Ready Player One is a good book that I read on the recommendation of the Boing Boing review. Author Ernest Cline created a really fun story within which he could mine Eighties nostalgia. Ultimately the characters were a little too thin for me to fully invest in the book but I still think it was one of the better science fiction style novels I’ve read recently.
This month the paperback for it came out. Cline has done a really wonderful thing to promote the book — he’s created an alternative reality game (otherwise called an ARG) that mimics the contest at the heart of the book. Listening to Boing Boing’s latest GWEEK episode (#54) where they interview Cline and he announced the contest, you learn that Cline constructed the contest entirely on his own initiative — without the help of his publisher. (I’m more interested in the contest itself in writing this post, but seriously, isn’t amazing, creative marketing one of the things publishers are supposed to bring to the table for their cut of the profits?) Like in the book, there is an Easter Egg leading to a virtual gate, within which is a game where the next clue to the next gate can be found. There will be three gates in this game and the winner will get a tricked out DeLorean a la Back To The Future.
To keep the contest from being over immediately, Cline has set it up so that while the first game is open now (and already solved apparently), the second won’t open until July and the third until August (so what are the odds someone will win on August 1st?). On the podcast, Cline said that the first clue is an Easter Egg in the hardback version of the book (and also in the new paperback version) but not in the electronic versions of the book. That’s a pretty big clue right there. Somewhere in the book is a web address.
There’s already 100 people on the Leaderboard for the game — folks who have found the URL, won the videogame challenge and presumably are getting ready for the 2nd gate in July. So far it looks like people are keeping the secret; my google-fu is pretty good but I see no disclosure of the gate URL online yet. Now I wish I’d bought the book instead of checking it out from the library — maybe I’ll run over and grab the paperback.