Recently I saw “Ready Player One”. It wasn’t exactly the same as the book, but the overall ideas and message at the end were consistent, and something many of us can relate to (SPOILER ALERT).
“Ready Player One” takes place in a post modern world, where earth and life in general have become so unbearable people have essentially opted out of real life to spend most of their time in a virtual reality world called "the Oasis", where they can be anyone and have fantastic adventures, provided they have the funds to do so.
Like the Oasis, video games allow us to forget about the stress of our every day lives, create new identities, experience new and impossible things, are hugely entertaining, and can keep our minds sharp. That’s why they provide such a great escape. So, what’s the problem? There isn’t one if you are playing in moderation, and the game is age appropriate (where children and teens are concerned). A problem arises when we start checking out from the real world and living in our own Oasis.
The problem with living in the Oasis is while we are there, we may feel entertained, engaged and even connected, but when we leave our loneliness returns and may be even worse than before. For those who play excessively, this is especially true. As people’s time in the fantasy worlds grow, their sense of loneliness and disconnection in the real world may become greater because a virtual connection does not give back in a way that a real human connection does. It isn’t real. This is not exclusive to video games, and also happens when people are using other “virtual realities”, like television, social media and pornography in excess.
It may seem counter intuitive because while we are engaging in the virtual world it seems like we are more connected. We aren’t alone. The true reality is, virtual connections cannot replace real, organic, meaningful interactions and we are reminded of that when we step out of the virtual world and our loneliness returns, only to drive us back in at the first opportunity that arises. As people disconnect from real life, virtual life may become so important people stop trying to connect, neglect relationships and even responsibilities.
In the extreme example of “Ready Player One”, the Oasis is at risk of being lost when its creator dies and leaves everyone one final game, granting the winner control over the Oasis and an enormous fortune. While people are sad the creator is gone, they are mostly excited by the opportunity to have the opportunity to gain “ultimate control” and unimaginable wealth. The story focuses primarily on two groups, with very different motives, who are trying to win the game. The competition is between a ruthless, greedy tycoon (and his minions) vying for ultimate power and some driven, smart kids fighting for freedom for all, and a desire to find the meaning of life. One wants to control it, and one wants to set it free. Both want to keep it as a virtual opiate for the masses because this is all everyone knows.
The twist of the story, and final message of the story happens when our young hero successfully completes the challenges, and is given the ultimate prize - - knowledge. While talking to the avatar of the dead creator, he is given a golden egg, and the creator’s final words of wisdom, which are also my final words. Real is real. This is the lesson of the entire story. Real human connection and experiences are important and cannot be replicated. So, get out of the game (at least some of the time) and go live your life! Real connections and experiences cannot be found in front of a screen!
If you are having trouble meeting people, not relating to those you already know, or have social anxiety you might try a Meet Up group focusing on your interests, a board game group, taking a class in something that interests you, or working with a therapist who specializes in anxiety and relationships.