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Fun fact! Did you know that I started on YouTube in
2011, the same year Ernest Cline wrote Ready Player One? And look at us now! We both have published books–nope, I guess
just him. But we both have millions of dollar in incensing
and residuals-noooo again that’s him and not me. Ooh, but hey a blockbuster movie hitting theaters
noooo time soon again that’s just Ernest Cline. Well shoot what have I been doing with all my time? SCREW YOU Ernest, no one likes an overachiever. Hello Internet, and welcome to Film Theory,
where the one thing I DO have in common with Ernest Cline is that we’re both riding the
nostalgia wave to get people to care about us. Feels good, man. Feels good. As one of the hardest core nerds out there,
you’d think I’d be sweating through my tube socks at the idea of Ready Player One. Set in 2044, it’s a futuristic sci-fi movie
about a treasure hunt happening in the most advanced massive multiplayer online game in
history, called OASIS, or “Ontologically Anthropocentric Sensory Immersive Simulation.” It’s got the good guy, Wade, fighting the
evil corporation to find the ultimate video game easter egg that promises to give the
player a massive fortune and control over the entire game. The premise is truly impressive, but there
are a few bones I gotta pick with this thinig. You see, in the movie the reason why most
people spend all their time in the OASIS is that most of the population lives in IRL poverty,
including our hero, Wade. And hey, I’m all about the underdog coming
out of nothing and fighting the powers that be–it’s the story of every good YouTuber
I know–but the world of Ready Player One gets so ridiculous sometimes that if you actually
look it them using real sci- instead of sci-fi, our buddy Wade literally wouldn’t survive
the opening credits. And no, I’m not talking about some super
advanced technology thing where someone’s getting zapped with fiber optic cables or
getting their memory wiped by their own haptic suit. Let’s face it, by 2044, technology will
be so advanced that there’s really no way to predict the state of video games or personal
technology–I can only sit here and salivate thinking about how great it’ll be and start
worshipping my Google overlords now. No, I’m talking way more basic than that:
the biggest threat in this movie isn’t technology of evil corporations or even really bad eye
strain–it’s the engineering of everyone’s home. That’s right, in a movie about super futuristic
video games, I’m focused on the civil engineering. And isn’t that why you come here? Oh, and fair warning: After this episode,
you’ll never want to visit the Empire State Building ever again. Wade lives in the “Stacks:” monstrous
scrap piles of low-income housing that are basically upright piles of single-wide trailer
homes. According to the book they’re over 20 levels
high — twice as tall as the smallest skyscrapers. Now in the movie we see the basic structure
of these things: single trailers stuck all over the place on what the book describes
as “modular scaffolds” made so that they can just keep stacking these things as high
as they need to go. As more people move to the area, more trailers
get added to the top. But this creates a major support problem that
anyone with a little engineering know-how can immediately see. It’s not something you really think about
all that often, but turns out there are some pretty strong reasons why you don’t just
“add on” to skyscrapers after they’re finished, your trailer stack just becomes
a really deadly game of Jenga. Starting at the bottom, the Stacks have major
problems with the foundation. The bigger (and heavier) any structure is,
the stronger the foundation you need. The foundation for a 1-story house might have
a depth of only 1 meter, but skycrapers have foundations that go down 50 meters or more,
depending on soil underneath it. To get to a solid base, you sometimes have
to go down hundreds of feet to avoid the building sinking into soft spots later on. The Petronas Twin Tower in Kuala Lumpur has
the deepest foundation of any skyscraper in the world, ranging from 200 to 374 feet in
different places along its base because it’s built on soft rock. Why does the building sink? Because of something in civil engineering
called compression force, which is the force exerted by the top layers of a building on
the bottom layers. Think about it: each layer of a building has
to hold up ALL the layers that get stacked on top of it. That means that your bottom layers have to
be the strongest and most stable, since they’re holding the most weight. Applying this to the Stacks in the movie,
already you can see the issue with the “modular” approach. Real buildings calculate how much weight they’re
going to support in advance. A modular building like the Stacks isn’t
doing that. Every layer you add causes the scaffolds and
all the mobile homes on lower levels to compress a little bit more, meaning that without a
foundation underneath, eventually these stacks are going to turn into sinks. I mean you could over-build those bottom layers
on the CHANCE that you have to add more layers to the top, but then you’re wasting a lot
of money and resources. Another alternative is that, yes, the Stacks
might not have foundations, but you don’t have to build deep if you build wide. Think like the pyramids, or, I should say,
the pyramids after they figured out that they need to pay attention to compression force. You want to see what version 1.0 of the Pyramids
looked like? Here’s the Bent Pyramid, for example. This is a weird one, right? I’ve been to Cairo and seen this thing,
which is just as bizarre looking in person. There are a few theories on why this pyramid
is this derpy outcast shape, and when you discount the crazy theories like alien intervention,
you’re left with the exact same problem we’re facing in Ready Player One. In the case of the Bent Pyramid, the bottom
layers are made of limestone, which is a relatively soft stone that expands and contracts with
moisture. When the early Egyptians started building
the structure, the slope of the sides was too steep, creating too much compressive force
on the foundations as the structure got higher, causing the limestone to crush down. The builders changed angles mid-way up the
pyramid to lessen the pressure on the structure to avoid the stones compressing and warping
over time. So wide and flat IS an option, but it can
only happen in places where you’re not having to account for weather. The only place you find wide, flat foundations
today is in warm-weather climates like California and Arizona; in colder climates that hit freezing
temperatures every winter, the ground freezes and cracks a shallow foundation made of something
like concrete. Ready Player One takes place in Columbus Ohio,
which gets 22 inches of snow per year and makes this kind of foundation a serious no-no. But if the whole my-trailer-stack-is-sinking-into-the-frozen-Ohio-ground
isn’t enough, we’ve actually got bigger problems: the wind. In addition to the vertical force of gravity,
skyscrapers also have to deal with the horizontal force of wind and that means so do our friends
hanging in the Stacks. Wind-dampening systems are actually incredibly
high-tech and require some of the most advanced engineering in the world–not inexpensive
