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Chapter 1 starts with a bang: the sound of honest-to-goodness gunshots waking up our narrator in the read world.
He's been hiding out in the laundry room of his aunt's trailer (since when do trailers have laundry rooms?), where he lives with fourteen other people. Let's add "overcrowding" to the long list of the world's problems in 2045.
Our narrator tells us his name is Wade Watts, eighteen years old. He likes video games, classic TV shows, and anything from the 1980s. We think he would also like long walks on the beach, but the beaches are probably covered with oil and/or flooded by this time.
His parents are both dead. His dad was shot while looting a grocery store. Before she died of a drug overdose, his mother used the OASIS to raise her son, kind of like many parents use the television to do the same thing these days.
As he's lived most of his life while logged into OASIS, Wade unsurprisingly hates the real world. We're treated to a few pages of him railing against the injustices of life.
During his fourth episode of Family Ties, Wade's Aunt Alice finds him hiding in the laundry room and takes his laptop to pawn it. Classy.
Wade sneaks out the window and descends the "stacks," dozens of trailers stacked on top of one another because of overcrowding, held together by "a network of metal girders […] like Donkey Kong or BurgerTime" (1.59). Except without barrels or giant anthropomorphic wieners.
On the way down, Wade briefly chats with sweet old Mrs. Gilmore, a lady who was a teenager in the 1980s and a valuable source of '80s nostalgia for young Wade-of-the-strange-taste-in-decades.
At the bottom of the stacks, Wade has a secret hideout in the back of a windowless van with all the seats removed (nope, not creepy at all!), where he has backup computers, hard drives, and a bicycle connected to a generator.
Inside his pedo-van, oops, we mean "secret hideout", Wade puts on his haptic gloves and visor and logs into OASIS. Three words greet him as he enters the virtual world: "READY PLAYER ONE" (1.83).