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READY PLAYER ONE meets ROLLERBALL when a once thankless gamer, now the greatest player in a live action battle arena game, wants a return to his old life but struggles with the allure and fame his gaming persona brings.
In this game, to be a hero, one must be the dealer and the addict.
Based on the novel in progress by the same author.
In the future pro sports as we knew it are gone, and cosplaying geeks took over the world.
A place where corporations provide schools, infrastructure, and health care not because they wanted to, but because they had to; Federal and state governments made too many promises they couldn’t keep.
And why not use the geeks to make a shit-ton of money doing it.
A world where individual freedom is not taken, but often willingly given up.
Projecting a mix of alternative and real trends, declining interest and changing society bring an end to professional sports once attracting millions –football, baseball, soccer, hockey. Egaming and esports took over. GEEK (Gamers of Extraordinary and Exceptional Kape-abilities) is a label worn with pride.
Now the most watched sporting event on Earth is Glory of Heroes (or Heroes in the story’s vernacular). Far from its humble beginnings as a Massive Online Battle Arena (MOBA) game, Heroes morphed into reality: from a game where humans control avatars to humans playing the avatar in the arena. One Hero and four Champions. Red vs Blue teams. Each player creates a fantasy/superhero persona. This is not virtual reality. Although highly computerized, via augmented reality (AR) players fight monsters, minions, laser firing towers and each other, it requires physical gameplay and people get hurt. Thousands pack renovated stadiums or view live streams to watch.
As a ‘twist’ to the corporate takeover trope, as local, state and the federal government prove unable to fund schools, infrastructure and health care, private corporations must take up the slack to ensure a productive workforce and tax base. They also control Heroes, making billions.
Young JASON DÁVLOS is as emotionally addicted to Heroes as countless millions, dreaming of the day for his chance in the arena as his gamer persona Jägerdon. Once there, he learns the price: he must be the addicted, thankless nobody taken over by his beloved dealer persona keeping the money coming in. Deciding to make a choice, he knows remaining one or the other will be the end of his dreams. A man at war with himself. a battle for self-identity and worth and the price he is, or is not, willing to pay.
Rollerball (1975); Ready Player One (2018); Tron (1982) & Tron: Legacy (2010)
Heroes comprise two, five player teams: A Hero and four Champions, in arenas modeled on various MOBAs (Smite, League of Legends). AI controlled minions, seen by the players via augmented reality (AR) goggles and audience by 3D projections on the field (as are the Sentinels) attack opposing team members and their minions. AI generated creatures inhabit the field, killed to gain experience points or augmented powers. The goal: earn team experience points, destroy the opponent’s Sentinel. It involves computerized and physical game play. And people can get hurt. Thousands pack renovated stadiums or view live streams to watch.
Loneliness: Even on top, just as isolated at those on the bottom.
Addiction to technology: Real life offers little comfort. We create fantasy personas and become dependent on them for self-worth.
Addiction to aggression: We love the spectacle of skill and antagonistic behavior. To savor the thrill of victory and enjoy the agony of the defeated.
Glorification of the Geek & Cosplay culture: Real life is boring and hopeless. We emulate superheroes because they inspire us.
JASON DÁVALOS works as a thankless cook at Beachers, a Hooters like restaurant. His life revolves around Heroes: plays online, practices via simgames and participates in tryouts for teams. He scrapes by to have money for the equipment and fees needed for tryouts, addicted to the game as countless others, many wanting their chance in the arena. With few exceptions, most of his “friends” are online. His crush on the kindhearted waitress Savannah goes unrewarded.
Getting a spot on a practice squad for a professional team, he endures the contempt of the Gold team Hero Gustave. FELIX VAN ZANT, the team’s amoral manager, follows Jason’s career. With the team on a slide, his reputation is on the line. Given his drive, Jason soon overcomes his undeserving status as a noob and gets a chance to play Gold mid-season (Gold refers to the primary team players). Starting as a Champion, within a season he ranks among the best players as his costumed alter ego, Jägerdon.
He then becomes the team’s Hero. Gaming those equal in talent, his drive to the top isn’t easy. But it pays off. Felix basks in the renewed fire Jason’s brought to the team and saves his job. All Jason wanted -fame, recognition, money, desired by women- come to fruition. He revels in the cheering crowds, groupies. A validation of his efforts and himself. Problems solved.
Soon he discovers it’s the other way around: Jägerdon achieves glory through him, and Jason’s still a nobody without it. The people want Jägerdon, not Jason. After losing a match to help and injured player, he’s taken aback when “Jason” gets condemned by fans, and how “Jägerdon” wouldn’t have done that. Save for Savannah. His “real” life didn’t really change. Questioning his own identity, promoting the game and making billions for those in control, they deal out the fantasy of Heroes, keeping others addicted.
Reflecting on the effects Heroes has on people (i.e, himself but reluctant to admit it), Felix -with his own self esteem issues and growing love/hate jealousy of Jason- presses the fact much of the social programs the corporation funds come from Heroes, and keeps the masses entertained. Jason comes to know what the old phrase “bread and circus” really means. While part of him wants to break free, even if it means returning to his old life, another part’s unable to shake off the allure his alter ego brings.
As the annual Hero’s Championship draws near, top managers eschew the normal Blue vs Red standards and pit the three top teams against each other. The resulting match would draw in millions of viewers, billions in revenue. Sensing a way out, Jason pulls his own coup.