Feature Article

Ready Player One's Ending Explained

Out with the old.

Ready Player One spoilers below!

If you saw Ready Player One over the weekend, you know that it ends on a relatively triumphant note. Wade gets the girl, he gains control of The Oasis, and he splits that control among his clan, the High Five. Then he closes The Oasis down two days of the week, so players will be forced to spend more time in the real world.

There are some nuances here that are worth exploring. For example, did you notice that the very last shot, where Wade and Samantha are making out on a chair, is the first time she's had her hair tied back instead of covering her face? It signifies that she's grown to be more accepting of herself, including the birthmark that she's self conscious of earlier in the movie.

There's a bit more to discuss regarding Ready Player One's ending, so let's jump in.

Adventure

First off: Wade gets the final key by finding a secret Easter egg in the Atari 2600 game Adventure. You might be wondering: Is Adventure really the first game to feature a hidden Easter egg? Is that part of the story based in reality?

The answer is yes! Released in 1980, Adventure was indeed the first game with this type of secret. At the time, Atari didn't credit individual designers; Warren Robinett hid his name in Adventure to signify his authorship of the game. It's become known as the first Easter egg, and its inclusion in Ready Player One is one of the coolest things about the movie (or the book).

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The old man and the boy

You might also be wondering exactly what's going on with old man Halliday and his younger self in the scene where he gives Parzival the Easter egg. This version of Halliday isn't a character controlled by the game itself, but it's also not Halliday back from the dead--the designer really is gone, he tells Wade.

So what is he? This is where a bit of Spielberg magic comes in, and as the viewer, you just have to suspend your disbelief a little bit more than usual. Is this apparition of Halliday being controlled by someone else? Did the designer somehow upload a part of himself into The Oasis before he died? There's a reason Halliday doesn't answer the question, and it's because it doesn't really matter.

What's important is the symbolism of Halliday finally leaving the room--his room--with his younger self in tow. The imagery of Halliday keeping himself as a boy around like a pet is strong and haunting, considering this is a man who feared change and chose to live his entire life in the past, obsessing over his childhood. When his successor, Wade, finally makes his way through all three challenges, Halliday can let go.

Witnessing that moment cements the lesson Wade has learned by the end: That he can't keep living in the past if he ever wants to be happy. That's why he resolves to split control of The Oasis with his friends, and even why they choose to shut it down on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The real world "is the only place where you can get a decent meal," after all, as Halliday puts it.

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Justice prevails

There's one other thing that might itch the back of your mind once Ready Player One's credits start to roll: Where were the cops, or any authority besides IOI, for the rest of the movie?

This one isn't easily answered. For much of Ready Player One, it seems that IOI is the only authority in existence, almost like this movie takes place in some kind of post-apocalypse world (Wade does mention the ominous-sounding "corn syrup drought" and "bandwidth riots" at the start). Then, once F'Nale has been defeated and Sorrento had a change of heart--in other words, when the cops are no longer needed--they finally show up to bust the bad guys.

First off, why did they show up then? Well, it seems the combination of a lengthy car chase, a guy with a gun, and the taped confession Aech sent them (a detail that's noted only briefly at the end) was finally enough to get their attention. If they showed up to investigate after Wade's stack blew up, it must have happened offscreen (although maybe Sorrento was right, and they really didn't care).

As to where they were the rest of the movie, we can't really know. Apparently Ready Player One takes place in a world in which massive, all-powerful companies like IOI have so much authority that it takes a recorded confession from one of its executives to finally get the cops involved. What matters is justice prevailed--it's a very Spielberg ending, when you think about it.

Any more questions about Ready Player One's ending? Hit us up in the comments below and let us know.

Got a news tip or want to contact us directly? Email news@gamespot.com

mrougeau

Michael Rougeau

Mike Rougeau is GameSpot's Senior Entertainment Editor. He loves Game of Thrones and dogs.
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Anmuloced

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Edited By Anmuloced

I have one question. Where did the ticker tape come from at the end of the film? Was someone keeping a bale of ticker tape in their trailer for the remote possibility of a spontaneous celebration in the mud below? As a side note, why isn't ticker tape considered littering?

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lordorwell

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@anmuloced: you've been waiting 7 months, here's the answer. They are still in the matrix.

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Andel_Skaar

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Edited By Andel_Skaar

This movie is a work of art, the amount of detail and layering is stunning, pace and storytelling is great, but personally i liked how they nailed the whole feel of the gaming world and pros / cons gaming brings to each of our lives.

Its a gem in the sea of watered down movies, let no one else tell you otherwise, if you like gaming especially mmo you will enjoy this.

And for the haters which can't fathom anything more interesting than average B rated comedy i suggest you invest your time otherwise and try reading books.It helps fill in the blanks.

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Mech_Battalion

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This movie sucked. It was so sloppy and had some of the worst cinematography I've seen in a long time. You never get to experience the virtual world. The camera just keeps zooming and moving and doesn't focus on anything. The characters are supposed to be knowledgeable about games but nobody could remember Adventure held the first digital easter egg? The first memory we see is just magically the one he needs to watch for an extra TEN SECONDS before getting the answer to obtaining the first key? There are supposed to be 30 years of memories stored and he is obsessed with the right one, never watched it from start to finish, he always turns it off at the same point? Ugh, the movie was just so lazily written. The police exist but don't care about anything that happens unless they get a confession? So President Wheaton allows companies to kidnap people and enslave them? I don't think so.

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Gnomedeplume

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Wow, 2 whole days locked out of the thing you used to escape from an objectively shitty real world, that'll solve all of society's problems.

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pharazone

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I think the storyline of the movie is based on Final Fantasy 7.

why?

Cause Wade is like Cloud and he never makes any companies like Cloud do in FF7.

And he also had a tall & tough guy beside him.

The IOI is like Shinra Company,and the BOSS ie like Rufus Shinra.

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lordorwell

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@pharazone: the only problem with your theory is the book is much older than final fantasy 7. Plus the only real parallel is there's an evil corporation.

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SOedipus

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That movie sucked.

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Pierce_Sparrow

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Eplain the ending? What's there to explain? The good guy wins, the bad guy loses, the end. There, I explained it.

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ZIMdoom

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@og_gamerzzz: there is nothing to explain. This is just more GS desperate click bait. I thought, “what could they possibly have to explain about such a basic and simple ending?” And clicked to find the answer is nothing.

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xCael

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Edited By xCael

@og_gamerzzz: it was a great movie. did you even see it? and if so, how old are you. I bet a 20 something or younger wouldn't appreciate it as much as someone around 40

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Pierce_Sparrow

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@og_gamerzzz: Spielberg actually knows quite a bit about gaming, being one himself, so much so he was at one point going to produce his own games. It's doubtful any other director could have done as good or a better job with the movie. Whatever you think of it, the gaming aspect of RPO was one of the things handled well.

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lordorwell

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@Pierce_Sparrow: perhaps It would have made more sense for George Lucas to make this then, since he had his own game company.