Ready Player One

Have I ever mentioned I managed an arcade for six months?

When Pegasus Books was still on Greenwood Ave., and I was still working part time for Mike Richardson, and I was still trying to be a writer, the landlord opened an arcade next door and put me in charge.

Owning a comics store for 35 years, running an arcade, having books published: makes me sound far cooler (or nerdier) than I really am. But it was great that I was courting Linda at the time, and her two boys, Todd (12 years old) and Toby (11 years old.) Looked like a hero to them. 

The job really amounted to not much more than counting quarters at the end of the day, counting games played. Learned that most new machines earned a lot of money until about 2/3rds the cost of the machine and slowed radically after after that.

A few games were evergreen: Galaga for instance.

I was given free play, and I concentrated on two games. Asteroids and Galaga. I couldn't play any of the other games worth a damn, but I became the best Asteroids and Galaga player I ever saw. It frustrated the hell out of me that I had the 2nd highest score on Galaga and some guy had a score that was impossibly high above me. Couldn't figure out how that was even possible.

With Asteroids I just accumulated so many ships I'd just have to walk away. Hours worth of ships. That's a pattern for me: be persistent on a few things until I master it. Otherwise I'm lazy as hell.

A little story: before this, I'd stopped in a 7/11 one day and watched this guy play Asteroids. I'd never played games before, probably plunked a quarter in Pac Man and lost it in seconds, NAh,  Nah, Nah....

The guy hung around and he mocked me on my playing. Mocked me!

Couldn't have done a better job of encouraging me. So I got good, really really really good. I'd get in a zone and just couldn't be killed. Heh.

So one day I'm in a 7/11 showing off and the mocker comes in and watches me for a while and walks away shaking his head and muttering to himself. Most satisfying thing that's probably ever happened in my life, I tell you. JUSTICE! You know, that never happens.

Bought the store soon after, and became very conversant with pop culture, and stayed that way for far longer than most people at my increasing age. Kept me young. (Interestingly, I didn't try to follow video games because I was already trying to learn everything there was to know about comics, books, games, cards, and toys. I figured I had to let something go or my head would explode.)

So "Ready Player One" is right up my alley. I got all the references--as I'm sure most of your did--so it is very satisfying that way. Of course, there is not enough time in a lifetime to know all the protagonist and his friends were supposed to know, but the book was a lot of fun to read. I didn't realize it was a young adult novel; that caught me by surprise.

Spielberg has a movie coming out in March of next year, and that could be huge.

As usual with one of these culturally conquering books, I feel like it's a pretty good book, but I don't understand why it's THE book. I mean, there are so many good books that are ignored, and then one comes along and seems to glom onto the entire market. I mean, good for them, but it seems all out of proportion.

I've stocked up on the book at the store. I have a feeling it's about to be Hunger Games sized.