The Egg

Main article: Halliday's Easter Egg Hunt

After the announcement of James Halliday's Easter Egg Hunt, Wade is one of millions of people all over the world who eschew "normal" life to become full-time gunters (short for "Egg Hunters"), OASIS users who are obsessed with learning everything about James Halliday and his history to discover the easter egg and earn his fortune. The Egg Hunt consists of locating three keys placed in different places throughout the many worlds of the OASIS to unlock three matching gates. After locating all three keys and gates, one must be tested for their worthiness of Halliday's fortune. Only then will one reach The End, where their prize awaits.

As indicated by Anorak's Almanac, knowledge of 1980's pop culture was critical to locating the keys scattered throughout the OASIS. Wade, among many others, immersed himself in countless television shows, video games, science fiction novels, comic books, and more. Over the years, Wade amassed a mental and digital collection of thousands of items relevant to the Egg Hunt. This included digital versions of coin-operated video games such as Galaga, Defender, Asteroids, Robotron: 2084, sitcoms like Family Ties, comics including complete editions of The Amazing Spider-Man, The X-Men, Green Lantern, and much more.

Over the course of five years, Wade and millions of other OASIS users comb countless worlds of the OASIS simulation for any lead to where the Copper Key might be. Their only leads were the original poem given in the Almanac, and The Limerick discerned from marked entries in the Almanac.

Assassination attempt

During the course of the Halliday's Easter Egg Hunt, IOI attempted a blackmail and assassinate Wade by planting explosives in his aunt's stack in a way that made it appear as if a drug lab had exploded in a huge accident. However, Wade was not killed because he was in his hideout at the time. In an attempt to stay hidden from IOI, Wade Watts assumed the alias of Bryce Lynch, a 22-year old male with an immaculate credit rating and a Bachelor's degree in Computer Science. He was able to do this via connections he made with hackers on the OASIS. He also assumes a position at a tech help desk to help pay the bills and fund his research.

Indentured Servitude

After facing the problem of the Orb of Osuvox near the end of the story, Wade decides to infiltrate IOI as an indentured servant. By modifying his aliases financial status to being indebted to IOI for tens of thousand dollars, Wade successfully manipulates IOI into abducting and forcing him to work off his debt. He is given a help-desk position much like his old job, but without the freedoms of being able to watch movies or do anything else on the job. Using tools he acquired from hackers he had contacted when creating his alias, he was able to hack the IOI database and download nearly ten zettabytes of information relevant to The Hunt onto a flash drive. He also requisitioned a figurative time bomb to be delivered and detonated inside the shield at a later date in order to take it down. Once he had successfully done this, he zeroed his account (wiping out his debt) and disabled the locking mechanisms on his earcam and security anklet, allowing him to slip past IOI security guards. Once he escaped, he resumed his original identity as Wade Owen Watts and removed all records of existence for Bryce Lynch.