The year is 2044, and the global population endures its fourth decade of economic collapse. Huzzah. In a
world of fading prospects and rapidly dwindling natural resources, everyone's favorite pastime is the Oasis,
a massive, all-inclusive multiplayer online game that had metamorphosed into a globally networked virtual
reality universe what's now habitually accessed by nearly everyone on the planet. The Oasis has become such
a panoptic entity, it's become synonymous with the Internet. In the Oasis, kids attend virtual school,
business offices can purchase virtual landscape to promote their wares, virtual concerts are staged. Who
wouldn't prefer this utopian cyberspace over bleak reality? When they can look for James Halliday's fabled
Easter egg, nestled somewhere in the vastness of Oasis?
Eccentric genius video game designer - and creator of Oasis - James Halliday, before dying, recorded a video
in which he challenges all comers to seek out his hidden treasure, to first unearth and then figure out the
clues he'd embedded in the fabric of his Oasis program. His Easter egg, when found, conveys untold riches
and power and unfettered administrative control over the Oasis. Overnight, the hunt for Halliday's treasure
became the new global recreation. Halliday's addiction with 1980s pop culture was well documented, and so,
too, in their feverish pursuit did these Easter egg hunters - nicknamed "gunters" - immerse themselves in
Halliday's obsession, triggering a global revival of 1980s culture. But years and years would elapse before
the elusive first clue would surface. Meanwhile, the gunters developed into figures of ridicule.
In the slums of Oklahoma City, in the Stacks - a decaying community in which run-down trailer homes are
stacked on top of each other - 18-year-old orphan Wade Watts ekes out a miserable existence. Reclusive and
anti-social, Wade is a low-level but dedicated gunter, a walking talking encyclopedia of vintage 1980s facts
and trivia. He realizes that his only hope for a better life is to win the game. And so he perseveres when
so many have given up. And, even though he's only a self-declared "third level wimp," he works out the
location of the first clue. It's a life-changing thing.
The virtual scoreboard allows everyone to track his and other competitors' progress. Wade - or, rather, his
avatar Parzival - becomes an instant worldwide celebrity - making him the target of fellow gunters and
groupies and the media and, worse, of sinister corporations hungry to seize control of the Oasis. In his
quest for Halliday's holy grail, Wade Watts - alliteratively named by his comic book-reading father - must
call on every bit of his tech savvy and knowledge of 1980s culture to outwit his competitors and enemies. He
is an awesome character that boasts impressive measures of pluck and resourcefulness and audacity in the
face of frightening odds. And Wade Watts only becomes more awesome once he's compelled to venture out into
the real world for survival's sake.