Ready Player One

I recently read Ready Player One over the Christmas break. As it had been descibed to me, it was a book about what happens when everyone plays WoW, loves video games, and pretty much worships the 80s. As an avid WoW player, a rabid reader, and a child of said decade, I figured, why not, it seems to be right up my alley. Ready Player One: Target audience: me.

So how did I like it? Should you read it?

1. Do you like old video games and like impressing people with your encyclopedic knowledge of them?

2. Do you like movies made between 1980 and 1996 and like impressing people with your encyclopedic knowledge of them?

3. If there was a multi-billion dollar scavenger hunt through a virtual world, where all the clues were directly related to question 1 and 2, would you take part?

If you answered yes, to any of these questions, you will likely like RP1. RP1 is an orgy of pop culture, video games, and geek culture on the level of ComicCon. If ComicCon were a virtual world like Second Life where pretty much everyone spends all of their time. The book is one long scavenger hunt, about a socially awkward and nearly outcast boy, who becomes a hero, without ever really changing who he is. Never is the nerd forced to stop being a nerd. In fact, his nerdiness receives him praise and admiration from all who encounter him.

Wait, scratch that. RP1 is every nerd/geek/dork’s wet dream. A virtual school where you can mute bullies? Yes, please. The ability to make yourself appear normal, as opposed to fat, short, red haired, bespectacled, or so thin and pale you look like a drinking straw? Why in God’s name would I ever ever meet people in real life again! RP1 is absolute porn on a stick, dipped in chocolate and deep fried for those of us who loved all the things the characters in the book revere. The ability to be famous because you can beat a video game? The chance of winning unlimited wealth because you can recite a movie from heart? Becoming the hero, not because you slayed the dragon, but rather because you did something relatively inconsequential that later turned out to be the magical macguffin you needed to save the world? Okay, well maybe we are getting into spoiler territory with that one, but seriously, anyone who has ever played a graphic adventure knows the truth of “If you can pick it, it’s gonna be important later.”

RP1 is set in a future where virtual technology has advanced to the point that people can easily enter a virtual world, called OASIS, where they can do… anything. Kids are given access so they can go to virtual schools. People show up to virtual work. Chat rooms are more like hang out spots. It’s like WoW mated with Second Life and had the perfect love child. Of course, the author points out a few of the social ramifications of such a creation. No one interacts in real life anymore. Poverty is widespread, escapism the reality. The government is second to the virtual government. The sad thing is though, the author notices these huge, monolithic social issues, and then completely ignores them in favor of more anime references. Yet another video game name drop. The fact that the big bad in the book, IOI, is an internet service provider and wields more power than anything else even mentioned is terrifying, and yet even at the end, when the credits roll, they are still in charge of the access. They are still alive as Glados would say, because she would totally be a part of them.

The book is great. Fairly well written, with a few odd pacing moments. It has some truly unbelievable conceits that one just accepts to move on with the story, but in reality, it’s a nice fun romp through a virtual world every nerd wishes they could live in. But then the crippling truth of the book is… it only appeals to us. Those of us who want to live in OASIS, not the real world. The main character isn’t really a hero, despite saving the virtual world. He is given the tool to save the real world. The one with crippling resource shortages, wide spread starvation, and more social problems that could ever be solved, even if all it’s members weren’t spending most of their time plugged into computers.

This book could have been a fantastic philosophical discussion. It could have been the cautionary tale of allowing ourselves the ultimate fantasy. How everything a human thinks they want is really what is absolutely worst for them. The fact that the “hero” is given the tool to save the world, the real one, not the virtual one, and he glances at it, then WALKS AWAY, just proves this book was written by a nerd for nerds. He would rather make more references and more jokes than face and deal with the very real and very terrifying truths his tale reveals in the dangers of virtual fantasy fulfillment. The dangers of living in video games, movies, music, and tv shows. He would rather end on the hero sitting next to the girl, happy to not want to go back into the virtual world, not realizing that only having one person change isn’t going to change the horrid truth that their world is still dying. It’s still on the brink of chaos and destruction. The author ignores the philosophical, moral, and religious ideas that his book touches on in favor of another video game joke. True discussion and thought could have come from this work, with a bit more gravitas.

