Wade is at home analyzing the silver foil in which the Jade Key was wrapped when he is suddenly reminded of the 1982 film Blade Runner. An idea dawns on him, and as he says the word “unicorn” aloud the foil bends itself into an origami unicorn—“one of the most iconic images” from the movie. Suddenly he knows exactly what “test” he must take to find the Second Gate. Blade Runner was one of Halliday’s top ten favorite films; it is based on a novel by Philip K. Dick, who was one of Halliday’s favorite authors. The film features “replicants” of humans who can only be distinguished from real humans by a special test issued by a Voight-Kampff machine. The machine is housed in in the Tyrell Building, replicas of which are all over the OASIS.
The appearance of Blade Runner and the Voight-Kampff machine in particular drive home the novel’s blurring of the distinction between reality and illusion. In Blade Runner (and the Philip K. Dick novel it is based on, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep), the line between humans and robots becomes so thin that it is almost impossible to tell the difference between them. However, the existence of the Voight-Kampff machine is a reminder that there is and always will be a difference, no matter how hard it is to detect.
Wade travels to a cyberpunk-themed world in Sector 22 called Axrenox and quickly finds a copy of the Tyrell Building on it. He lands the Vonnegut on the roof and rides the elevator down to the 440th floor, where he shoots dozens of Tyrell security guard replicants in order to get past. He enters a recreation of the office of Eldon Tyrell, founder of the Tyrell Corporation, and spots the Voight-Kampff machine inside. He puts the key inside, and immediately another portal to a field of stars opens. Wade jumps inside.
Even when the hunt requires Wade to participate in combat, his extensive knowledge of Halliday’s favorite books and films gives him an enormous advantage. He knows that he is supposed to kill the Tyrell security guards and also knows exactly where to locate the Voight-Kampff machine within the building. Thus, brains help even in situations that require brawn.
Wade materializes inside a bowling alley with “disco-era décor” and a sign reading Middletown Lanes. He feels himself being pulled toward a door that reads “Game Room.” Inside there are several 1980s videogames. One, Black Tiger, is sucking everything toward it, including Wade. Halliday wrote in his diary that he would spend hours playing Black Tiger as a child as a form of escape from his “rotten existence.” Wade is sucked inside the monitor and finds himself dressed in the outfit of the hero of Black Tiger, carrying his weapons. He realizes that he now has to play a 3D, virtual reality version of the game.
The parallels between Wade and Halliday become clearer by the minute. Both of them escaped from childhood misery through playing videogames, and as a result they developed an usual level of skill and expertise. However, one major difference is the fact that Wade had Halliday as a role model. Through his idolization of Halliday, Wade was introduced to a whole range of culture that he wouldn’t otherwise know about.
Wade finds the game difficult at first, but after three hours he manages to get through all eight levels. Having won the game, he finds himself back in the bowling alley. One of the characters from the game also materializes in the bowling alley and offers him one of a selection of “giant robots” as a reward for having won. Wade chooses a transforming robot called Leopardon. Soon after, an image of the Crystal Key appears inside a glowing red star. The Black Tiger cabinet then transforms into a door with jade edges. Wade shouts with joy and jumps through.
Finally, Wade’s luck seems to have turned around. Although the Sixers present a severe challenge due to their enormous amount of wealth and resources, as soon as Wade is inside a game and in the zone the Sixers’ disproportionate power ceases to matter at all.