdo James Halliday's top score, a daunting task for him, given his inexperience with Tempest. The machine only credits him one try, but Art3mis provides some hope by revealing an old glitch that rewards forty extra attempts. Using this, Wade struggles repeatedly, never matching the target score. News arrives that the Sixers have infiltrated the gate, all absorbed in Tempest. However, Wade’s next effort proves successful, hitting the desired score and moving him to a new Flicksync, based on "Monty Python and the Holy Grail," one of his all-time favorites. Recitation of the script poses no challenge, and he completes it, even as Sorrento, merely minutes behind, wraps up his own Flicksync. After this, Wade's character is in a large room, emulating Halliday’s office, adorned with gaming consoles from every era, from a PDP-1 to an OASIS console. Wade is certain that the coveted Easter egg is hidden somewhere in this room.

chapter 38

Wade discovers that only the IMSAI 8080 console has electricity. Despite multiple login attempts, he only succeeds when he uses Leucosia, the Dungeons & Dragons alias of Kira Morrow. Suddenly, all systems in the room spring to life. Wade wastes no time in heading to the Atari 2600 to play Adventure, quickly getting to the hidden area and finding a large egg where Warren Robinett's name should be. He leaves the office with the massive metallic egg his avatar acquired. In a different room of the castle, Anorak counsels Wade on the value of real life over the virtual escape of the OASIS, as James Halliday learned too late. He passes all his abilities to Wade's avatar, even revealing a button that could obliterate the OASIS. Anorak urges Wade to use his new powers wisely. Wade also uncovers that he now has billions of credits in his account. Using his newfound powers, he brings back Aech, Art3mis, and Shoto, replenishing their lost belongings. When Aech and Shoto reconnect to the OASIS, they express their gratitude. They also inform him that Art3mis hasn't logged in and is waiting to meet him in person. Lastly, Wade watches a news report, showing Sorrento being apprehended and removed from IOI headquarters.

chapter 39

Wade and Art3mis, also known as Samantha, rendezvous in the labyrinth garden behind Ogden Morrow's home. He compliments her beauty as they sit side by side on a park bench, their hands interlocked. Despite initial awkwardness, they find ease in each other's company. Samantha confesses that Wade is her favorite person, her best friend. She eventually leans in for a kiss. Wade is so content with this real-world interaction that he finds himself saying, “for the first time in as long as I could remember, I had absolutely no desire to log back into the OASIS.”

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