Wade’s avatar appears inside his high school. He opens his locker and explains that, aside from schoolbooks, he only has “a few meager possessions”: a flashlight, a sword, a small shield, and leather armor. Wade is poor inside the OASIS. The currency used there, OASIS credits, is one of the most stable in the world. Wade’s avatar is thinner and more muscular than he is in real life, and is called Parzival, after the knight who found the Holy Grail. GSS keeps every user’s real identity private and encrypted. At school, Wade has to use his real name, and is known as Wade3.
Just as Wade is an underdog in real life, so is he an underdog in the OASIS, with little money and few possessions. The key difference, however, is that Wade’s lack of wealth and power does not seem to matter as much inside the OASIS. He enjoys existing in the simulation regardless of how powerful he is—the same could not, of course, be said of the real world.
Wade will soon graduate and is not looking forward to it. It won’t be possible for him to attend college, and considering he doesn’t want to become indentured to a corporation his only option is to become a “full-time gunter.” Another student teases Wade; he fires back an insult before muting them. Wade loves the fact that at his OASIS school, he can mute people who annoy him. There is no fighting in the school as the planet his school is on, Ludus, is a no-PvP zone.
PvP zones refer to zones in which avatars are allowed to fight each other. In no-PvP zones like Ludus, fighting is blocked by the OASIS software. This highlights the extent to which there is a greater degree of control over life in the OASIS, which—certainly in this instance—makes it a utopia for Wade.
Until sixth grade Wade attended a real-world school, which he hated. He was thrilled by the opportunity to transfer to an OASIS public school on Ludus, the planet where all OASIS schools are located. OASIS schools do not face the same financial and practical constraints as real-world schools, and thus have marble hallways, zero gravity gyms, and libraries that contain every book ever written. When Wade first arrived at his OASIS school he thought he had “died and gone to heaven.”
Wade’s school is one of the key examples of why OASIS might be perceived as a utopia. Many of the constraints that restrict life in the real world, making it difficult, frustrating, and exhausting, do not apply within the OASIS. In the context of the OASIS public school system, this lack of restriction is used for a good cause: to enhance learning.
Wade goes into his World History classroom and opens his homepage, the Hatchery, which is a gunter message forum. His favorite threads are dedicated to insulting the Sixers, a nickname for employees of the corporation Innovative Online Industries (IOI). IOI has created an egg-hunting division which employs professional egg-hunters called oologists, hoping that this will allow them to win the egg and take control of the OASIS. Gunters nickname the oologists “Sixers,” because each of their avatar names is their IOI employee number beginning with 6. In exchange for agreeing to hand over the prize to IOI, Sixers receive a regular paycheck as well as extra benefits. The Sixers all have the same avatar: a man wearing an IOI uniform.
This passage establishes a contrast between the independent gunters and the generic, corporate Sixers. Whereas gunters like Wade approach the hunt as an exciting adventure, the Sixers pursue Halliday’s egg in a far more clinical, soulless way. The Sixers have a total lack of individual distinction and expression, as shown by the fact that they all have the same avatar, wear the same uniform, and are known by a number rather than by their names.
Gunters hate Sixers and believe that IOI has corrupted the “spirit” of Halliday’s egg hunt. There are now also gunter “clans,” groups of gunters who work together and agree to share the prize if one of them finds the egg. Wade opens another of his favorite webpages, this one called “Arty’s Missives.” It is the blog of a female gunter called Art3mis who is intelligent and funny, and on whom Wade has a “massive cyber-crush.” Art3mis’ avatar has black hair and a short, curvy body, an unusual choice for female avatars. Wade knows his crush on her is “silly” because he doesn’t actually know anything about her as a person. In real life, she may be a middle-aged man. Art3mis’ blog get millions of hits a day, but she remains down-to-earth despite the fame.
Once again, this passage blurs the line between reality and illusion. Wade knows that it is silly to have a crush on Art3mis because she may be a “middle-aged man” in real life. His observations about her avatar’s appearance are foolish for the same reason, as each OASIS user has complete control over their avatar’s appearance and thus Art3mis may not resemble her avatar at all. Wade’s comment that Art3mis has not let her fame get to her is similarly odd. After all, she is not famous in real life, just in the OASIS.
Wade reads Art3mis’ latest post, which is about John Hughes movies. He then opens an instant message window to chat with his best friend, Aech. There is still half an hour until class starts, so they agree to meet in Aech’s chatroom, nicknamed the Basement.
Although the OASIS is an illusion, there are ways in which it is made to seem like reality—for example, Aech’s choice to name his chatroom “the Basement.”