engineering, either, if you’re looking to pay for your Stacks with fewer, well, stacks. For example, the Citicorp Center in New York
City uses what’s called a tuned mass-damper to counteract the force of wind on the skyscraper. These types of systems electronically sense
shifting pressure in the building due to wind. The damper then uses hydraulic systems to
quickly push a 400-ton concrete slab weight back and forth across the top of the building
to shift the structure’s center of gravity from side to side, counteracting the force
of the wind. So yeah, if you ever visit one of those “world’s
tallest buildings,” just know that there’s probably a sliding slab of concrete floating
over your head the size of a meteor. No pressure. But even those high tech systems sometimes
aren’t enough, especially when you’re dealing with the same issues that Ready Player
One is dealing with: namely, cost. Let’s look at the Citicorp Center in New
York Again. I picked this example on purpose because when
it was built it was actually built with one of the most dangerous design flaws in history. To save money, the building wasn’t initially
constructed using the maximum number of reinforced joints and they weren’t made out of the
highest possible quality of steel–again, going back to the idea that better materials
have higher compression forces. It was discovered that if the wind blew on
the building at a diagonal, any hurricane-force winds of 74 miles/hour hitting New York could
bring the entire building down, crashing onto all the buildings in the area. Those sorts of winds hit New York about once
every fifty years, so obviously a massive problem, but to save face, the architect worked
in secret with Citigroup to have all the bolts in the building reinforced at night with crews
only working after hours, and managed to fix it right before hurricane season started. The story didn’t surface to the public for
over 20 years. So yeah, this is not just a movie problem:
there have been some pretty high profile engineering oopsie-moments that have come close to costing
hundreds or thousands of lives around the world, with the powers that be sometimes working
behind the scenes to cover them up. Of course, the stacks in Ready Player One
have no sophisticated computer systems counter-acting the effects of wind like this — all of their
sophisticated tech is dedicated to entertaining the masses, silly! But no matter how immersive that virtual reality
simulation is, it’s going to be pretty hard to ignore the fact that your Stack comes crashing
down with the first lake effect snowstorm of the year. But on top of just being not reinforced at
all, the Stacks are facing a double whammy when it comes to wind problems because of
how narrow they are. Comparing them to a normal apartment building,
the “skinniest” apartment building in NYC has an area of 3300 square feet, which is
more than five times the area of a 600 square foot trailer home. At 22 levels high, Wade’s home is taller than
some skyscrapers, yet far thinner than even the thinnest high rises. What does this mean? Well, ever try to stack a single column of
LEGOs up on their own? Notice anything in particular? Maybe that they fall over really easily. When trying to figure out whether something
is easy to tip over–spoiler alert, the Stacks are SUPER easy to tip over, all you have to
do is find their center of gravity. [We need a graphic here: Wade’s stack is 22
levels high, with each level consisting of a 10-foot-tall trailer (plus 1 foot for supporting
materials), a total of 242 feet high. Most trailers in the stacks are single wide).] Looking just at Wade’s stack (22 trailer homes
high), if we assume a best-case scenario with uniform construction, that would put the center
of gravity between the 11th and 12th level,. Running the numbers, if this stack tilts just
4.7 degrees, its center of gravity will no longer be located over its base, leading the
entire thing to tumble over. A sway of 4.7 degrees could happen with gusts
of winds at 40 mph, maybe even less if you remember that the building also has no support
systems and no foundation. Considering Ohio’s average windspeed sits
around 18 mph, the stacks are going to be in a perpetual state of leaning. Since 1950, more than 1,000 tornadoes have
touched down in Ohio. Ohio is no stranger to high speed winds sweeping
down the plains, so long story short, basically anyone breathing on this thing too hard means
it’s game over for Wade. But ok, the Stacks are violating some of the
basic principles of civil engineering, and they’re absurdly unsafe. “So what?” I hear you saying: Of course they’re unsafe,
this is a dystopia! They don’t exactly have safety in mind when
they made these stacks! Wade even describes the “domino”-like effect when a stack collapses
and in the trailer we see a stack completely obliterated by what seems to be a relatively
small explosion. These buildings aren’t designed to be strong;
they’re designed to be cheap. Buuuut that’s the
biggest problem, you see, they’re NOT cheap. And this is where we encounter the biggest
problem with the stacks: they’re designed for one thing, to cut costs on dense urban
housing — and they even suck at that! In fact, they’re way more expensive to produce
than good old fashioned concrete housing. Concrete is seriously cheap: it’s literally
made of sand, something that it’s safe to say we will not be running out of in the next
25 years. Concrete housing is currently the primary
component in urban construction where there’s a massive need for more urban homes: The national
average cost of building an apartment building in the US is currently about $75 per square
foot or about $45,000 for 600 square feet, the same size as our single-wide trailer. But that’s using mid or even higher quality
materials. What we’re looking for in a Ready Player
One scenario are known as Class 6 building materials in the US, which consist of reinforced
concrete and wood framing, but still has all the major appliances and safety features. These buildings are as low as $57.39 per square
foot, or $34,434 for our 600 square foot home. By contrast, a new single-wide mobile home
costs costs about $40,000 and that jumps up to about $75,000 if you’re in a double-wide. And that’s just the trailer, that’s not
the cost of getting it all the way on top of the nearest Stack, building extra scaffolding
around it, or extending wires and cables higher into the air so residents can get their dose
of OASIS on the daily. And we’re not even MENTIONING the cpst of
rebuilding these thigs when catastrophic failures occur — remember, Wade sopecifically mentions
multitple instances of domino collapses. And if you’re still on the fence about it,
remember that building codes and inspections are all factored into the current cost of
apartment buildings in the US, so if they’re willing to just skip that step in Ready Player
One, which it seems like they have no problem doing, you can look at seriously slashing
prices on the housing in this movie…oh and saving like hundreds of lives in the process. But whatever, not like that matters or anything. So when you head out to see Ready Player One,
appreciate all the cool technology, dream of futuristic MMORPGs, but shake your head
knowing that the most unbelievable, and the most unbelievably deadly part of this fiction
is literally the house it takes place in. But hey, that’s just a theory — a FILM theory. Thanks for watching!

