Ready Player One: Comparing The Book To The Movie

Ready Player One comparing the book to the movie
Source: Warner Bros. Home Entertainment

How many times do you heard someone say the book was better than the movie? That may be the case but we’re looking at two entirely different mediums and comparing them is not exactly fair. Some books seem so untouchable for being made into a movie that when it happens, there is always disappointment and backlash.

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline is one of those books that seemed like it could never get the big screen treatment, it was too deep and vast to be able to be represented on film. The Ready Player One movie, however, did not try to recreate the book but I think successfully managed to offer a bit of a different version.

Both the book and the movie of Ready Player One have their own unique components that makes them enjoyable as two separate entities. But if you are a big fan of the book here’s a look at how the two of them compare. I want to look at the differences the book has that the movie did not include along with some additions created just for the movie that were some incredible standouts.

So let’s step into the Oasis to compare the Ready Player One book to the movie

Synopsis of Ready Player One The movie

I want to start but giving a quick summary of the movie and then we can look at all the specific things from the book that were not included.

Ready Player One was directed by Steven Spielberg and the screenplay was written by Ernest Cline and Zak Penn. It stars Tye Sheridan, Olivia Cooke, Ben Mendelsohn, Lena Waithe, T. J. Miller, Simon Pegg, and Mary Rylance.

It came out on March 29, 2018 and made $41.8 million in its first weekend and had a four day total of $53.7 million. This was a pretty solid opening and right along with where it was expected to open with predictions of $40-50 million. Not a monster Marvel type hit but definitely very solid for a movie that not everyone was familiar with.

It ended up grossing $582 million worldwide by the end of its release and that’s a very, very good take. Again, for not being a superhero movie, Star Wars or a Pixar juggernaut it can be hard to do well as a unique film property so I think this can be considered a success. Critic wise it was also very solid. It has a 72% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and generally received positive reviews. Not epic ones but again very solid.

The Plot Of Ready Player One The Movie

The plot of the movie revolves around the Oasis which is a virtual reality simulation where people can be any character or person they want and travel to any designed world they feel like. It focuses on a guy named Wade Watts who is focused on finding a hidden easter egg that was hidden somewhere in the Oasis. This easter egg was put in there by the creator of the Oasis, James Halliday.

Wade has an obsessive pursuit of finding the egg by absorbing himself into all pop culture and nostalgia information revolving around the 1980s primarily. Halliday would devise a set of hidden keys that you would have to find one at a time in order to eventually get to the egg. The one that finds the egg would inherit control of the Oasis, essentially a trillion dollar commodity.

A corporate entity known as IOI is also trying to gain control of the Oasis and hires an entire army to try to unlock the pop culture clues that Halliday left behind. Wade (Sheridan)  takes on the identity of Parzival in the Oasis and has a best friend named Aech (Waithe). The first key is discovered from a race going through New York City exposing them to such things as King Kong and the T-Rex from Jurassic Park. Wade discovers it by going backwards through the race.

Wade has befriended the alluring Artemis (Cooke) who is also passionate about learning about Halliday, his clues, and all things pop culture. Along with a group of other “gunters” (egg hunters) they form a group called the High-Five. They find the next key when looking for Kira who was a lost love of Halliday. This takes them through Stephen King’s “The Shining”.

IOI is lead by Nolan Sorrento who finds out the real identity of Parzival, tries to recruit him but ends up capturing Artemis (who we learn is named Samantha). Samantha now has to work in the IOI center and it’s found that the third key in on Planet Doom.

This turns into an all out war with Wade calling every Gunter in the universe to try to take down the main fortress that is protected with a force field. Artemis deactivates the force field in an Obi Wan Kenobi style but Sorrento detonates the “Cataclyst” which is a bomb that kills all the avatars on Planet Doom.

The last challenge is playing the game “Adventure” on an old Atari 2600 which is the video game that contained the very first easter egg. Parzival is able to get an extra life from a quarter he got from a museum curator. He finds the easter egg, gets the last key and is greeted by Anorak who is Halliday’s avatar. Parzival is given the golden egg and control of the Oasis which he runs with his friends.

Looking At The Differences Between Ready Player One The Book And The Movie

So there’s a ton to go through here and if you’ve read the book you know that it goes so deep on some really obscure, and super nerdy things. It’s understandable why the movie wouldn’t include them as they needed to go with some broader pop culture in order to attract a bigger audience.

