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In Ready Player One, James Halliday hid all the clues and gates - and nearly all the keys - in Planets which had an obvious connection to his upbringing and hobbies.

But one key did not — the copper key — seems to be the exception. It was hidden on Ludus, a planet full of schools with no obvious connection to Halliday. Sure, the book makes the tenuous observations that "Halliday must have wanted a student to win it" and that Halliday was very into giving everyone an education, but surely there were hundreds of planets with schools.

Why did Halliday pick Ludus as the location of his first key if there was seemingly no connection to him at all?

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  • 3
    To keep it more secret? Commented Feb 11, 2018 at 19:56
  • 2
    If he had no direct connection to any planet with schools, then he'd have to pick one; and whichever he picked would be the one you're asking a question about. Commented Feb 12, 2018 at 18:10
  • Perhaps specify whether you ask about the book or the movie.
    – GEdgar
    Commented Feb 9 at 2:31
  • @GEdgar pretty sure I asked this before the movie came out
    – TheAsh
    Commented Feb 9 at 4:12
  • @GEdgar movie premiered in March, this question was asked in February
    – TheAsh
    Commented Feb 9 at 4:12

2 Answers 2

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TLDR

  • Halliday wanted everyone to have a chance to win.
  • The hard part was ensuring that as many as possible would have a chance to visit the planet the first key was on.
  • EDIT : Took a lot longer than I wanted to listen and find all the quotes I wanted to add the first time… that Morrow quote took forever to find…

I like the answer that @Jontia gave, but I think it is simpler than that. For sure I think that Halliday was prejudice to the type of kid he wanted to win the hunt (exactly the type of kid that Wade was), but in setting up the game for someone like Wade to win, it really does open the door for everyone else to have more than a fair shake as well.

For starters, Halliday made sure that everyone knew about the contest. He sent the invitation video to all of the major news channels, sent a copy to every OASIS user’s inbox, and just for kicks put a link on his website. This meant everyone, poor or rich, was almost guaranteed to find out about the contest somehow; even if you did not have an OASIS account or want to participate. That is step one in creating a fair contest.

From that point if you wanted in you had just as much info as everyone else: the video and the almanac (linked as well on the website). That was all that Halliday left for everyone to go on. Wade states:

“It was a game anyone could play, and at first, there seemed to be no right or wrong way to play it. The only thing Anarak’s almanac seemed to indicate was that a familiarity with Halliday’s various obsessions would be essential to finding the egg.” – Prequel

And later Morrow says:

“Jim always wanted everyone to share his obsessions; to love the same things he loved. I think this contest is his way of giving the entire world an incentive to do just that.” – Chapter 12

This is step two in creating a fair contest. Everyone can play it. While yes, skill would eventually become necessary to win the entire contest (playing the arcade games mainly) it is primarily a game of Clue and connecting dots regarding Halliday’s interests. To win just about any tournament you need skill of some sort to win, so needing skill at the games or memory recall is not that unexpected… especially since the Hunt was a video game Easter Egg after all. But to get started even Wade knew next to nothing about 80’s pop culture when he first saw the invitation video.

“…and Anarak’s invitation was crammed with obscure 80s pop culture references, nearly all of which were lost on me the first time I viewed it.” – Prequel

We don’t know that much about what all Wade did before becoming a gunter, but it is likely he couldn’t afford to do much given his financial status. I’m sure he had played some old games, listened to some old music, and watched some old film, but none with the serious concentration that would be needed to recall it at a moment’s notice during the hunt later. Unless by chance you were already a fan of the same stuff that Halliday was, everyone was on a level playing field, at the start.

With everyone equal at the start of the game Halliday wanted everyone eligible to have a fair chance at winning and the only way to ensure that is to put the first key where as many as possible would have access to it; given that travelling in the OASIS costs money. Without everyone having access to the key it would not be a fair game for those without the means (like Wade) to get to the location of the first key.

When someone first creates their avatar they are spawned on Incipio, the first planet everyone else was before and would be after them. That is the one planet that Halliday knew everyone would HAVE to step foot on. From there you need to pay for transport of some kind to get to another planet.

