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Premise: I am not familiar with the book the movie was based on, so please forgive me if this is actually a plot point that gets covered in the novel. Also please notice that while I mention the movie, this question is specific to the novel since the problems with Sorrento plans seems to be far more explicit there.


Since I saw the movie adaptation of "Ready Player One" something has always been bugging me. How was Sorrento planning to get all the keys on his avatar and complete the final test? The movie didn't' go in much detail so I decided to turn my attention to the novel instead.

Based on a passage in the original novel the three keys that were needed to unlock the final challenge and "find the Easter egg" where "bind on pick-up item" that couldn't be traded in any way.

I wouldn’t learn until later that the keys were nontransferable. You couldn’t drop one of them, or give them to another avatar. And if you were killed while holding one, it vanished right along with your body.

This means that in order to get all three key an avatar has to complete all the challenges, and then the same avatar has to complete the final test. This... brings a problem. Let me explain..

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At the end of the old videogame "Indiana Jones and the fate of Atlantis", Indy is used as a guinea pig for a machine that should turn humans into gods. He get out of that situation by pointing out how foolish is to test a machine that could give godlike powers on someone who would immediately use those powers to take revenge on you...

This seems a big issue with Sorrento plan too. It is safe enough to have someone else run his avatar to get the first keys, maybe even the third one. But as soon as you get to the "final" gate would you trust someone else to control your avatar knowing that they are about to get admin powers on the game?

And the final challenge in the novel doesn't seem just a character test like in the movie either.

In Halliday's Easter Egg Hunt, the first part of the Third Gate requires an avatar to surpass James Halliday's score of 728,329 points (on the videogame Tempest) in order to proceed to the Flicksync of Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

I am not really convinced that Sorrento could manage to complete that, even with support outside the game. But since winning awards you the prize, it would also not seem like he could risk someone else controlling the avatar at that point.

The very moments the one controlling Sorrento avatar gets the prize, they could cause a lot of damage in just a few seconds. Threatening the "victim" by saying that doing something unexpected would get them killed on spot doesn't seem much better either... it would probably only serve to make them realize that you are fine with killing someone, and would you really let one that knows you cheated live after they are no longer needed?
Worst case scenario, anyone who realizes that they are dead anyway could use those few seconds to shout out "transfer all admin power to Parzival" as a final act of spite and there is no indication to Sorrento or the Sixers that such a command would not work.

Therefore my question is simple: does the novel contain any indication that Sorrento had a plan to avoid that anyone completing the final challenge for him would attempt to "betray" him at the last second and do some last minute move that would crash their plans forever?
Some of the answers here suggest that he could take legal actions against anyone who didn't gave him the powers but that comes with the issue that any investigation would then discover that multiple persons controlled his avatar, and at least in the movie that is ground for a ban. Death threats don't look very effective either for the very same reason: I would totally expect to be killed and put to silence as soon as they don't need me anymore to avoid the risk that someone could get actual proof of their cheating, so if one knows they are probably going to die either way, they may at least try to exact revenge against them.

4 Answers 4

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The Sixer avatars are interchangeable and Sorrento trusts the motivations of life and money. He has physical access to the people playing, he doesn't think anyone would be crazy enough to martyr themselves to give power to someone else, and the moment a Sixer account gets the final key, Sorrento will hit the kill switch to log them out, then he'll log in with their credentials because really, it's his account legally.

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  • So, your point is that he simply didn't consider that scenario as a possible outcome? By chance, could you find any actual passage that reinforces that idea? I am not saying I don't believe you, I would just like to see how much of this comes from a reader interpretation and how much is plainly shown
    – SPArcheon
    Sep 5 at 14:58
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    @SPArcheon: This is a common feature of work-for-hire. They weren't playing under personal accounts, these were corporate accounts which they were hired to control. They have no legal rights to what they produce on behalf of the corporation, just like individual Microsoft developers hold no copyright to the components of Windows they worked on. Sep 6 at 0:57
  • Not to mention the very important thing (shown both in the movie and the book) - the egg is just the symbol. The transition itself is still a legal transaction with associated elaborate contracts and loads and loads of lawyers. The only thing this rebel could do is push the button to kill Oasis forever - which nobody even expects is an option in the first place, and his access to Oasis would be killed long before anyone let that happen anyway. All IOI access is monitored, and controls can be hijacked easily (by design).
    – Luaan
    Sep 6 at 6:38
  • @ShadowRanger As I said to SottoVoce on another comment, that could be the central point of an answer. Sorrento does not have to complete the game with his account, any worker could do while keeping the legal front face of the company clean because the contract workers signed give the company ownership of their winnings. It eliminates the "as soon as I get the prize they will silence me" scenario, allowing for the random Sixer to trust that letting the company fulfill its goal wouldn't get them immediately killed.
    – SPArcheon
    Sep 6 at 7:59
  • @ShadowRanger I will accept that as an answer, and if you can find a novel passage that indicates that the company does indeed get ownership on any worker winning that would be perfect.
    – SPArcheon
    Sep 6 at 8:00
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I don't have a copy of the film at hand to see where this is covered, but in the book, about 2/3rds through Chapter 2, Parzival is musing on the types of people hunting for the Egg, and over several pages describes IOI employees, known as the "Sixers":

To become a Sixer, you had to sign a contract stipulating, among other things, that if you found Halliday's egg, the prize would become the sole property of your employer.

