Wade’s avatar appears inside an old video arcade, midway through a game of Galaga. He catches a glimpse of his reflection in the game’s screen and sees Matthew Broderick’s face. Immediately, he realizes he is Matthew Broderick’s character in the 1983 movie WarGames. His surroundings are an exact replica of the film, which was one of Halliday’s absolute favorites. He tries to pull up his OASIS map, but gets nothing, which means he is in a stand-alone simulation separate from the OASIS. He realizes he must be in the middle of a quest, and that if he completes it he will clear the First Gate. However, he is unsure about what he is actually supposed to do.
Wade’s materialization in the middle of the film WarGames reminds readers that the OASIS is far from a typical videogame. Although it has quests, mazes, and monsters like any game, the OASIS is also an immersive world that allows for possibilities such as placing users inside a movie. Given these possibilities, it is little wonder that the OASIS is so wildly popular and that most people choose to spend all of their free time inside it.
Suddenly, another character—a young boy—approaches Wade and says hi. The character’s name is Howie. Wade pauses and sees a flashing sign saying, “Final Dialogue Warning!” Luckily, Wade knows the movie by heart and thus responds with the correct line: “Hi, Howie!” He receives 100 points, and when he also says the next line—“How’s it going?”—correctly, he receives another 100. As Wade continues to act out the movie, he feels exhilarated.
This quest may not involve fighting a demi-lich, but in its own way it is perhaps just as exhilarating. Once again, Wade’s encyclopedic knowledge of Halliday’s obsessions proves to be the secret to his success.
At first Wade thinks acting out the whole movie will be easy; however, it turns out to be harder than he expected. He not only has to recite the correct dialogue, but also act out all the character’s actions. He receives warning signals when he makes a mistake, and he is sure that if he makes too many his avatar will be killed. Wade will realize in hindsight that he is the first person playing a whole new kind of videogame: interactive versions of movies and TV shows called Ficksyncs. By the movie’s conclusion, Wade is exhausted; he has been awake for 24 hours. When it finally ends, the movie disappears and Wade is transformed back into Parzival.
Being forced to act out Matthew Broderick’s character in WarGames may be a dream come true for Wade in some ways, but this passage reminds readers that, as fun as this quest is, it is also difficult and exhausting. Wade may be existing inside a virtual reality simulation, but he nonetheless must rely on his mortal body and work within its physical limitations.
Another riddle appears, this time explaining that “the Captain conceals the Jade Key in a dwelling long neglected.” The clue also mentions a “whistle” and “trophies.” Wade realizes that he has cleared the First Gate, and he sees that his avatar now has 110,000 XPs and that he is now at the 20th level. Art3mis remains behind him with 9,000 points. No other avatars are on the Scoreboard.
Up until this point, Wade’s ascent to success in the hunt has been smooth, if not exactly easy. He is still comfortably ahead of the only other avatar on the Scoreboard and has jumped 17 power levels in the past 24 hours. Is this early run of luck too good to be true?
Wade runs down to the Hallidays’ kitchen and grabs the car keys. He drives the Hallidays’ car to the bus station and teleports back to Ludus. By the time he takes his visor off, it is 6:17am and the hideout is freezing. He dreams that he is confronted by an army of Sixers and gunter clans while holding a glass egg. They grab the egg from him and tear his body “to shreds.”
This passage draws attention to the gulf between Wade’s reality inside the OASIS and his real reality on planet Earth. While everything is going wonderfully for him in the OASIS, in real life he is cold, exhausted, and alone.