I feel that I have a good grasp on a lot of 1980s pop culture but there were things in Ready Player One the book that I was completely unfamiliar with. There is no way a mass audience would have been aware of some of these things and it’s what creates the biggest difference between the film and the book.

This whole issue could be an entire book by itself so I’m going to try to highlight some main areas from the book that weren’t used in the movie:

1. The Planet Ludus And Joust

In a 2 hour movie you just don’t have enough time to go deeper into the backstory of Wade. A lot of the timeline in the book takes place over years so you can’t complain how they needed a more condensed story.

In Ready Player One the book Wade goes to high school on the planet Ludus. He finds out that the first key is actually hidden on this planet and it’s been under his nose for a long time. He also first meets Artemis here in a cave that’s a recreation of the Tomb of Horrors from Dungeons and Dragons.

To get the copper key (the first one in the quest) he has to beat the old arcade game Joust which is from 1982 and involves a knight riding on an Ostrich.

2. Rush

The band Rush is a huge part of Ready Player One the book. They are barely mentioned in the movie but are a significant part of the egg hunt. The quest for the Crystal Key revolves around their album 2112 and the song “The Temples of Syrinx”. The temple is where the key is hidden and Parzival finds a 1974 Gibson Les Paul guitar that’s crammed into a rock like in the Sword in the Stone.

He is able to get the guitar out and then plays the Rush song “Discovery” which is all about a hero that finds a guitar behind a waterfall. When he plays the song a secret message appears, and he finds out that the third gate cannot be unlocked alone. When he places the guitar back on the altar it then transform into the crystal key. It also displays a single “A” on the handle but with no other clue. This “A” would be at the front gate of Halliday’s castle called “Castle Anorak”.

3. Planet Middletown

This is an awesome part of the book that I was really hoping would make it into the movie. Planet Middleton is where Wade teleports to after finding the Copper Key and going through the Copper Gate. This is the planet where Halliday’s hometown was and his boyhood home has been recreated.

This part of the book involves Wade playing through the video game “Dungeons of Daggorath”. This game is one of the very first first-person perspective role-playing games ever made and was put out for the Tandy computer in 1982. It’s obviously crude now but pretty amazing for its time and there’s just no way you would be able to cross this over into the movie. Plus most people have never heard of it. Like I said, Ready Player One the book goes DEEP into nerd culture.

4. War Games

The next part here, and arguably best part of the book, involves Wade being placed into the movie “War Games” and has to go through all the scenes as Matthew Broderick’s character.

I was certain this would make it into the movie as War Games is such a pivotal part of Ready Player One the book. I guess that it is, again, not a super well-known movie and it would have been lost on a lot of people. But if you’ve seen War Games you know how significant it is as an inspiration behind all things to do with Ready Player One.

5. The Jade Key, Planet Archaide, And Pac-Man

So five months take place between finding the copper key and then to the Jade Key. Planet Archaide is a flat and barren planet and is designed with vector graphics which are the 3D style used in ‘80s video games. The whole inside of the planet is made up of old arcade cabinet games.

This planet contains the arcade from Halliday’s youth and in it is an original PAC-MAN arcade game. Wade plays a perfect game but is only rewarded with a quarter that is from 1981. The quarter becomes an “accessory” he can use at another time and this is something the movie was easily able to include.

In Ready Player One, the movie Wade gets the quarter at the museum of Halliday’s life from the curator which is still a pretty good scene. These parts were very important from an exposition standpoint. So I get why they wrote it in this way but would have loved to have seen a Pac-Man scene like in the book.

In the movie the quarter is able to re-spawn Wades avatar and allow him to play Adventure on the Atari 2600 and this is pretty similar to the book.

6. Planet Frobozz and Text Game Zork

There was no way this scene was going to be able to translate onto the big screen. This is where the second gate is unlocked and the Jade Key is awarded. This is also one of the deepest cuts in the book involving the text game Zork. I do remember this because my cousin had it but Zork is an interactive storytelling game from 1979 where you follow text instructions and make decisions. It was kind of like Choose Your Own Adventure.

