It's 2045 and Earth has been brought to its knees by catastrophic climate change and a worldwide energy crisis, not to mention famine, poverty, disease and war. In short, everything we presently fear has come to pass. It is the ultimate dystopian future.
That's the premise of Ready Player One, a work of science fiction from 2011 by Ernest Cline and now a movie by Steven Spielberg. Wade Watts, the story's protagonist, is born into a generation that feels failed by reality. The only thing making life bearable is the OASIS, a globally networked virtual reality world. Using a visor and a set of haptic-feedback gloves, Wade and millions like him enter its realm daily.
Designed by programming genius James Halliday, the OASIS started life as a video game, with people adopting avatars, going on quests and generally leaving the real world behind. Slaying your boss was a popular element of the game. "Ready Player One", the message that greets players as they log on, is a reference to the coin-operated arcade machines of the 1980s, a decade that the book lionises with (and sometimes tedious) pop culture references.