“Prior to my transfer [into the OASIS school system] my OASIS avatar had never left Incipio, the planet at the center of Sector One, where new avatars were spawned at the time of their creation…If you wanted to go somewhere more interesting you had to pay a teleportation fare to get there and that cost money…” – Chapter 2

This is really where we see the only bit of prejudice on Halliday’s part. As students it is possible to get a scholarship and a free travel voucher to get to the planet Ludus, the location of the first key. Therefore, everyone that attended school on Ludus at and after the time of Anorak’s Invitation (potentially every student/child that had an OASIS account) would be exactly where they needed to be to get the key.

“What group of people has much to learn? Students. High School Students. I was on a planet filled with students, all of whom had much to learn. What if the limerick was saying the tomb was hidden right here on Ludus? The very planet where I had been twiddling my thumbs for the past five years? Then, I remembered that Ludus was also a Latin word meaning school. I pulled up my Latin dictionary to double check the definition. At that is when I discovered the word had more than one meaning. Ludus could mean school, but it could also mean sport or game…” – Chapter 7

Beyond that, the book mentions how Halliday set up a foundation to ensure that the OASIS school system would be in operation so long as the OASIS existed.

“James Halliday had donated billions to fund the creation of the OASIS Public School System here as a way to demonstrate the huge potential of the OASIS as an educational tool. And prior to his death Halliday had set up a foundation to ensure that the OASIS Public School System would always have the money it needed to operate. The Halliday Learning Foundation also provided impoverished children around the globe with free OASIS hardware and internet access so that they could attend school inside the OASIS. – Chapter 7

This meant that the planet he actually put the first key on would always be in existence and operate as he intended allowing for the discovery of the first key. Also note how the foundation provides hardware to kids around the globe… though it is not explicitly stated I believe that is a good indication that the OASIS school system has campuses for both kids in America and across the globe. Given that the OASIS credit is the most stable currency on the planet it is not that big of a stretch to think that an OASIS diploma would be the most common achievement as well. In addition, providing poor kids in other countries the hardware to attend school would not make much sense if they were expected to go to a private school or something inside the OASIS… Though that is of course just speculation on my part.

So really, the only people that would start at a disadvantage were the people that were beyond (or graduating?) high school. Everyone else that was attending school inside the OASIS would have up to four or more years of guaranteed access to the location of the first key… This is of course dependent upon someone not having the credits to get back to Ludus once they discovered the location of the first key.

More assumption on my part here is that once you have graduated you are sent back to Incipio. To me that seems to be the only fair place to send everyone that graduates so you can guarantee Ludus does not become infested with graduates. Also, since both planets are in Sector One I like to think the teleportation fee would not be too exorbitant to get back...

Of course beyond the first key I do not think that Halliday needed to be concerned. The coins and stuff Wade initially picked up were all converted to OASIS credit and more than enough to get him to the first gate. From there, having found something it would likely set up endorsement opportunities and etc. to ensure continued financing, just as it did for Wade. Though if you were smart/lucky enough you would not need endorsements to actually be able to win. Given the competition and how events played out it definitely helped Wade, but you would not need a 99th level character or limitless funding in theory. Just your smarts, a little skill/luck, and the ability to get somewhere 7 times.

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  • Great answer! Any quotes?
    – TheAsh
    Commented Feb 26, 2018 at 18:07
  • @TheAsh - still trying to find a couple last quotes I wanted to add in... working on it though!
    – Odin1806
    Commented Mar 2, 2018 at 17:31
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The link you suggest is actually the right one. While there may be schools elsewhere (private education, or countries who wanted more control than allowed on Ludus), Ludus was the planet for the entire public school system at least for the USA run inside the Oasis. It's pretty clear that the idea was for anyone to have a chance to win, not just someone with the cash to buy victory. So the first key, which comes with enough cash to at least jump start higher level questing, was hidden somewhere anyone could get to without a big bank roll to start.

Halliday also seemed to want someone "like him" to win the contest. I think it is stated outright that Halliday found school a horrible experience and all the reasons he did so were the ones Wade mentions that made him sign up to the Oasis Public School system on the day it opened. Putting the first key on Ludus puts it close to people like him.

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