When the story begins, Wade Watts, who is also known by his avatar name ‘Parzival’ in the OASIS, is a poor high school student living in the stacks in Oklahoma City. He is shy, nerdy, and wholly uncomfortable with life in the real world. His childhood has not been easy. His mother was a drug addict who worked two jobs in the OASIS, constantly leaving him to his own devices in the OASIS so that she could work. When his mother dies of an overdose, he’s taken in by his cruel Aunt Alice who only wants his meal vouchers. The only thing Wade seems to really love is learning, but he feels hopeless when he cannot even afford to continue his education by going to college. When Wade learns about James Halliday’s contest, he sees it as a way to finally improve his life and escape poverty. 

Because Wade is a loner, he has plenty of time to spend obsessing over Halliday’s interests, such as 1980s TV shows and movies, and vintage video games. Wade’s focus, obsession, and intellect are some of the qualities that make him a strong contender in the Easter egg hunt. Wade’s knowledge, combined with his perseverance and determination, makes him a true underdog. He surprises the reader throughout the story by accomplishing amazing and unlikely feats as an individual who is competing against IOI, a powerful corporation. While Wade lacks power and money, he is rich in knowledge, which bolsters his underdog status and provides him a chance to compete against IOI. He proves that the little guy can, in fact, take on a corrupt corporation. 

Wade begins the story as a selfish and immature boy who undergoes a transformation into a generous, altruistic, and loyal friend. This transformation doesn’t happen easily, however. Wade must suffer through tests and difficulties that strain the relationships he values most. He fixation on Art3mis nearly derails him completely, and he almost alienates Aech to the point of no return. By the end of the novel, he understands the true value of friendship and teamwork. Wade proves himself worthy of Halliday’s prize and the friendships he has developed. Wade grows to be selfless and noble, with true morals and values.