NEW YORK (FOX5NY.COM) - Accessible to anyone with a console and immersion rig at no cost, the limitless virtual universe known as "The Oasis" exists in the bestselling novel and now Steven Spielberg film "Ready Player One."
The Oasis provides its infinite number of human users an escape from the constraints and responsibilities of their increasingly bleak real lives through avatars of their own design that allow the living, breathing real people they represent to see, hear, smell, think, touch, and feel everything their avatars encounter in this digital cosmos while pursuing any challenge, experience, pleasure, pain past, present or future that they please.
"You can be anyone, you can look like anyone and you can have anything," futurist Gray Scott said. "One minute you're a robot, one moment you're a dragon."
Scott devotes much of his professional life to considering many of the not-yet realities "Ready Player One" portrays.
"I do think that something like the Oasis is going to happen," he said.
"So, in the future, we're going to be able to quantify our consciousness," Scott said.
"You saw that a lot of the characters utilized their personalities or their avatars as brands," said Ben Cammarano, creative director of Wizards of the Coast, who has spent the last quarter century developing video games. While he recognizes the VR tech in "Ready Player One" as superior to anything available in our 2018 real world, he also saw little in that tech that he viewed as unattainable at some point in our not-too-distant future.
"I've seen people getting married or meeting or dating through the games that they play," Cammarano said.
The mere existence of VR World NYC's three floors of 50 different virtual reality experiences in the high-rent district of Midtown Manhattan perhaps serves as a testament to the increasing sophistication and popularity of this sphere of entertainment.
"It is the largest virtual reality destination in the Western Hemisphere," said Jason Hoffman, VR World's head of marketing. He expects to see the tech now available in this adult arcade change over, over, and over again as future advances render current virtual reality hardware and software obsolete.
"Whether or not it goes wireless or eventually goes the route of wearables," Hoffman said.
"We're just about to cross into the uncanny valley where you can't tell the difference. I've been calling the generation that's being born right now the Sim Generation," Scott said. "Those kids, by the time they're in their 20s and 30s, they're going to spend the majority of their time in a simulated virtual reality. As crazy as that sounds, that's what's going to happen."
The difference between the Oasis of "Ready Player One" and, say, "World of Warcraft" or any of the growing number of VR games on the market today lies not only in its level of immersion but also the idea that the player logs in not only to relax and blow off some steam from their physical analog life but also to escape from that reality for a fairer, cleaner, safer, more prosperous all-around better world.
"What does that do to our planet? What does that do to our cultures and our societies and our governments and our jobs?" Scott said. "What does a world look like when you spend, let's say, 75 percent of your time in a virtual world?"
"Ready Player One" deals with several levels of cultural, environmental, and societal collapse—dystopian and utopian realities at various times both precipitated and avoided by the rise of the Oasis.
Scott reminds us that while a virtual universe may somehow change what it means to be human, giving us morphological freedom to practice whatever escapism we please, we should expect the same humanity—the good and the evil—we've exhibited since the birth of civilization to follow us wherever we humans go, which someday, perhaps sooner than we think, may be an endless virtual reality sensorially indiscernible from real life.
"It seems like science fiction but this is literally where we're headed," Scott said.