Spielberg ends “Ready Player One” with a controversial decision: the OASIS will be completely shut down on Tuesdays and Thursdays, allowing folks to connect with one another in the real world. Go touch grass, Spielberg says, which is not a bad message in of itself, as being perennially online can truly fuel feelings of paranoia, doom, and isolation. However, the way in which this is handled is a bit muddled, despite Spielberg’s best attempts to further a balanced vision when it comes to escaping reality and grounding oneself when needed.
In 2045, which is when the events of the film are set, the entire populace is heavily dependent on OASIS to make ends meet. It’s a desperate, tragic situation, as players not only use it to feel seen for their nostalgia-based aspirations but also to earn a living amid economically-dire conditions. IOI, the megacorporation, exploits these conditions for limitless profits and tortures indentured laborers for life. While Wade’s decision to block IOI’s access to OASIS dismantles the corporate megastructure temporarily, how sound is this decision to shut down the VR world two days a week?
When entire livelihoods depend on OASIS, a two-day weekly shutdown seems like a bad idea from an economic standpoint. Moreover, IOI is bound to sprout another hydra head in less-evasive ways, as capitalistic structures always find a way to mooch off people’s misery. Although VR disconnection can promote grounded, real-world connections and improved mental health, the film does little to establish the real world as a livable space. The dystopia is as bleak as it gets, and OASIS is a double-edged sword, which acts as an escape and a means to survive. Maybe, just maybe, the new generation can help build a better, livable world in the end.