Ahead of hitting theaters, Steven Spielberg's Ready Player One is hitting the SXSW Conference with a pop-up activation where fans can step into the movie's '80s nostalgia, nerdgasms, and virtual-reality culture. Fangrrls visited the activation's star-studded press preview to give you the inside scoop on this sci-fi spectacle.
Ready Player One is set in a dystopian future where mankind escapes the stress of economic, socio-political and environmental crisis by diving into the wildly popular virtual reality simulator, OASIS. Even a scrappy teen like Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan) can find pleasure and purpose in the game. But when he uncovers a clue left by OASIS's creator, the whole wide world--virtual and real--goes into spin.
Held at Brazos Hall, the Ready Player One activation is a party, where music pumps, drinks flow, and there's plenty of photo ops to share with friends. Because the Ernest Cline novel on which the movie is based is stuffed to the brim with nostalgia for '80s movies, classic jams from the era blare from speakers. And on the opening night, Sheridan dropped by to guest DJ.
Because it's SXSW, of course, there's a bar. And Ready Player One 's boasts custom cocktails named after the movie's characters like The Halliday Daiquiri, The Artemis (a Moscow Mule), and The Parzival (a jalapeno-infused Margarita). Visitors cruised the floor to play a fleet of old-school arcade games, including Donkey Kong, Galaga, Mrs. Pac-Man and Space Invaders. Keep the quarters for your laundry, because they're all free to play!
As for photo-ops, there's a wall of cassette tapes that looks like an art installation, and it makes for a prime place for Instagram-worthy selfies. A couple of crash pads are complete with couches, and '80s décor that includes Rubik's Cubes, VHS tapes, and an Alf doll. But the most thrilling options are no doubt the huge Iron Giant statue and the Delorean, made famous by Back to the Future. Though not to scale, the Iron Giant is big enough that you can pose in his hand, and snag a shot that'll have friends green with envy.
But the even cooler, you can sit in the Delorean and take shots of yourself inside the time-traveling icon. There's even a Hoverboard on hand if you want to pose with that!
Other activities include a station where you can build your own gaming avatar. And kiosks that invite visitors to go on a specially created Halliday quest. Completing the first floor of this colorful activation is a Hot Topic corner where you can purchase Ready Player One gear and Funko Pops. After you've taken in all this, be sure to head upstairs where TheWaveVR has set up a virtual reality playground.
On the roof, is a recreation of Wade's trailer park neighborhood. Laundry hangs from the corners of tinny trailers, and graffiti splashes colors and catchphrases across the walls. But inside these humble homes are individual VR stations where you can dive into OASIS. I played a game that pitched me into a dance party, where a giant Pikachu-looking creature was mixing it up with a battle-bot, while lights blazed high around us. The VR experience allowed me to reach out a pair of iridescent hands and teleport around to get a better look. I could also fly and then float back down to safety. It was suitably, surreal. When I soared, it did feel like I was elevating, and as I fell, the sensation of going down in an elevator was jarring but a thrill!
All in all, Ready Player One has created a fun oasis for those who can't get enough of the '80s to hang and play. And best of all, it's building buzz for the sci-fi tentpole that's being rumored as a secret screening later in the fest. Stay tuned here for updates.
Ready Player One opens March 29th.