Damn, people seem really mad about what would appear to be a harmless orgy of geek references. There's a reason for that, I think: The world has changed.
Ready Player One Was Whimsical In 2011, But Geek Culture Has Since Gone To A Dark Place
Given that roughly 95 percent of the people talking about Ready Player One seem to be basing their arguments on the trailers and maybe a couple of articles they skimmed, it's worth noting that the teenage hero, Wade, isn't obsessed with half-century-old pop culture because he happened to stumble across an Atari 2600. His life revolves around the virtual world because his real world sucks. His parents are dead, he lives in an overcrowded trailer because poverty is rampant, he's overweight because he can't afford healthy food and he doesn't feel any motivation to exercise, the education system is garbage, and so on. 2044 is a dystopia, and assembling an encyclopedic knowledge of pop culture is his escape.
That's an important point that's been drowned in the vast roiling opinion sea, and it's a big reason the narrative around the book has changed so much in seven years. The AV Club, in reference to the movie's widely mocked posters, said "Much like Ernest Cline's book, it's a series of references for the sake of references." But back in 2011, their review of the book gave it an A, saying, "for readers in line with Cline's obsessions, this is a guaranteed pleasure." That was, in fact, a different era. In 2011 (before, among other things, Gamergate), we thought pop culture obsession was harmless fun. Being a geek, we were told, had finally become cool. But we've since realized that being nothing but a geek can be hollow, if not outright toxic.
If you look at any modern fandom -- video games, Game Of Thrones, comics, guns, furries, anime, whatever -- you're going to find two kinds of people. There are those who use their hobby as stress release, who play Dungeons & Dragons with their friends on the weekend or who spend an hour before bed working on their Supernatural/Frasier fanfic in which Niles fucks God. But then you have a minority of fans whose entire identity revolves around their fandom, who base their self-esteem on being great at Overwatch or knowing everything that there is to know about anime. The object of their fandom becomes something more, a banner that represents their tribe.