Chatrooms are “stand-alone simulations” that can be accessed from the OASIS but aren’t technically part of it. Aech has programmed the Basement to resemble a rec room from the late 1980s. Although he is only a student, Aech has grown rich from competing in PvP arena games and is even more of a celebrity than Art3mis. The Basement is an “exclusive hangout” for top-level gunters. Aech’s avatar is a tall and handsome white man. Wade doesn’t know Aech’s real name, although Aech once confessed it began with the letter H. The two became friends through their mutual obsession with Halliday; nowadays they are always trying to impress each other with trivia and boast that they will be the first to get on the Scoreboard. Sometimes they conduct “research” together by playing the old-school videogames Halliday loved.
Wade and Aech’s friendship strikes an idyllic balance between mutual support and playful competitiveness. While they both joke about being better at trivia and being the first person to find the Copper Key, this does not prohibit them from being best friends. Furthermore, Aech doesn’t seem to care that Wade is a random avatar without any money, whereas Aech himself is rich and famous. The relationship between the two avatars not only shows that the OASIS can foster true friendship, but also that friendship does not have to be ruined by competition.
Aech and Wade chat, teasing each other and arguing about Halliday’s interests. They are interrupted by the arrival of I-r0k, a gunter who Wade believes is an “obnoxious poseur.” Although I-r0k has completed a lot of quests and as a result has a 14th-level avatar, he is clueless about OASIS trivia and Halliday’s obsessions. I-r0k quizzes Aech and Wade, attempting to catch them out, but he fails to do so. The warning bell flashes, letting them all know it is three minutes until school begins. I-r0k disappears, and Aech invites Wade to return to the Basement after school for a marathon of the TV show Spaced.
Wade may not know who Aech is in real life, but he trusts him as a legitimate and authentic gunter. I-r0k, on the other hand, is dismissed as nothing more than a “poseur.” For Wade, it is clearly more important to have enthusiastic and comprehensive knowledge about Halliday than to have a high-level avatar. In other words, it is better to be nerdy than powerful.