Can ‘Ready Player One’ Inspire New Career Paths?
by Doug Monaco
A brand new Steven Spielberg film, a burgeoning industry with immense expectations, a week of SXSW ongoing VR promotional experiences — The Hype is here!
Hype isn’t a precursor for success. However, if Spielberg’s adaptation of Earnest Cline’s 2011 novel Ready Player One is considered a success, the outcome could result in steadfast growth for the virtual and augmented reality media industries.
The movie’s premise centers around the passing of James Halliday, the creator of an immersive virtual universe known as THE OASIS — where you can go anywhere, do anything, be anyone. The only limits are your own imagination. Before Halliday passed, he left clues for a challenge to win his immense fortune and total control of the OASIS. It’s up to the protagonists Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan), Art3mis (Olivia Cooke), and Aech (Lena Waithe) to gather the clues known as ‘’Easter eggs” and ward off the typical evil empire we’ve all become accustomed to despising.
That familiar formula can prove to serve as a welcoming entry point for the public to recognize the potential of virtual reality. Ready Player One features this new technology in a way which audiences can foresee virtual reality technology being incorporated into daily life and changing humanity.
In Warner Bros.’ synopsis of the movie, it’s noted that the only time when the protagonist Watts truly feels alive is when he “escapes” to the OASIS. This example of VR implementation into daily life is the general idea of “escapism.” For generations we’ve been flocking to theaters to escape in good times and bad. By contrast, virtual reality provides a far more immersive escape that only further reduces distractions of daily life.
Virtual reality experts have already used this stress reducing concept to successfully demonstrate the power of the technology. The Immersive Health Group, a subsidiary of the Glimpse Group, uses virtual reality technology for the purpose of health and wellness in corporate settings. It provides employees with a way to escape their surrounding and places users in soothing environments to promote overall health. The outcome of this service has proven to be effective in lowering absenteeism and raising job satisfaction and work productivity.
There’s also concern within the industry that Ready Player One could be a flop and serve as deterrent to mass adoption and future growth. There was a wave of backlash when the various movie posters were released that depicted reused pop-culture classics like Back to the Future to promote Ready Player One and its main characters.
When looking at other films of this ilk, they are often met with lackluster reviews and ratings, leading to skepticism. Warner Bros.’ 2017 release of Blade Runner 2049 had high expectations and received acclaim but failed to make a profit, and was often mistakenly misinterpreted as augmented reality. Likewise, Spielberg’s own A.I. was not a hit and fed consumer fears that robots would overtake humanity. All this said, it is important to remember other factors that contributed to the reception. Blade Runner was derived from a film noir genre that has a loyal — but narrow — following, and A.I. premiered in a pre-Siri world. Knowing that audiences have interest in the Sci-Fi genre and context around what virtual reality truly is, perhaps Ready Player One can flourish where others have failed.
The hope within the industry is for the film to not only serve as a catalyst for adoption but growth as well. In reality, the best and most likely scenario is that Ready Player One serves as an inspiration and spawns ideas for new generations. Through the beloved characters that are synonymous with a Spielberg film, it’s important that trust is established and that the movie by no means comes off as a commercial.
Fiction can be a powerful motivator for driving public behavior. Ready Player One has the power to inspire generations of students, programmers, marketers and leaders. In the short term VR devices can likely anticipate a bump in sales. For the long run, if Ready Player One can live up to the hype, it wouldn’t be surprising if new career paths are formed.