The planet of Frobozz is where there are hundreds of different 3D versions of Zork. This is also where Daito, one of the High-Five gets murdered by the Sixers. The next step is now unlocking the Jade Gate.

Here’s a website where you can actually play Zork

7. Blade Runner & Black Tiger

Ugh, I was certain they would use Blade Runner in the movie, it’s just too iconic, and even if it’s more of a cult movie, it’s so imperative to the theme of Ready Player One. But no such luck. The movie would however present an incredible alternative that I’ll cover in a bit.

The Jade Gate is unlocked when Wade goes into a simulation of Blade Runner and it’s set in the Tyrell building which is one of the fictional corporations from the 1982 movie. In it Wade has to complete a Voight-Kampff machine which in Blade Runner is used to determine if an individual is a human or a replicant.

Wade then has to complete the video game Black Tiger straight through from beginning to end. I didn’t know the game Black TIger at all but it’s an arcade game from 1987 where you play a barbarian battling through 8 different levels. When Wade completes this, he gets a clue which is a star inside a red circle which is what’s on the cover of the 2112 album by Rush  shown above

8. Monty Python

Another thing I was certain would be in Ready Player One the movie but alas we can’t always get what we want. I know there are a lot of liscensing issues that come into play with all this.

Before he plays Adventure, Wade has to play the game Tempest which is an Atari game from 1981. Tempest is a 3D type game that’s similar to Luke Skywalker flying through the trenches on the Death Star, but with worse graphics.

He then has to role play through Monty Python and the Holy Grail interacting in the actual movie and having to recite all the lines of dialogue without missing one the way he did with War Games. I’m not sure if this was another movie that was a bit too obscure for a mass audience, or if they couldn’t get the rights for it, but it would have been amazing to see.

The movie did opt for more of a mass pop culture motif, which I totally get, so you were probably better to include something like the Jurassic Park T-Rex than a movie made by old British comedians.

Differences Included In The Movie That Worked Well

Considering this is a Steven Spielberg movie it kept the spirit of the book throughout it. There was a very good chance they could have destroyed the whole thing but I think they pulled it off. What we were seeing in Ready Player One could almost be considered a tribute to the book as opposed to recreating it. Once I realized that’s how it was going it was easier to lose yourself in the direction the movie was heading as opposed to focusing on what it was not including.

Here’s some awesome things that Ready Player One the movie did that weren’t in the book.

The Opening Race For The First Key

This was the big showcase opener which was Spielberg trying to come out with a bang and I think they accomplished that. The book doesn’t have any blockbuster type scenes like that and it was a way to embrace the sound and size of an Imax screen.

With the Delorean whipping through the streets of New York being chased by the T-Rex and King Kong it’s a pretty immense scene. It makes for a good way to get the discovery of the first key.

The Shining

This to me is hands down the best part of the movie and one of the best scenes I think I have seen in a movie in a long time. This is an example of a new edition to Ready Player One the movie that’s not in the book and it’s bloody brilliant.

I was upset at not seeing Blade Runner or War Games but with the Shining I think they hit on something even better. Using it as one of the clues, they get to go into the actual movie and it’s the absolute perfect addition to the film. The advantage with the Shining is that most everyone knows it and has seen it. Even if you haven’t, it’s such an iconic movie that you know the parts it’s referencing.

Everyone knows the hallway with the blood or the creepy twins and it’s an absolutely brilliant edition that I think enhances Ready Player One the movie.

The Zemeckis Cube & Back To The Future

Spielberg said he didn’t want to include a lot of his own movies that are in the book such as E.T and even if this is him being humble you have to recognize the contributions you have made to pop culture.

There was also no references to Star Wars, except for mention of the Millenium Falcon, but they still kept a bit of Back to the Future in there. They didn’t go overboard with it but had to include the use of the Delorean.

I feel the use of the Zemeckis cube was a way to acknowledge one of the best movies of all time but with Spielberg not having to think he’s tooting his own horn. The Zemeckis cube makes great use of some of the Back to the Future score and I think enhances the movie. The score for Ready Player One is even conducted by Alan Silvestri who did Back to the Future as John Williams was not able to do it.

Also shout out to the re-elect mayor Goldie Wilson that appears in Aech’s workshop living room.