Later, in Chapter 14 during the chatlink conversation with Nolan Sorrento, Parzival pretends to accept IOI's offer of employment with an acknowledgement he would be under the same contract terms:

"But I have three minor conditions," I said. "First I want a fifty-million-dollar bonus when I find the egg for you guys. Not twenty-five. Is that doable?"

[italics added by me]

No matter which IOI employee wins the hunt, the company receives the winnings, including control of the OASIS. We presume the board of directors will give Sorrento executive control over the OASIS, so he may have his pride hurt if he doesn't reach the egg himself, but he'll still win big.

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  • That is perfect because it creates a scenario for someone to be willing to give the prize to the company without being in an immediate danger scenario. If they have an actual contract, then the employee wouldn't have to fear being killed since it is perfectly legal for the company to get the prize that way while having someone else control Sorrento avatar would be a violation of the game TOS and thus legal ground for a ban which in turn means that anyone knowing the truth would have to be silenced.
    – SPArcheon
    Sep 7 at 7:52
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To address the question about "does the novel contain any indication?" - the answer is no. This scene doesn't exist in the book at all, and Sorrento barely exists as a character - he's just the bad guy behind the Sixers.

I would also note that a significant part of why he's the bad guy is that he's willing to kill anybody who gets in the way of his efforts to take over the Oasis... and his faceless minions are no doubt well aware of what happens if they betray him.

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    However, in the book it's made clear that one particular division within IOI is involved in the hunt for Halliday's prize, and all employees who work in that division sign an agreement which assigns all their winnings to IOI. IOI gains control of the OASIS no matter which employee completes the hunt. We presume the board of directors will grant Sorrento executive powers over the OASIS when that happens.
    – Sotto Voce
    Sep 6 at 4:47
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    @SottoVoce - indeed, but it's not really spelled out beyond that. That's why I call the Sixers "faceless minions"... they are indeed contracted IOI employees, but they're never given any human portrayal in the book, just an employee number if that. If they were replaced with 'bots, nobody would notice... it'd make no difference whatsoever to the story. Sep 6 at 5:24
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    Funnily enough, he's still a more fleshed out character in the book. He has motivations, he's a competent game designer and developer, not a comic-book villain who was only good for bringing Halliday coffee. And unlike in the movie, where he's simultaneously utterly incompetent and a mastermind seeking to control everything, in the book he's "just doing his job". The conflict comes from his utter corporate-ness and the contrast to the freedom most people see in Oasis (i.e. wanting to get away from everything Sorrento and his irk represent, really).
    – Luaan
    Sep 6 at 6:34
  • Sixers being faceless minions is of course exactly the point to showcase all those values, and how they contrast with the gunters. Heck, all the characterization we need is exactly what you said - they do the job, or they get their entire lives and families destroyed (figuratively or literally). They don't really have a choice, they don't really have to themselves want to "have the bad guy win". And yeah, they are excited for being on the hunt in the first place, quite likely - with the resources of IOI behind them. The do a lot of things noöne else could pull off.
    – Luaan
    Sep 6 at 6:36
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    @SottoVoce That seems a far more appropriate answer that anything else here, because that creates a scenario for someone else than Sorrento to win, stay alive (they don't have to dispose them if there is a contract that makes the whole thing legal) and be forced to give their winning to the company anyway. I will gladly accept that answer if you post it, even better if you could find that specific passage.
    – SPArcheon
    Sep 6 at 7:53
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I would like to add on to what FuzzyBoots has mentioned. The Sixers players work for Sorrento, he owns the company. Sorrento can easily control all the player's accounts, so if someone manages to get their hands on the final key, he can probably disconnect them and get the easter egg himself. Plus, there is a final test after the 3rd key in the movie version, which most non pure hearted people won't pass. So they won't even get the Easter egg probably XD

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  • In the movie we can see that some of the workers are tortured with electrical devices, Sorrento keeps his credentials on a post-it on his chair, they can't see who is logged where in their own network (Artemis manages to log with her avatar and they have to check manually where she is) and so on. At the end of the movie you can see many workers celebrating the fact that Parzival won. Do you expect them to be loyal to Sorrento? And ... he can't charge anyone. If he makes public that someone else controlled his avatar, he gives to Oasis a reason to ban his account...
    – SPArcheon
    Sep 6 at 7:42
  • 1. Oasis cant ban him, because there is nobody controlling Oasis 2. Sorrento's facility is heavily guarded and they'll probably be killed by the guards if they try to escape (they have to sign contracts to own the Oasis of course) @SPArcheon
    – DialFrost
    Sep 6 at 7:49

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