Wade likes his World History teacher. All his teachers are good, in part because the OASIS school software means they do not have to worry about discipline and can focus on imparting knowledge. It is also possible to take students anywhere in time or space on a “virtual fieldtrip.” That morning, Wade’s World History class goes to Egypt in 1922 to watch archaeologists discover King Tutankhamen’s tomb. The day before, they had traveled to Ancient Egypt during Tutankhamen’s reign. In Biology, Wade travels inside the human heart, in Art, he goes to the Louvre, and in Astronomy, he visits Jupiter’s moons.
This passage highlights the extraordinary potential of combining a virtual reality simulation with education. Utilizing the OASIS software means that Wade’s teachers do not have to worry about financial constraints or badly-behaved students. Not only that, but their teaching is also no longer even limited by the laws of time and space, creating a sense of true possibility and freedom.
At lunchtime, Wade sits in a field by his school. He does not have enough money to travel off-world as other students do. Many even have their own spacecraft and give rides to their friends. The OASIS began with only a few hundred planets, populated with “computer-controlled humans, animals, monsters, aliens, and androids.” Before long, other game companies launched their own planets within the OASIS. The simulation was divided into 27 sectors, each of which is home to hundreds of planets. The OASIS thus resembles a Rubik’s Cube—another 1980s reference. It takes 10 hours to travel across a sector at the speed of light, and such long-distance travel is expensive. It is far quicker to teleport, but that also costs more money.
Although some elements of the OASIS, such as the OASIS public school system, seem to operate relatively free from financial constraints, this is not true for individual avatars such as Wade. The OASIS may have become enormously vast, complex, and intricate, but Wade is prevented from exploring it due to the fact that he is too poor to afford it.
Some zones are powered by magic, and others by technology. Similarly, there are PvP and non-PvP zones, each with its own unique set of rules. There are no “castles, dungeons, or orbiting space fortresses” on Ludus, and neither are there any monsters or aliens, as it was designed solely as an educational planet. This is disastrous for Wade because the only way he can increase his avatar’s power level is by earning experience points (XPs) through fighting or completing quests. Many OASIS users do not care about their avatar’s power level or the competitive aspects of the simulation. However, if Wade wants to find the egg, he knows he will have to travel through the most dangerous parts of the OASIS, and will not survive if his avatar remains at the 3rd level, where it currently is.
Another utopian aspect of the OASIS lies in the fact that each user can engage with it on their own terms and get out of it what they want to. While gunters like Wade see the main mission of their time in the OASIS as finding Halliday’s Easter egg, others enter the simulation for completely different reasons. However, as Wade points out, it is not necessarily easy to engage with the simulation exactly how one wants to. If an avatar doesn’t have much money or many experience points, there is little that they can do within the simulation.
Aech’s avatar is on the 30th level. Wade considers being on the 3rd level “a colossal embarrassment.” He has tried to get a part-time job, but unemployment has never been higher and even fast food restaurants have two-year waiting lists for job applicants. Wade therefore remains stuck on Ludus, which he compares to being in “the world’s greatest video arcade without any quarters.”
Because OASIS credits are treated as a genuine currency in the real world, the recession afflicting reality also has an impact on the OASIS. This is reflected in the fact that unemployment is so high and it is almost impossible to get a job.