2017-18: Ready Player One

Sci-Fi, Dystopian Novel, Ready Player One, Selected as 2017-18 Common Reading for Five WSU Campuses; Non-Fiction Spare Parts Chosen by WSU Vancouver 


Washington State University has announced that two books are the 2017-18 common readings for thousands of students in first-year courses: Ready Player One, for Pullman, Tri-Cities, Spokane, Everett, and the Global Campus; and Spare Parts, for WSU Vancouver.

Both award-winning books were nominated soon after the call went out in September from the WSU-wide Common Reading Selection Committee. Its 14 members read and evaluated 34 books in total, all of which align with the program’s two-year theme of “frontiers of technology, health, and society.” Members recommended three finalists in February to WSU Provost and Executive Vice President Daniel J. Bernardo for the final selection.

WSU Vancouver Vice Chancellor Renny Christopher chose a different book from the nominations list, one that provides students there with a good transition from the campus’s 2016-17 book.

Thematic Ties Localize Readings

“Both selected books will allow our campuses to highlight cutting-edge innovations and applications of technology in a variety of fields, and to explore larger issues about the ethical dilemmas and changing sense of identity that arise in an increasingly digital world,” said Bernardo.

Christopher said, “Both books also highlight the importance of collaboration among diverse members of teams and the building of personal skill sets.”

About the Book

The action in this book takes characters between the real world and the technological cloud. In year 2044, environmental fallout from global warming has led to social woes and economic miseries, with people seeking escape from reality in MMORPGs—massively multi-player online role-playing games. Teenager Wade Watts has devoted his life to the virtual reality utopia named OASIS, a simulation game created by a man obsessed with 1980s pop culture and who 

has hidden puzzles in the game with the promise of unimaginable fortune and power to the one who deciphers them. When Watts finds a clue, will he be famous, or the target of have-nots?

Why Ready Player One?

“Among the most compelling reasons for my selection (of Ready Player One) are that it has been used successfully (as a common book) at several peer institutions, it clearly appeals to a young audience, and most importantly, is it the first choice of the majority of the committee,” Bernardo wrote to Susan Poch, assistant vice provost and committee chair.

Poch said that one consideration for the committee is the availability of the author to visit campus in person as part of intense year-long programming around the selected book. More details will be forthcoming, but she confirmed that Ready Player One author, Ernest Cline, is scheduled to visit Pullman in August. A spoken-word artist, DeLorean car owner, classic video-game collector, and blogger, Cline also wrote the script for the 2009 cult film “Fanboys” and published a second book, ARMADA, in 2015.

Bernardo also noted one additional reason to select Ready Player One. “The book was published in 2011 and a movie release (based on the book) is scheduled for 2018. Using the book now makes it very timely.” His reference is to a film by the same name that has been in production in the U.S. and U.K. since July 2016 under the direction of Hollywood icon Steven Spielberg. The movie is set for a March 2018 release, which is mid-spring semester for WSU students using the book.

Common Reading as a System-wide Shared Initiative

“Representatives from every campus and many academic disciplines look forward in the coming year to continue the concept of common readings being a ‘system-wide shared initiative,’” said Karen Weathermon, Common Reading Program co-director. “While common reading programs across the WSU system have long had many touchpoints with each other in terms of books and programming, we worked together more purposefully starting in 2016-17 to have increased collaboration and cohesion at multiple campuses.”









For Students and Families

There are some general questions about the common readings that many students ask. These frequently-asked-questions and answers may help you.


For Faculty and Staff

Keep Your Students Engaged!

Each year, a committee of WSU faculty and staff, along with oversight from the provost, selects a “Common Reading” book to connect the community through a shared academic experience. The Common Reading book for 2017-18 was Ready Player One by Earnest Cline. Faculty and staff who wished to use the book during their courses in fall 2017 and spring 2018 used the resources below to help fill out their curriculum.

Order of the Crimson Key

The text below appears as it did to WSU students during the running of the game. 

In the world of Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One, the heroes scour The Oasis, solving clues, riddles, and puzzles, all to win the coveted prize at the end. While we at WSU do not have access to The Oasis, we do have:



To be a full member you will need to expand your mind, challenge your awareness, explore your surroundings, and experience life at WSU. Accomplishing these tasks will award you points, increase your ranking, and may eventually earn you fabulous prizes.

Challenge Phases

The Academic Year is broken into 5 phases:

  • August 28th – September 30th
  • October 1st – October 31st
  • November 1st – December 1st
  • January 10th – February 9th
  • February 12th – March 9th

You will earn points each phase with the possibility of doubling those points upon meeting certain requirements. These points will help you earn INCREDIBLE PRIZES:


The more points you earn the more likely you are to win prizes. At the end of the game, in March, the members with the highest scores will automatically win grand prizes, but even if you are not at the top you have a chance to win. Rising through the ranks of The Order will increase your chances of winning, while participating in each phase will make it possible for you to win prizes at the end of that phase. More information on prizes is below.


