I have been waiting to write this blog for a while now and I am incredibly excited to finally tell the world about this adventure. This summer, I made it to the final round of a video game competition to win a car. To give a bit of background, I need to explain how it all got started. Around mid-March, I fell in love with a book written by Ernest Cline entitled Ready Player One.
I had no prior knowledge and did not know any background on the story. The book was recommended by a friend, so I agreed and blindly picked it up. I will not give any spoilers of the actual story. All I will say is that the book takes place in the future where a virtual video game world, called the Oasis, controls all aspects of life. The creator of the Oasis, James Halliday, is a multi-kajillionaire and announces within the first few pages of his book that he is passing away from an illness. He leaves all of his real life fortune up for grabs to the person who can solve a set of clues that he has hidden in the Oasis. What are the clues, you may ask? Well, all of the clues are based off 1980s pop culture, including music, movies, and video games. The book follows one boy’s quest to try to solve all of the clues to win Halliday’s real life fortune.
I consider myself to be a pretty moderate reader, but this book was different. For the first time ever, I literally read a book for 8 hours straight because I simply could not put it down. The story is AWESOME and if you have any interest in the plot above, then you are going to love this book. So, as I obsessively fan-boyed over the story, I stumbled upon this video at the beginning of the summer:
As soon as the video finished, I was totally speechless. After wishing that the plot of the book would come true, it actually did. Well done, Cline, well done. A mid-summer video game challenge sounded like a blast. Better yet, I LOVE ‘Back to the Future’, so to win a suped-up DeLorean was a fantastic idea. 3 video game challenges? I have always bragged about my dedication to video game culture, so I figured my odds were half-decent. I raced upstairs, grabbed the book, and immediately started to re-read the story to find the URL and re-live the adventure.
DISCLAIMER: In the spirit of the contest, I will not reveal the answers to any of the clues. The contest may be over, but you can still play for fun!
It did not take me long to discover the URL that was discussed in the YouTube video. Unfortunately, I had discovered the video about 10 days after the contest started, so I immediately got an overwhelming sensation of being late and falling behind. A couple hundred people had already finished the first challenge. However, each video game challenge was released on the 1st of each month (June, July, & August), so I simply needed to complete the challenge by July 1st and I would be all caught up. There was no advantage (other than getting to brag about being at the top of the leaderboards) to finishing early, so I relaxed and typed in the URL.
It brought me to my favorite part of the entire competition. The challenge was in the direct spirit of the book and I thought it was incredibly well done. It may have taken my about 5 collective hours (and about 2 pages of notes/diagrams), but I had successfully cleared the Gate 1. In total, about 1300+ people also cleared Gate 1. You can view the Gate 1 Leader Board here and you might recognize someone if you scroll down to #577!
With all of the challenges, if you beat the game, you had to take a picture of yourself with the winning screen. #577? Not too shabby considering I started the contest pretty late. Although I was competing against another 1,300+ people, I still had high hopes to win. I had better odds winning this than winning the lottery! And for Gate 2, I would be ready.
And boy was I ready. At 12:00a.m. on July 1st, the 2nd Gate opened up. Access to the Gate 2 was granted with the AR code you can see in the picture from Gate 1. I cracked open a Mountain Dew and was ready to rock. Gate 1 was challenging, but Gate 2 was much more time consuming. I considered myself to be pretty good at the game, but winning required a fair amount of luck, along with hours of dedication to the cause. I played every morning before work, and sporadically after work every day for about 5 days. After many hours, I did manage to clear the 2nd Gate! Boy was I pumped. I sent in my photo and anxiously awaited the Gate 2 Leader Board to update so I could see the standings. I was hoping to be in the top 100 for pride reasons, but I ended up coming in at #30!!
Coming in #30 gave me a rush of excitement. Everyone who competed in Gate 1 had started Gate 2; and I managed to be in the top percentage. This showed me that I was an actual contender in this competition. About 700+ people cleared Gate 2 and we were all awaiting Gate 3 to open on August 1st.. Similar to Gate 1, a link was given after Gate 2 completion, which brought you to Gate 3 with a message saying the gate would open on August 1st. At 12:00a.m. on August 1st, I sat at my desk with 2 unopened Mountain Dews and my computer plugged in, fully ready to pull an all-nighter to take home the DeLorean. However, when I read the challenge description, I realized that this was not going to be a challenge I could beat in a night.
A few days after Gate 3 opened up, I received a very special email from one of my favorite literary characters congratulating me for making it this far and explaining the rules of the challenge:
Since Ernie Cline, and many other online sources have revealed the objective of Gate 3, I will also reveal it. The objective of Gate 3 was simple: Beat a world record for 1 of 4 classic arcade video games. Whoa. I was not expecting that. The qualifying games were Black Tiger (arcade cabinet), Joust (acrade cabinet or Atari 2600 cartridge), Robotron: 2084 (arcade cabinet), and Tempest (arcade cabinet). An additional way to win was to play a perfect game of Pac-Man, but you had to beat the world record for the quickest perfect game ever. You couldn’t just play an online emulator either, you had to actually film yourself playing the entire game and beating the world record score at an arcade or with your Atari 2600. Double whoa. A few of these games I had never even heard of before. But, I quickly pulled up Google and mapped out every arcade in my area. One of which had 3 of the qualifying games. My hopes were no longer very high, but I figured I would give it a shot.
Unfortunately, I was not the winner of this awesome contest. But, I was one of 27 brave individuals who attempted to clear Gate 3. I decided to play Joust, which I had a ton of fun with. You can see me at #23:
Someone actually ended up beating the world record for Joust on August 8th on his Atari 2600. Quite impressive, so I tip my hat to you, sir. Ernie Cline gave away the car on a special episode of G4, which can be viewed here.
To Ernie Cline: Thanks for a great contest. It was a great idea and I had a ton of fun playing. And it even allowed me to discover a local arcade, which I hope to visit again in the near future.
To everyone reading this blog: Go pick up a copy of Ready Player One. It is a great story and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
PS- You can view Ernie Cline’s personal blog here. And I have also heard rumors of an upcoming Ready Player One movie in the future!