47 thoughts on “Film Theory: Ready Player One’s True THREAT! (SPOILER FREE)

  1. Let me just point out that IN THE BOOK which was pretty much ignored when making the movie (so i don't blame you for being wrong) the stacks are actually in Oklahoma, which has a warmer climate, but it is very windy here!

  2. Isnt this addressed in the books? Like doesnt he mention that it isnt uncommon for stacks to collapse and for the bottom ones to get crushed? It was more about just outliving the poor situation than fixing it.

    I'm all for theories where you nitpick tiny things and but you reference obscure mario titles and count pixels… So why ignore the book? The film already cut out crucial content so why waste more time talking about how stacks are dangerous and not up to code? We can see this by looking at them. They're freaking trailers on scaffolding.

  3. As a student Studying Civil Engineering this school year, I found this really informative. Thanks, Mat

  4. Ready player one takes place in Oklahoma City and Columbus Ohio. The part in the stacks was in Oklahoma City. It's so cold in Oklahoma City either way.

  5. Basically in order to have a successful building, the higher the building, the larger the roots. Like a tree. Sort of.

  6. personally i think they also factored in the price drop of lives lost, ppl die, less ppl to house, it is a distopia, although i may be giving an absolute devils advocate here

  7. Overall, I don't think the living situation in the movie makes sense, period. How can we have all of this amazing technology (which I would imagine should cost thousands, if not 10's of thousands of dollars (remember, inflation). Yet, this main character lives in below-livable conditions. How can he afford all that tech yet not be able to afford to live better? How can we all of a sudden lose all these laws that govern safety? Last I checked, in the USA, we weren't allowed subject citizens to that kind of bullshit.

    Unless, he lives in a concentration camp for illegal immigrants. That would make more sense.

  8. Another Citicorp Center fun fact is, the engineer found out the flaws when giving a lecture of calculating wind forces. A student asked how to calculate the wind force if the wind is blowing on the building at a diagonal. That's how the engineer realized this big mistake. (According to my lecturer of the building structure)

  9. don't mean to sound like a hater or anything but matpat forgot one thing global warming maybe that's why the buildings haven't collapsed there is no snow or strong enough wind who knows I certainly don't I'm only in 6th grade

  10. But what if the towers are like trailer parks that you have to bring your personal trailer to and pay for the "lot fee" and the owners of the parks cut costs by using the scaffolding and not buying more land?

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