Archaide is home to the OASIS’ largest classic videogame museum, and the planet itself resembles an old videogame—its scenery never changes and it does not look real. Older OASIS users have coded arcades from their own childhoods on the planet, each of which is filled with ancient arcade games. Overall, Archaide resembles a “massive underground multilevel labyrinth” in which it is easy to get lost. Wade runs until he arrives at the GSS Museum, however he soon realizes that the museum has not been coded to be interactive, and thus the Jade Key cannot be located here. Disappointed, he concludes that Archaide is a “dead end.”
Halliday is not the only character in the novel who is nostalgic for his youth. The fact that many OASIS users have coded the arcades of their childhood on Archaide suggests that nostalgia is a widespread phenomenon in the world of the novel. This makes sense given the fact that planet Earth in 2045 is something of a paradise lost. Older people alive at this time were born into a reasonably prosperous and stable world, only to see that all fall away. No wonder they are nostalgic.
Wade takes a different route out of the planet, and on his way finds an “underground city” filled with pizza places, bowling alleys, and arcades. He is stunned to find somewhere called Happytime Pizza, a recreation of the pizza place Halliday frequented as a child in Middletown. Inside, there is a Robotron game machine and a note saying that anyone who beats the owner’s high score will get a free large pizza. Wade keeps looking around and finds a Pac-Man machine with a note saying, “Out of order.” He plugs it in and is surprised to see that it works.
The name “Happytime Pizza” is somewhat ironic given that Halliday’s childhood was decidedly unhappy. This irony in turn speaks to the strange nature of nostalgia, which can make people look back fondly on a period that was not actually happy at the time.
Wade realizes that he’s found something special—not “the Easter egg,” but “an Easter egg.” In order to secure the egg, he will need to play a perfect game of Pac-Man. It is tricky, and he has to start over several times. However, he eventually gets into the swing of things. While playing, he sees Aech’s name rise on the Scoreboard and realizes that Aech has now also found the Jade Key, but he does not let this ruin his flow. After six hours, he finishes a perfect game. “Game Over” flashes on the screen and a quarter tumbles toward him. He knows it’s possible that the quarter has magical properties, but at that moment all he can think of is Art3mis, Aech, and the Jade Key.
Wade’s discovery of the Easter egg inside the Pac-Man machine serves as a reminder that sometimes mistakes and failures can lead to unexpected good fortune. Wade previously considered Archaide a “dead end,” and while he has not managed to find the Jade Key on the planet, he has found something else that may well benefit him in the long run. This passage thus indicates that the route to success is not always straightforward or linear.
Wade receives an email from Aech saying that they are “officially even now” and that Aech is repaying his debt to Wade. Attached to the email is the instruction manual for the 1980 text game Zork. Wade suddenly realizes that the Jade Key is hidden on a planet called Frobozz, which is not far from Archaide in Sector 7. He sets off immediately.
Wade’s decision to give Aech the tip that helped him beat Acererak is now being rewarded with Aech doing the same for him. In this case, friendship is shown to benefit success in the hunt, rather than hinder it.