The Gray Key: Expanding of the Mind

  • Each phase, starting in September, The Order will lead common reading events around campus. Attending one of these events, and swiping in, will award you ONE POINT.
  • If you attend 2 or more events in a phase then all your Gray Key points for that phase will double, so attending 2 events will get you 4 points, but attending 3 events will get you 6 total points. The Order of the Crimson Key values knowledge, and rewards knowledge.
  • Additional information is located below.

The Black Key: Exploring your Surroundings

  • Each phase, starting in October, The Order will post a clue, challenge, or riddle on this website. Solving that puzzle will send you to a location on campus, where you will find your next puzzle that will send you to the next location. This scavenger hunt will test your mind and your body, but will also show you where, on campus, you can find help if ever you need it.
  • You will receive ONE POINT each time you solve a puzzle, but if you complete all the puzzles for that phase, all your Black Key points for that phase will double. The Order of the Crimson Key values exploration, and will reward your journey.
  • Additional information is located below.

The White Key: Challenging your Awareness

  • Each phase, starting in October, The Order will hide trivia questions related to Ready Player One in the Daily Evergreen. Finding our symbol and answering the question correctly will award you ONE POINT.
  • If you answer 3 or more trivia questions correctly in a phase then all your White Key points for that phase will double. The Order of the Crimson Key values awareness, and will reward your efforts.
  • Additional information is located below.

The Gold Key: Experiencing life at WSU

  • Occasionally there will be special, one time, events that have been infiltrated by The Order. If you attend these events, and swipe in, you will receive ONE POINT. It is up to you to keep your eyes open and your ears to the ground, because only then will you see our logo and reap the benefits.
  • Signing up with the Common Reading page on CougSync will also automatically award you ONE POINT. You can find that page here.
  • Additional information is located below.


If you earn even a single point in a phase you will be entered in the prize drawing for that phase, but to become a member you will need to try a little harder, and membership has its benefits.

  • Acquiring any points at all makes you a participant in the game
    • This will award you 5 raffle tickets at the grand prize gala on March 27th.
  • Acquiring 9 Points means you are officially a member of The Order of the Crimson Key at the rank of “n00b.”
    • This will award you 10 raffle tickets at the grand prize gala on March 27th.
  • Acquiring 25 Points will award you membership at the rank of “explorer.”
    • This will award you 15 raffle tickets at the grand prize gala on March 27th.
  • Acquiring 50 Points will award you full membership a the rank of “gunter.”
    • This will award you 20 raffle tickets at the grand prize gala on March 27th.

More Information

The Gray Key

Attend these events (see calendar) and MAKE SURE to swipe in so that you can get credit. The Order is very wise, but not all knowing. Remember, if you attend 2 or more Gray Key events then all your Gray Key points in that phase will double at the end of the phase.

The White Key

Throughout the semester you will see our logo in The Daily Evergreen. If you follow the QR code you will have a chance to answer a Trivia Question associated with Ready Player One. Be careful, because you only have once chance to answer the question. Remember, if you correctly answer 3 or more White Key questions then all your White Key points in that phase will double at the end of the phase.

The Gold Key

These are Bonus Events. Members of The Order of the Crimson Key are everywhere, but sometimes we will show up at special ONE-TIME events like orientations, career fairs, or even celebrations. Look for Clues anywhere and everywhere for where we will be next. At these locations you will swipe your card, look for a QR code, or find a member of The Order to get a point.

The Black Key

Black Key challenges will occur at the beginning of each phase, and you will only be able to earn Black Key points for the clues within their specific phase. It doesn’t matter if you do it all in one day, or stretch it out throughout the entire phase, but completing the Black Key challenge in a phase will double all your Black Key points in that phase.

The Black Key is the most mysterious of The Order’s challenges. At the beginning of a phase, there will be a puzzle posted on this website. If you solve that puzzle then you will figure out where you need to go next. When you complete the instructions described in the puzzle and arrive at the location you will find a QR code. Scanning that code will give you a Black Key point and will give you the next puzzle in the chain.

To interact with the Black Key challenge you will need to be able to scan QR codes. Any smartphone will be able to download a QR Reader app for free. If you do not have a QR smart phone then we recommend teaming up with a friend and accomplishing the tasks together.

These locations are not just arbitrary. Some of these locations will be tied to the history or culture of WSU. But in each phase you will also visit at least two locations that will be very important during your time at WSU.

The Prizes

Below is a list of some of the prizes you can win if you participate, as well as prizes you can win if you become a member of The Order of the Crimson Key.

Prizes for Each Phase — Anyone who has earned a point during a phase can win a prize for that phase in a raffle. Additionally, the top points earner for that phase will win a prize automatically. Some examples of phase prizes are:

  • Gift Cards to Palouse Games, The Bookie, or The Cougar Entertainment Center
  • Access for you and some friends to play with an Oculus Rift

Grand Prizes — At the end of the game, in March, there will be a series of Grand Prizes awarded. The top points earners for the entire game will automatically win, but anyone who has game group points will have that number of raffle tickets for movie tickets to the Ready Player One premier. Some examples of grand prizes are:

  • VIP access to the Pullman premier of the Ready Player One movie.
  • Catered dinner with Kirk and Noel Schultz at the President’s Residence.

Ready Player One: Movie Premiere

Contact for the WSU Common Reading Program

Please connect with program co-director Karen Weathermon.