5 Major Changes Between The Ready Player One Book And Movie

by David Jagneaux • March 30th, 2018

Other than pretty much every plot point and story beat, the book and movie for Ready Player One are mostly the same…sort of. That isn’t to say that one is inherently better than the other, but they do differ in such dramatic ways that it’s better to think of them as two separate adventures that reference the same source material and characters.

So, it should be needless to say at this point, but just in case you don’t get the point of this article there are a lot of spoilers for both the book and the movie versions of Ready Player One to follow. As in, the entirety of the rest of this article is specifically focused on discussing spoilers. If you want a spoiler-free review of the movie, you can read and watch that here.

Wade’s Life

From the opening moments of the Ready Player One film, things are very different. In the book, Wade lives in the stacks on the outskirts of Oklahoma City. The center of the VR universe is Columbus, Ohio, and he dreams of living there, near the serves for The Oasis, one day but it’s a far off fantasy. In the movie, the stacks are already in Columbus. Everything left of humanity feels like it exists within a few miles.

Furthermore, after IOI blows up his home, killing his only family that’s left in the real world, in the book Wade flees to Columbus using the vast funds he has amassed via endorsement deals from his newfound celebrity status inside The Oasis. In doing so he changes his name and gets a new identity to hide himself. In the film, he ends up getting abducted by one of Artemis’ henchmen and joins “The Resistance” with her after his real name is revealed. He never changes his name, never gets a swanky futuristic apartment, and never really alters much about his life other than buying a nice haptic suit with some spare cash.

That’s a pretty major change.

Meeting Art3mis

Speaking of, yeah, he meets Artemis in the movie very quickly. In fact, I’d wager about a third of the film takes place outside of The Oasis and includes scenes of the two of them talking on balconies, scheming at desks, and kissing in the backseat of vans. A huge plot point of the book was the fact that they never met until the very final pages, but they’re introduced physically very quickly in the movie.

Additionally, their entire relationship is very different. In the book, she is a pseudo-famous guide writer and streamer in The Oasis that everyone knows. A lot of that backstory existed prior to the film beginning, but it’s character development we miss out on.

Once they do start talking more in The Oasis and becoming friends, he falls in love and gets a little…creepy. Eventually she blocks him to focus on the egg hunt and he gets depressed, barrages her incessantly with messages and emails, and becomes a bit like a cyber stalker. Then they magically come back together and are in love once again. The movie mostly erases this entire subplot and collapses the timeline significantly.

The High Five’s Relationship

In the book, Wade hangs out with his best friend Aech in his virtual basement that includes all of their favorite games and movies. It’s a bit like an exclusive club that only top-performing players and close friends get access to. In the movie, this takes the form of a modder’s garage instead. This means that Wade, Artemis, Aech, Daito, and Sho never meet up to discuss things and never agree to remain friendly rivals.

In the book, they’re competition is a driving force. They don’t really share hints and clues much and typically prefer to stay as competitive as possible. In the film, they’re working together like a merry band of best friends as soon as they all meet in person.

Speaking of, in the book, Daito and Sho are not real-life brothers like they are in the movie. In fact, the two have never met each other and near the end, Daito is actually murdered in the real world by IOI. The movie’s ending is far less morbid and actually includes all five of them gaining control of The Oasis together as they live happily ever after.

The Order of Events

All of those other details are easy to gloss over and look past since the core of the characters remain the same in the rest of the film, but it’s hard to ignore just how dramatically different the content of the movie is from the content of the book. Literally every single challenge is completely different.

There is no epic King Kong plus T-Rex laden car chase racing sequence in the book. Instead of searching through the inner workings of The Shining, like in the movie, they must do the same with War Games and Monty Python and the Holy Grail in the book.

Many of the relatively obscure (for Western audiences) anime references are gone from the film as well, such as Ultraman, and replaced with more well-known IP like The Iron Giant. He makes a big impact in the final battle, as does a Gundam and (thankfully) Mecha Godzilla, but there are still a ton of differences.

In the book, Halliday is very specifically obsessed with the 80s, but in the movie nerd culture from the 70s all the way up through the 90s and 2000s is referenced liberally. An entire army of Halo spartans rushing into battle is definitely not a scene from the 80s and neither is Tracer from Overwatch.

And at the very end they decide that The Oasis will be closed on Tuesdays and Thursdays because people need to spend more time in the real world — completely ignoring that maybe lopping off ~28% of the world’s economy isn’t a great idea.

The Keys, Gates, and Challenges

In the book when a player finds one of the keys they must then find the gate that will give them a clue to the next key, for the next gate, and so on. Three keys, three gates. In the movie, the keys open gates immediately which present clues for the next pair of keys and gates. Essentially, this compresses the entire plot and cuts the events in half, give or take.

And at the very end of the book three different people are required to present one copy of each key to open the final gate for the final challenge, which only one person can complete. That idea is gone completely from the film.

This is far from an exhaustive list, but instead was intended to touch on the major plot points that changed. Let us know some of the big differences you notice down in the comments below!

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What's your reaction?

    • Bundy

      Was fantastic.

      • Konchu

        I agree I like many things the movie does better. It really is the nostalgia factor that made the book work for me and the movie has this is spades.

  • Brad

    While I did enjoy the movie, it does differ drastically, as you have pointed out. However, it does still have the same heart, which is what counts the most.

