Undoubtedly those of us who utilize Virtual Reality, VR, for Education have likely read the book by Ernest Cline and have seen the movie more than once.  We’ve anticipated this movie since it’s announcement and we hope that is spawns discussion around VR, including it’s benefits and dangers, so that we can appropriately integrate VR into education sooner rather than later.

Let’s save my thoughts on Ready Player One’s relevance to society a education because I am honored to be releasing a brand new podcast with three amazing educators, @thevrpodcast, in which we discuss those very ideas.

I want to focus on what I saw as the biggest message in the movie.  One subtle yet very important frame, pictured below, stands out to me, Art3mis’s hero shot.  This occurs towards the end of the movie when she returns to the OASIS to destroy Nolan Sorrento’s avatar.

Art3mis - Post

First, let’s back up.  In the OASIS you can be anything you want to be, go anywhere you want to go and do anything you want to do.  So many people create avatars, or representations of themselves, in various forms.  In the OASIS you might create an avatar that looks like you, or is a superhero like Batman.  Your avatars look is 100% your choice and people typically design avatars that represent nothing about themselves.  Similarly we know Art3mas, pictured above, says to Wade in the Distracted Globe scene, “…you never use your real name in the OASIS…” a nod to anonymity while in the OASIS.  Yet!, we know that Art3mas, or Samantha, initially modeled her avatar roughly after herself which seems in stark contrast to her message to Wade about not revealing personal information.  She did leave out one thing on her avatar, her real life birthmark.  She likely did this out of personal and unfounded shame and NOT because she was attempting to be anonymous.

Although her birthmark is prominent in the frame first pictured above, as mentioned, Art3mas did not initially design her avatar with her birthmark.  The first picture is taken towards the end of the movie, during the final battle scene where she had settled into a place of self confidence.  At that point in the movie, she has enough belief in herself that she no longer feels the need to hide this presumed insecurity in the OASIS, even though she could.  Here Art3mas reveals her most personal real world trait, her birthmark.  It is in this moment that the manifestation of the love and support she had received and gave to the rebellion, specifically the High Five, becomes clear to her.

Art3mis - Pre

Pictured above, Art3mas, has disguised her birthmark in the OASIS.  She even tells Parzival in the OASIS that if he ever see’s her in real life (IRL), he’ll probably be disappointed.  Presumably Art3mas has masked her birthmark since the day she entered the OASIS but in the garden scene, below, when Wade meets Samantha, IRL, he says, “You said I might be disappointed, and I’m not.”

Samantha Cook - Art3mis

This is the point in which Samantha begins to believe more strongly in herself.  Wade, her friend, and at this point someone she truly trusts, has shown that he cares about her, he believes in her and we know from the book that Parzival confesses his love for Art3mas.  Instead of pushing Wade away, in the book, we saw their relationship continue to bloom as they immediately head to the Shining scene.

The High Five continue to work together, to solve the clues, obtain the second key and head towards the final battle scene where the culmination of the past events have led Art3mas to a feeling of self love, courage and purpose.  As shown in the first photo, she feels comfortable exposing her previously undisclosed real world secret, her birthmark, inside of the OASIS.

As an educator I find this message of support and growth so powerful.  I relate it to the wonder of discovery that I see in students when they are collaborating with each other during a task.  There is a strong social and emotional learning, SEL, message here.  We must foster the management of our students’ emotions and social interactions with others by supporting them through thoughtful learning exercises that allow students to have empathy towards others while collaborating positively to achieve goals.

Teachers often judge themselves by the end product, the standardized test, the quiz and even perhaps the college that one of their K12 students is accepted to.  But shouldn’t we be concerned about the path that led those students to those destinations?  Project based learning, interdisciplinary skills and students’ “adulting” networks are extremely important as is keeping SEL at the top of our minds.

I love how the movie embraced the idea of the High Five as a clan, supporting each other in community, whereas in the book, although they worked together, each supported the other secretly.  In the movie, there is a message of hope, strength and self-love all powered by the collaboration, communication, critical thinking and creativity displayed by the High Five through the character growth we saw in Art3mis.

Thank you Ernest Cline, Steven Spielberg and everyone who brought Ready Player One to the big screen in a thoughtful, positive way.

Image credits to Warner Brothers.

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