- You can buy powerful artifacts from credits
- You can buy credits from real money and some people go real world bankrupt doing so
- You can attack other players anywhere (like the protagonists being attacked in a virtual dance club)
- If you die in game, you respawn without your items and credits (total death penalty)
- The killer (or practically anyone around, see Parzival collecting cash on crashed racers) can loot the corpse of the dead
The film would make absolutely no sense without either one of these. The quest for the egg would be meaningless to both watch and do. Racers risk their in-game fortune for greater fortune (otherwise everyone on the planet would race), the IOI guys wouldn’t exist if there would be money to gain, the grand finale wouldn’t be grand if all those players wouldn’t risk (and eventually end up) zeroing out to fight for the protagonists and the fight scenes would have been laughed off not just by the people watching the movie, but also by the characters. Why should they bother to shoot back if they can respawn without loss?!
It’s funny that OASIS is probably the most hardcore game concept I’ve ever seen, even more than the usual PvP games like EVE (where you only risk your current gear). It’s funny because it was released in the peak of “accessible gaming”, where players can just progress endlessly without any competition or risk, where defeat means nothing.
Please note that the “inaccessible” nature of the game is the driving force to players to form groups. They don’t play together because they are friends, they become friends after playing together. Parzival saving Art3mis from being smashed by Kong is only meaningful because she would have lost her credits without it. Otherwise stopping her from doing that low-chance leap was just griefing and she surely wouldn’t start to socialize with him. Then they go to the workshop of H not to hang out but to fix the damaged bike which would otherwise cost lot of credits (= real money). The crafting skills of H aren’t cosmetic but really matter for them and it will also matter in the finale where her powerful crafted gear (the Iron Giant) slows down the antagonist’s Mechagozzila and literally bridges the last gap.
One can say that the OASIS may be fun to watch but not to play, which is fine for a movie, but not for a real video game. However “fun to watch” is the point of streaming and e-sports. A game with harsh death penalty, non-consensual PvP and looting corpses would be great for watching streams and pro teams, even if most people wouldn’t play it or only play in some low-stakes mode (like the frig-loller in EVE). If you enjoyed watching Ready Player One, you are a perfect audience for watching such game. Watching a low-stakes game is boring, no one would care about a guy playing, dying, respawning, rerunning, dying again and then getting some item that has no monetary value (not even in opportunity cost). Remember when the B-R battle bought record new player and real-world coverage to EVE? That was an OASIS moment.
One more thing: during the whole movie, we don’t see or hear about any game masters (IOI is just a goldfarming sweatshop and not affiliated to the game devs). We don’t see any bans, no one is filing petitions, there is no chat moderation whatsoever. Players deal with their in-game differences themselves. Another interesting concept but can only work where PvP is allowed to deal with toxic strangers and having friends is needed for success!