This one quick little scene was one of my favorite parts of the whole movie and got a good reaction from the audience when I saw it in the theatres. If you don’t know what Madballs are they are a toy from the mid ‘80s that were grotesque looking rubber balls.

In Ready Player One a “Dust Brain” Madball is used as an explosive device as opposed to the Holy hand grenade used in the book. The Holy hand grenade is based on one from Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

Check out my full blog all about Madballs!

Finding The Easter Egg In “Adventure”

Thank goodness they included this and I have to say I was shocked to see its inclusion at the end of the movie. The problem is there is no way you can’t include the Atari game “Adventure” as it’s the absolute cornerstone of the book.

Without this, you may as well not even call the movie “Ready Player One”. Anyone who’s from the ‘80s, or grew up on Atari, is pretty familiar with how great a game Adventure is but there’s a huge majority who have probably never played it. There’s probably even fewer that know it’s the very first video game to contain an easter egg and it’s amazing to see this simple game, from a simple system being used as the very pinnacle of the movie.

Seeing the use of Adventure helps establish Ready Player One as being faithful to the book despite the limitations of having to put everything into a 2 hour film.

“Adventure” is so specific and not known by many but is the cornerstone of the book and kudos for putting it in. Play Adventure online here!

Also, here’s a YouTube video on finding the easter egg in Adventure.

Some Things The Movie Did Wrong

I don’t want to spend a lot of time on this as it’s easy to be negative and I think the focus should just be on appreciating what a great book Ready Player One is and that we’ve got this great movie out of it.

Here’s just a few things I’ll point out that aren’t as much about being negative but just observations:

  • Not following the development of the High-Five. This, of course, comes down to time as you can’t spend time on establishing all the characters but in Ready Player One the book there is more attention focused on the creation and development of the High-Five. In the movie, it just gets casually mentioned
  • Not including Ludus and more of Wade growing up. I think this establishes more of the Oasis and his backstory and the movie has to just jump into the present day with him already in the hunt for the egg
  • I didn’t love T. J. Miller in it. I think he’s funny but all his scenes felt like wasted time to me.
  • Ready Player One the movie didn’t go as deep into the Oasis as I thought, it’s like they just kind of breezed over it very quickly. Again, I don’t know how much time I was expecting that they would actually be able to spend on this.
  • This is my own personal issue, but I hated that they ended the movie with “You Make My Dreams Come True” by Hall and Oates. Mostly because I DESPISE that song. I was hoping that “Take On Me” by Aha would be used because not only would have it been perfect but it was used so much in the promotion leading up to the movie.
  • The biggest thing I missed was not having the small time stuff such as Halliday’s home town and the inclusion of obscure video games. I know there was no way to do this, but I was hoping to see the inclusion of the Cap’n Crunch whistle. Since the Shining replaces the Jade Key challenge we don’t get to see the use of it.

The Cap’n Crunch whistle came in the cereal in the ‘70s and it was a toy that when you blew it produced a tone at the exact frequency that could trick phones into making long-distance calls for free. This lead to a hacking underground movement called “Phreakers” and in Ready Player One the book, one of the clues is based around

The captain conceals the Jade Key in a dwelling long neglected but you can only blow the whistle once the trophies are collected.”

I never noticed this but in the movie one of the researchers that works for IOI is seen looking at a box of Cap’n Crunch on his computer and the same box is seen on a shelf when Wade is choosing his outfit in the garage.

So I guess I can’t complain…

Wrapping It Up

So that’s the differences between Ready Player One the book and the movie. Ready Player One the book is a modern classic and is like a great love letter to the ‘80s and pop culture. Ready Player One the movie is a love letter of its own but in a few different ways. It’s not a genuine recreation of the book but like an offshoot of it. It embraces pop culture but from more of a mainstream perspective while still trying to be as faithful to the book as possible.

The “book is better than the movie” mindset is never the right approach and there’s no way to ever come to a good conclusion. When it comes to Ready Player One comparing the book to the movie I think it’s just about celebrating each one for what they are and being happy that we have both.

I’ve found Ready Player One the movie has an increased watchability meaning that when I think of just wanting something to throw on it’s starting to just come to mind. For me, it’s starting to get into the conversation with movies like Back to the Future as being one of my go-to’s. Maybe this is because it’s still relatively new but I think over time we’ll see what sort of place it has on our top movies lists.