Download a PDF of the Leader’s Guide for the Movie Guide: Ready Player One.

Download a PDF of the Participant’s Guide for the Movie Guide: Ready Player One.

Movie Themes:

Virtual Reality vs. Reality | Identity | Embodiment | Relationships



In the year 2045, people can escape their harsh reality in the OASIS, an immersive virtual world where you can go anywhere, do anything, be anyone-the only limits are your own imagination. OASIS creator James Halliday left his immense fortune and control of the Oasis to the winner of a contest designed to find a worthy heir. When unlikely hero Wade Watts conquers the first challenge of the reality-bending treasure hunt, he and his friends-known as the High Five-are hurled into a fantastical universe of discovery and danger to save the OASIS and their world.

Ready Player One is based on the best-selling book of the same name. It deals with the struggles of Wade Watts as he tries to find identity and meaning in a dystopian future. For church leaders there are a few things to note.

The first is that the novel the movie is based on takes a strong atheist position with a very secular view of life. In the book, God is compared to Santa Claus and masturbation is lionized. In addition, the novel (and to a lesser extent the film) have been criticized recently for their portrayal of women. Specifically, the heroine, Art3mis, is seen as the prize for Wade’s heroism. The film makes regular use of profanity so that it is probably on the upper-end of what is permissible in a PG-13 film. There are also sexual elements, especially a dance club scene where Art3mis is dressed in a provocative dress and titillates Wade through the feedback of his haptic suit. For all of these reasons, the wise leader will exercise discernment on whether this film is appropriate for their audience.

It may seem that this film is irredeemable based on the previous paragraph. In addition to concerns about its content, the film itself is mostly a shiny wrapper with little depth. But for all of these shortcomings, Ready Player One explores several important topics that are very relevant for today’s audience, namely, embodiment and virtual reality.

Our society is glued to the miniature computers in their pockets. Social media has replaced face-to-face interaction and the promise of more connectedness has led to further isolation and depression. In a film that highlights how true and meaningful relationships only require your mind, it provides an excellent foil to the need for embodied relationships.

The second note is that there are two competing visions for this universe. The first is the author Ernest Cline’s, who sees the OASIS as a dream come true for all geeks and nerds. You can live out your every fantasy from within the OASIS, the greatest video game experience of all time. The second vision is the director Steven Spielberg’s, who sees how the OASIS becomes the drug of choice for humanity. For Spielberg, the OASIS doesn’t solve the real problems that people face, but is only an escape. Perhaps this is best seen in the stakes for the conflict of the film. The villains want to take over the OASIS and introduce paid tiers and advertisements. The heroes are then trying to save the OASIS from ads. Meanwhile, the rest of humanity starves and lives in abject poverty, but those problems are not highlighted by our heroes.

Finally, this is a fun film with plenty of nostalgia and Easter eggs to find. The careful leader should try and appreciate the fun of the film with his audience but try and not get caught up in the window dressing.

Watching the Movie:

This guide can be used in multiple ways. The first is to watch the movie in its entirety and then host a discussion afterward. The benefit of this approach is that it will be the most entertaining and the simplest to execute. The down side is that the movie itself takes nearly 2.5 hours and any discussion on top of that will make for a very long event.

The second suggested way is to have everyone watch the film beforehand and then go through the discussion questions. This guide will provide both a chronological and thematic approach to the questions and you can choose the method that most appeals to your context.

Before you sit down to watch the movie, take out something to take notes with and write these two questions on it:

  • What do I like most about this film?
  • What do I like least about this film?

By taking notes throughout the film, even sparse notes, it will enrich and enliven the group discussion afterward. If you’d like, you can even go over the Group Discussion questions in brief beforehand so as to know what to look for while watching the film.

Download a PDF of the Leader’s Guide for the Movie Guide: Ready Player One.

Download a PDF of the Participant’s Guide for the Movie Guide: Ready Player One.