    The thing they left out that disappointed me the most was when the cofounder of GG (don’t remember his name atm), takes them in at the end of the book, protects them from IOI and gives them state of the art rigs to use.

    Oh and WTF was up with the end where the IOI president is wading through the crowd in the stacks with a gun, within arms reach of a dozen people at any moment, and NOBODY grabs him.

    • I agree, I was waiting for that bit as well. In general I’d have liked Og’s character to have had a larger role.

      • Bundy

        The book waded a little too close to deus ex machina with Og, so I can see why they cut that out. It’s not good structure to have an omnipotent being to step in and save the day whenever the heroes are in trouble. I’m glad they made this change at Og’s birthday where he little went all cheat codes and zapped all the bad guys. It’s better if Parvizal and Artemis have to save themselves. Although the bit with the quarter was a step back, I see why they made that change, since the scene from the book where it was acquired would have eaten up 15 minutes.

  • Rothgarr

    I went into the movie knowing it would be different from the book. It HAD to be. As much as I loved the book, even I’d be bored watching Wade act out an entire movie, or going through all of Zork, or going through Rush’s “Discovery” from 2112, etc. It’s would make for a terrible viewing experience. Even on the car ride to the theater with my son (who also read the book), I said, “I bet they leave out the whole section where he gets his own apartment and ‘works’ at IOI” — as as it turned out they did.

    So going into it knowing that it would greatly different, I thoroughly enjoyed the movie. Anyone expecting the movie to be just like the book is delusional.

    One fun thing: I wore a Rush “starman” t-shirt to the movie and my son wore a Space Invaders t-shirt. We couldn’t believe that in the movie Halliday wore a Space Invaders t-shirt and Aech wore a Starman t-shirt.

  • MadManMcGee

    Z and Art3mis’ relationship in the movie felt really rushed. In the book there’s a long back and forth between them before the party at the Distracted Globe where Z tells her he loves her. In the movie at that point it felt like they’d known each other for a few days at that point, and a love confession felt really weird and awkward.
    And don’t even get me started on making Art3mis the one who becomes the IOI indent. Seems like such a missed opportunity to show Z’s hacker geek side. It’s one of the most heroic things he does in the book and giving that to Arty just felt odd.

    • KUKWES

      Removing him going to school and the first challenge was the biggest mistake for me. That was one of my favorite parts from the book.

      • Konchu

        For sure you miss the whole point just how poor wade is that he could initially only afford to use the Oasis in a limited manner due to no credits. His van setup kind of tells this a little but not completely.

        I still liked the movie it has the spirit of the book in general.

        • Richard Bettridge

          I agree with all of these comments. I did like the movie a lot and was surprised how different it was from the book. But, I walked away thinking if they were going to do the book justice they’d have had to do a 3 parter like they did with the hobbit (hobbit was a relatively small book).

          But, I mean really could they? If they made the first movie conclude on the first gate would it be any good.. I don’t know. It’s not an iconic classic where they could get away with that.

          The beginning of the book was one of my fav parts, as well as the end where wade intentionally bankrupted himself to get inside. Having wade not be the one who cracked the secret of the first key location also sucked.

          I also feel like the extra life quarters impact was watered down. I think that was an important part. Wade wasted an entire day getting the high score in pacman to earn a seemingly useless quarter.. Thinking it was the key to the second (or third i forget) gate. Because of this he lost his position. But if he didn’t do this, he would have lost the final challenge when they blew up the planet.

          Lastly I was disappointed they the robot scene stayed in the movie, but it was lost on the point they they all earned robots as part of a prior challenge (and one of a side quest)

  • Mike549

    I still really enjoyed the film, but I have to say that the book was much better (then again, that is almost always the case). The opening car racing scene was exciting but I’d still have preferred to see Wade playing the arcade version of Joust. The 80s references in the film were a nice nod to the book, but for those who’ve not read the book, they must have seen out of place because the film never really gave much context as to why Halliday and his fans were so obsessed with that era.

    The movie’s best aspect was how cool the avatars looked when they were in VR. Who wouldn’t have a crush on Artemis? Her avatar was the cutest thing ever.

    I’m not sure how much this will get people to take an interest in current day VR. I hope it generates some interest, though. At least on some level a lot of normal folks probably associate the future of gaming with VR and this will add to it a bit. On that note (and with the release of Wipeout in VR), we simply need more flat game 3D titles converted to VR. The built-for-VR games can wait for the time being because, so far, the very best games in VR so far have been converts: Doom 3 BFG, RE7, Wipeout, Skyrim, Fallout 4… I know the big players want VR and AR to replace smartphones at some point, but they need to get gamers on board in a big way first and we’ve already seen how to do it.

    • Konchu

      I think that was probably due to not getting the D&D rights. since it was a merger of D&D and Joust. They definitely had some Midway rights with Goro from Mortal Kombat. Though that doesn’t mean they were able to get the Joust rights.

      • Bundy

        I dunno. King Kong, and Batman’s car would probably have cost more than an obscure 80’s arcade game. Plus, Joust in the book was neat and everything. But that car race was substantially more entertaining to watch. I think that was the biggest reason for changing it. He still plays Adventure in the end. Watching someone play 2 old games was probably 1 too many.

        • Konchu

          For sure I think the new scene works good for the movie. I just Heard they could not get d&d and thus not having the environment or opponent probably made them scrap this entire scene for the new one. Joust would have probably been easy to get but may not have been a good value overall since so much had to change and may have been too slow for the flow of the movie in general.