Ready Player One
In 2045, due to various geopolitical events, many of Earth's cities have become slums; its inhabitants regularly escape into the virtual reality universe called OASIS. Its co-founder, the late James "Anorak" Halliday, announces a contest in which players must find an Easter egg inside a gate that requires three keys hidden in OASIS; the winner to receive full ownership and control of OASIS. This attracted many players, but as nobody has successfully completed the first quest - a vehicle race across ever-shifting roadways in Manhattan - the only players still trying are a number of "Gunters" (egg hunters) and the video game conglomerate Innovative Online Industries (IOI), headed by Nolan Sorrento, who employs a large number of Halliday researchers, top gamers and indentured servants called "Sixers". In Columbus, Ohio, now the world's fastest growing city, Wade Watts, an orphaned 17-year-old Gunter, lives with his aunt Alice in the "stacks", makeshift towers of trailer homes, and logs onto the OASIS from a nearby cargo van. His avatar Parzival, and his online friend Aech, a tall, muscular creature who deflates the first person shooter competition and works as a virtual mechanic, participate in the first quest: a vehicle race across ever-shifting roadways in Manhattan, which nobody has managed to accomplish. Parzival, driving the DeLorean from Back to the Future, reaches the home stretch before anyone else. Though still unable to cross the finish line at Central Park, he befriends a well-known Gunter named Art3mis by saving her from being "zeroed out" by King Kong, which would have wiped her character progression. At Anorak's virtual archives containing video clips reconstructing Halliday's life, Parzival gets an insight from a comment that Halliday made to his former business partner Ogden Morrow, with Halliday wishing he could "go backwards for once" and take back the situation. On the next race, realising the comment is a clue to beat the contest, Parzival reverses and uncovers an underground shortcut to bypass the obstacles and reach the finish line, and wins the Copper Key. Aech and Art3mis, as well as players Daito and Sho, soon follow; they appear atop the global scoreboard as the "High Five".