In the world of Ready Player One, James Halliday was kind of a big deal. Like Steve Jobs or Bill Gates. After all, he created the OASIS, a virtual reality game that had morphed into an Internet on steroids. It was a place where most of humanity went to school, worked, played and even dated and got married (or at least their avatars did).
When the billionaire video game designer died, you would have expected a lot of news coverage, but, it was the year 2040 and global warming and constant war had almost destroyed the planet. Most people were in poverty or homeless. Who cares about some dead rich guy?
But it was his last will and testament that made everyone drop what they were doing and pay attention. Halliday was leaving all of his money (billions) and control of his company to the first person to win a video game.
It wasn’t just any video game either. To win the money, players had to travel across the OASIS, finding clues and solving puzzles on any of 10,000 virtual worlds. All of the clues and puzzles reflected Halliday’s encyclopedic and obsessive knowledge of 80’s pop culture and players had to have the same. After 5 years, millions of players had not even been able to crack any of the clues, let alone solve a puzzle.
And then one day, Wade Watts, a poor teenager in a trailer park in Oklahoma City cracked the first clue…
John Elder Robison has had some fascinating jobs during his lifetime. He now fixes fancy European cars. He used to work as an engineer developing toys for the Mattell company. And did I mention that he was a sound engineer for the band Kiss where he also helped to create some very cool special effects for the band. But if you met him when he was a kid, you might have gotten a different picture.
sociopath, psycho, delinquent
Those were the words that some adults used to describe John when he was young. People always thought he was up to something because he wouldn’t look them in the eye and had a hard time communicating with other people, often misinterpreting social cues, facial expressions and other things we take for granted.
He seemed “off” somehow, different than “normal” people. But that assessment was more than a bit harsh. John didn’t find out until he was in his 40s that he had a syndrome called Aspergers. Not being able to read those social cues is one of several characteristics that mark a kid with Aspergers. It is a high functioning form of Autism.
They didn’t have a name for it when he was a kid. Add to the difficulties of living with Asperger a father who is an abusive alcoholic and a mother who is slowly slipping into mental illness. His prospects in high school don’t look good. He dropped out, but he found out that he was a wiz with electronics. He eventually taught himself everything he needed to know about sound engineering and started to become a local legend among bands for his ability to fix sound equipment. And that’s when the real adventure began.
If you want to find out about his bewildering love life, getting arrested for drugs in the Caribbean, creating flaming guitars and other special effects for the band Kiss and his other adventures, then check out Don’t Look Me in the Eye by John Elder Robison.