It’s a great adventure book for nerds/geeks/dorks, who worship Steve Jobs, Richard Garriott, and Shigeru Miyamoto, instead of the nerds who want to step up and make these men look like idiots. The nerds who want to figure out how to make cold fusion a reality. The nerds who want to find the Higgs Boson. The nerds who aren’t content playing other people’s games, watching other people’s movies, and listening to other people’s music, but instead strive and seek to create their own. The people who would be fixing RP1’s world, instead of practicing Pac Man and watching Pretty in Pink.

I guess I shouldn’t admit that despite it’s faults, I really liked this book. Oh well. I am going to go re-watch Lord of the Rings now.

Pandora, a few weeks later

First, I still love Pandora. However I no longer think it poops rainbows and unicorns. Regardless, it is still a great service and I would love to have it in my car.


Wide wide variety of music, from any browser. I know this seems like a weird thing, but when you have a computer you can’t put iTunes on, it is invaluable that it runs through an internet browser.

Plays all the songs on an album, not just the singles. One of my biggest gripes with music today is that so many albums have 1 or 2 good songs, those are the singles, and the rest of the album is just meh. Pandora really helps get a feel for the whole album and artist.

Stations. Stations allow you to compartmentalize your music. You can thumbs down a song on one station and thumbs up it on another. This prevents the “all songs are equally valid” issue.

Info, lyrics, album covers, all right there. I found out one of my favorite songs on the radio is Coldplay. I am very sad about this, but man it is a good song.


If the service goes down, you don’t get to listen to music.

After a month songs that have been down ranked come back. Also so do artists. I really wish I could just say, don’t ever play this artist. On any station. Ever.

No way to say, play this song an annoying amount. You know the song I am talking about. That one that just cheers you up and makes your day better? Yeah we want to hear that one like 40 times. The normal radio does this, plays a song to death, so why can’t we have it on Pandora too?

Good run of bad luck. They really need to have something that says if I have just skipped or downranked the last 5 songs, play one I have up ranked next.

In the end, I still think Pandora is worth every penny and I love having it.

Soundtrack for Life

Soundtrack for Life was the name I gave to the 20 cd collection of songs I burned for listening when driving about in my car. Every song I had downloaded from Napster that was ranked 4-5 stars. There were “theme” discs. “Just Been Dumped” heavily laden with Alanis. “Cheer Me Up” with a large number of up beat pop-y songs. “Road Songs” for the long road trip. I still have most of those cds, sitting in a spindle, a tower of archaic media that memorializes a rather definitive point of my life and personality.

I since moved on to iTunes, iPods, and even to buying cds. (Napster and piracy discussions aside, I would rather purchase an album as physical media, but at that stage I was paying 40k a year to study, it wasn’t like I had an excess of cash to spend on cds. Now in my adulthood, I purchase them without complaint, even going as far as to seek out albums I retain from my Napster days to purchase them. It is the way I support the artist.)

Level Design, as a profession, seems like it would be wildly exciting and interesting all the time. Most of the time you would be right. Each new day brings new challenges. However, when deep in the mines of production, you hit a point where everything has been decided. All the challenges overcome. It is now time to build it. When creating the 40th version of an entity and moving it to it’s proper position, the task begins to weary, and you have 100 more to go. When creating a nav mesh, while it is wildly accurate and a great way to solve that issue, it takes time of brainless work from a designer.

This is where music comes in. Headphones keeps others from bothering you. And the music helps the time pass quickly and keeps your focus. I have used music as a way of focusing since speed mapping at the Guildhall. Unfortunately for me, the OS we are using at work is not supported by iTunes. So I was left without music. This lead me to finding alternate means for listening to my music at work.

I have always liked the radio. I don’t like idiot DJs, playing the same song every hour on the hour, and commercials, but I love the mix of music and the fact that every so often I hear something new. So I decided to try out this Pandora Internet Radio everyone kept talking about.

I was skeptical. The immediate barrage of ads didn’t convince me any. So I started with AFI, and hoped to build my channel. It immediately pulled one of my favorite AFI songs and started playing. Then I added a second band, Rise Against. It then played one of their songs I really liked. Then it played another and another… before I knew it, I had added 10 to 15 bands and created what was very eerily a radio station very very similar to my five star list on iTunes.

By the time I reached song 17, I was completely convinced. Only a single song had come up I didn’t like, and to be fair, it was the ONLY song on that particular album I didn’t like. But I hated the ads. So I checked to see how much this subscription thing cost. At $36 for a year of unlimited commercial free music… sold.

Now, several hours later, I am even more convinced. Pandora is an exceptional service. Can I get it in my car, cause that would just be awesome.