Wade Watts is one of the heroes in the book and recently released movie Ready Player One. Spoilers are ahead. The movie changed the background of the Wade, so this assessment is purely based on the book by Ernest Cline.
What Happened (Spoilers!)
Wade is the only child of his teenage parents. Both his parents were refugees to the United States of America. When Wade was a couple of months old, his dad was shot and killed while searching a grocery store during a power outage. Loretta, Wade’s mom, raised him alone while working two jobs. Wade was babysat by the virtual world, OASIS; this is where Wade learned his life skills.
At age 11, Wade would find his mother dead from an overdose. He then lived with his aunt Alice who only wanted Wade for the food vouchers. She had abusive boyfriends and tenants in her double wide trailer. He slept in the laundry room, the only free space from everyone in the trailer. However he spent most of his time in his secret hideout in an abandoned vehicle.
Wade went to school in the OASIS. He excelled academically, but spent most of his time researching James Halliday, the creator of the OASIS, and the quest for the easter egg that Halliday left in the OASIS after he died.
Around the age of 18, just prior to graduating high school, Wade was the first to uncover the first clue in the hunt for Halliday’s egg. This led to him forming close ties with the “high-five”, five egg-hunters: Atr3mis, Aech, Shoto and Daito. Wade was known online as ParZival. Wade also became a main threat to a corporation seeking to win the hunt.
Adverse Childhood Experiences
- Did a parent or other adult in the household often swear at you, insult you, put you down, or humiliate you? OR Act in a way that made you afraid that you might be physically hurt?
- YES – his Aunt Alice brought home less than desirable boyfriends, and she poorly cared for Wade
- Did a parent or other adult in the household often push, grab, slap, or throw something at you? OR Ever hit you so hard that you had marks or were injured?
- NO – It’s hard to think that this didn’t happen given the boyfriend situation, but I can’t recall any mention of it.
- Did an adult or person at least 5 years older than you ever touch or fondle you or have you touch their body in a sexual way? OR Try to or actually have oral, anal, or vaginal sex with you?
- NO – this was not reported.
- Did you often feel that no one in your family loved you or thought you were important or special? OR Your family didn’t look out for each other, feel close to each other, or support each other?
- YES. His mom was working hard to provide for him. But at the same time, he learned his basic skills in the OASIS. With his Aunt, she didn’t include him.
- Did you often feel that you didn’t have enough to eat, had to wear dirty clothes, and had no one to protect you? OR Your parents were too drunk or high to take care of you or take you to the doctor if you needed it?
- YES. His dad was stealing from a grocery store. His mom died from an overdose. His aunt only wanted him for the vouchers – and at times would take Wade’s stuff and pawn it.
- Were your parents ever separated or divorced?
- NO. They were not separated by choice.
- Was your mother or stepmother: Often pushed, grabbed, slapped, or had something thrown at her? OR Sometimes or often kicked, bitten, hit with a fist, or hit with something hard? OR Ever repeatedly hit over at least a few minutes or threatened with a gun or knife?
- YES. Aunt Alice had abusive boyfriends.
- Did you live with anyone who was a problem drinker or alcoholic or who used street drugs?
- YES. His mom (and most likely his aunt)
- Was a household member depressed or mentally ill or did a household member attempt suicide?
- YES. His mom was not stable, nor was his aunt Alice.
- Did a household member go to prison?
- NO. This was not reported. It could be stretched to say that Wade’s dad could have served jail time instead of being shot while looting.
- Positive Emotions – Despite his history and experiencing six ACE’s, Wade does an excellent job of experiencing positive emotions. Not just the idea of being “happy” but experiencing and expressing silliness, fun-loving, curiousity, gratitude, trust and many other positive emotions as outlined by Barbara Fredrickson.
- Engagement – Wade often expresses slipping into the zone when playing a video game, or going on a quest – the state of flow where the challenge meets the skill level. His engagement level was low until he found the first clue – until then he escaped or transported his brain into his passion. But as he earned credits and experience with his avatar in his late teens, his engagement increased.
- Positive Relationships – It is easy to identify Art3mis, Aech, Shoto and Daito as positive relationships, which they are. An overlooked positive relationship is Mrs Gilmore, Wade’s only real-world friend. He valued that relationship with her, and became one of his motivators.
- Meaning – This one is of course complicated. He comprehended and understood his meaning as he began finding the clues. Until then, meaning was a struggle. He was lacking his self-concept, understanding his past, present, and future self – until he uncovered the first clue. His self-efficacy, was low to start; he lacked the resources to even think that he could succeed; once he unlocked the first clue, boom, he had self-efficacy. Self-worth – low until the first clue, and then everyone valued what he contributed to the online and offline world.
- Achievement – Has the same theme as meaning. He had a goal of finding the egg – many people did. He lacked the sense of achievement in his life, until that first clue. A smaller achievement, that is worth acknowledging, is Wade’s education. He was self-taught, and had a passion for learning.
Wade, definitely would benefit from therapy. However, timing is the important piece here. Therapy is needed when Wade is ready. When someone is in crisis, therapy for historical events is not appropriate, the crisis needs to be dealt with first.
The difficult piece with therapy with teenagers is that their past, present, and future is at stake. If the present counselling was forced and Wade perceived it was a waste, he then would not seek out therapy when he is 25, 35, or 75.