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On the way out, Wade runs into a stocky, female, level 52 avatar: Art3mis. He has had a crush on her for years. They banter with one another and Wade lies to her, telling her that he did not beat Acererak. Art3mis tells him that she has been trying for weeks. They get along well and exchange contact info, despite being competitors. During the conversation, she becomes suspicious and looks at the Scoreboard, which shows that Parzival has acquired the Copper Key. She is immediately angry, but mostly at herself, as Wade has succeeded on his first try. Eventually, Art3mis calms down and they discuss how fame will now affect Wade’s life and he says that he is not stupid enough to reveal his offline identity, since many people would kill for the billions of dollars at stake. Art3mis tells Wade that she would spend the money helping the world. Wade is cynical but tells her to try playing on the left side of the Joust cabinet, as it helped him win. She thanks him and Wade leaves.
After Wade reaches the surface, he is bombarded with message notifications (which were turned off while he was in the dungeon). All of them are from Aech, who has noticed that Wade’s avatar is on the Scoreboard. Wade ignores the calls but sends Aech a message that he will call soon. Wade heads back to the nearest teleporter and travels instantly to the Middletown, OH, zone. He walks the streets of the 1980s recreation area and is impressed at the level of detail. He is also amazed that only fifty years prior, even low-income families could afford a home for themselves.
Wade notices that Art3mis is also on the Scoreboard with a Copper Key. He reaches Halliday’s house and ponders why Halliday would recreate it if his childhood had been so miserable. Wade moves past the television and Atari console in the living room and goes to Halliday’s room and boots up the TRS-80 with a tape copy of Dungeons of Daggorath. Wade has already mastered all the games that were listed to be in the recreation of Halliday’s home. He spends a few hours completing the game and a gate opens in the wall. After inserting the Copper Key, Wade’s avatar plummets into a field of stars.
Wade notices that he is now standing in a classic video arcade playing Galaga. In the reflection of the game screen, he sees the face of Matthew Broderick. After a moment, Wade realizes that his avatar is now David Lightman and he is in the movie Wargames. It takes him a while to understand the rules of his task. He must act out all the main character’s scenes, including dialogue, in the film. Wade has seen the film many times and is well prepared. He only makes a few mistakes and reaches the end credits. Wade then comments that GSS later patents the idea of playing through movies (called Flicksyncs), after they learn that Halliday had already programmed one. Wade’s success advances his avatar to twentieth level and gains more points on the Scoreboard. He is given a clue for the Jade Key, but it does not immediately make sense to him. He logs out at 6:17 AM in the real world. He is extremely tired and passes out. He has a disturbing dream where he is unable to keep a glass egg safe from an oncoming horde of enemies.
Wade sleeps for over twelve hours and misses school. When he awakes, he checks the news feed on his OASIS console and sees many articles discussing his success. Art3mis has also cleared the First Gate. He watches an interview with Ogden Morrow, James Halliday’s old partner. Morrow warns any gunter from working with the media and insults IOI and the Sixers (and their attempts to exploit the contest). Wade narrates the background of Halliday and Morrow. Wade mentions Kira Underwood, Morrow’s late wife, who joined Halliday and Morrow in their geek activities as a teenager. Morrow eventually left GSS, describing the OASIS as a “self-imposed prison for humanity.” He and Kira made educational games instead until Kira died in a car crash.
Wade finally calls Aech, who congratulates him sincerely. Aech shifts his vidfeed to show that he is outside the Tomb of Horrors, waiting for it to reset, having figured out that it must have been on or close to Ludus, as Wade never had money to travel far. Wade wishes him luck and gives a hint about “jousting skills” but does not give any more assistance. Wade also reads an email from Art3mis that is friendly and playful. After a dozen rewrites, Wade sends her back a friendly response.
When Wade finally encounters Art3mis in the OASIS, he’s forced to decide what is more important to him: the quest to find Halliday’s Easter egg or a crush on a person he’s never actually met. On one hand, Wade shows that the quest to find the egg is more important because he is unwilling to trust Art3mis and lies about having beaten Acererak. However, despite lying to her, Wade acts friendly toward her, indicating that he is conflicted about his own emotions and feels torn between the competition and the chance to get to know Art3mis. Wade is likely intrigued by the possibility of having someone to finally discuss the hunt with, but he still realizes the necessity of keeping most of his knowledge to himself. Despite their shaky introduction, Wade signals that he is still open to friendship when he decides to give Art3mis a clue to beating Acererak. Wade also balances his desire to become close to Art3mis with his need to protect himself during his quest. The tension between these two needs becomes a constant distraction for Wade as he tries to figure out where the Jade Key is hidden.
Wade’s decision to hold Aech at arm’s length to continue the quest shows a tension between friendship and rivalry. Wade seems to place more importance on rivalry at first because he chooses to carry on without answering Aech’s messages. When Wade finally contacts Aech after finding the Copper Key and the First Gate, it shows that the friendship is important to Wade even though Wade and Aech are competitors. Instead of being jealous or angry, Aech sincerely congratulates Wade, which suggests that Aech believes the friendship is real and values it over finding the egg. Finally, Wade’s decision to give Aech a clue about finding the Copper Key further emphasizes the importance of friendship over rivalry.
Nostalgia remains a recurring theme as Wade wonders why Halliday would recreate his childhood home despite it being miserable. Halliday’s creation of his childhood home in the OASIS serves as a way to preserve his childhood forever, despite the disintegration of the middle-class suburban life he experiences as an adult. Although Halliday didn’t have a particularly happy childhood, there were positive aspects of the 1980s way of life. Perhaps the reason that Halliday recreated his childhood home in the OASIS is because he wanted to create a reality that would force people to see the world from his perspective. Halliday was too shy to communicate this during his life, but the worlds he created in the OASIS serve to showcase the things that were impactful in his life.
When Wade travels through the First Gate and emerges in the movie Wargames, the theme of fluidity of personal identity comes back into focus. Wade must take on a new identity for this challenge as he acts out the scenes in the film. This implies that Halliday believed it was valuable to take on different identities to suit different situations. As both a successful businessman and a geeky recluse, Halliday was no stranger to taking on different identities to suit different purposes. Like Halliday, Wade is also familiar with the importance of taking on different identities at different times, which he has always done as part of his life in the OASIS.