I must admit that I was cautiously optimistic going into the theater for Ready Player One in March of 2018. I’m right in the demographic for this kind of thing, nostalgic for the 80s and 90s, student of popular culture, and a fan of director Steven Spielberg’s oeuvre. The movie had some suitably weird cars in it, and one of the big action set pieces was a race, as shown in the trailer for the picture. How could it go wrong?
I had enjoyed the book it was based on, in spite of the main character Wade/Parzival being a whiny incel fuckboi, it was a new and interesting world that held my attention for the duration of the Wil Wheaton-narrated audiobook on a long road trip. It wasn’t perfect, but in the pre-Gamergate nerd world of 2011 it was mostly harmless fun. The movie, however, was relentless garbage.
Aside from most of the film being a cgi mess, the characters were one-dimensional anime-eyed goons, it delivered nostalgia the way Dane Cook delivered comedy [HEY, REMEMBER THIS THING?], and the plot was little more than a series of disjointed exposition voice-overs. I expected more, really, but it was the racing scene that really irked me.
So, if you haven’t seen the movie, the plot is that earth in 2045 is pretty much run entirely within a video game simulation called the Oasis. Schooling is entirely in the Oasis. People work entirely in the Oasis. Inside the programming of this massive multi-player online role playing society lies a hidden game, the winner of which will take over control of this society.
In order to progress through the game, you need to win three different levels, gathering three keys to get to the end. The first key is at the end of a simulated race through Manhattan, navigating through a series of movie monsters. The final boss of which is an impossible to beat King Kong. This challenge does not exist in the book, and it was created for the film presumably for flash and a few extra hits of the nostalgia drug.
Here’s the scene.
Here’s why it sucks:
Thousands of people have been trying to beat this race for five years and nobody has been able to do it.
As I enter my sixth week sheltering in place, I’ve been spending a lot of time driving virtual cars around virtual race tracks, which is why my mind keeps going to this truly bad racing scene. It’s a hobby I’ve kept since the days of Super Mario Kart and Gran Turismo 2. I know a lot of those tracks better than the back of my hand. And I had no incentive to learn them, other than a desire for improving my own racecraft. There wasn’t a multi-million dollar payout for getting marginally better at racing games, but I’ve done it anyway.
The protagonist of the film becomes the first player to beat the level by driving backwards away from the start line, which opens up a secret track which allows him to bypass the unbeatable King Kong.
You’re telling me this game existed for five years and nobody, not one bored kid, not one curious gamer, not one idiot doing it for the lulz, ever tried to race backward? That’s literally the first thing I do in every game. That’s how I found out Lakitu would come shake his finger in your face if you tried that shit in SMK.
While the rest of the movie was bad, I’ve mostly forgotten all about it in the two years since I saw it. But I’ll never forget about this egregious oversight. An avid racing gamer would have had this level beat within the first week, for sure. And you’re telling me this puzzle went unsolved for five years? Give me a break.