James Donovan Halliday (1972-2039) is one of the major protagonist of Ogden "Og" Morrow, and main character and tech industry businessman in the backstory of Ready Player One. He was the creator of OASIS, a massive online simulation used by billions of people in the story's dystopian future setting. When the story begins, the late Halliday has just willed a major prize to whosoever finds a unique, hidden easter egg in his VR realm, the OASIS. The terms of the will would give the finder his half-trillion-dollar fortune, along with administrative control over the OASIS itself.
James Halliday is the creator of the OASIS. He described his childhood as "neglected".
James Donovan Halliday was born in Middletown, Ohio, on June 12, 1972. His father was an alcoholic machine operator and his mother was a bipolar waitress. He was a very shy, awkward kid and he had trouble interacting with girls and others, until a younger Ogden Morrow had confronted him in school, as Halliday was reading a module on Dungeons & Dragons. Og invited him to come down to his D&D gaming session at his house, and Halliday had made his first friends in Og's basement: a little band of über-geeks just as he was himself. Among his friends was Kira Underwood, his crush, whom he was too nervous to confess his feelings to.
Halliday would spend his evenings after school in the local bowling alley whenever his parents started screaming at each other. There, he would play Black Tiger to avoid going home to his constantly arguing parents. Black Tiger soon became one of Halliday's favourite games and was mentioned in one of the earliest ever entries in Anorak's Almanac.
AA 23:234: "For one quarter, Black Tiger lets me escape from my rotten existence for three glorious hours. Pretty good deal."
A lot of inspiration for his games comes from his childhood.
James was a social outcast who had trouble talking to girls growing up, and came off as awkward and unappealing. He is thought to have been on the autistic spectrum with the condition once referred to as Asperger's Syndrome.
Kira Underwood, referred to almost exclusively by Halliday by her Dungeons and Dragons nickname of Leucosia, may have been the only female that he ever contacted in a casual, social context.
Halliday took his primary avatar's name, Anorak, from a nickname Kira gave him in their youth.
Halliday was outwardly in love with Kira, but so were many others. He could never find the courage to ask her out. When Og married her, Halliday's dreams were crushed. Subsequently, given that James was thus smitten with Ogden Morrow's (late) wife, he chose to break contact with Og for the rest of his life. Their love for Kira created a division between the two men.
After Parzival wins his egg hunt, Halliday admits he only built things and spent most of his time in the OASIS near the end of his life, telling Wade that he can only experience true happiness in reality. This prompts Wade to begin to relish being in the outside world more, and for the first time in his memory, realize he didn't want to go back into the OASIS.
Halliday is introduced as an eccentric and senile old man, as it was rumoured that he had lost his sanity after he isolated himself from the people around him. These rumors are not true as in the book Wade said that Halliday had autism. Despite being a sexagenarian, Halliday is shown to have his childish moments and loved the 1980s when he was a teenager, to the point of firing employees who bear no knowledge of 1980 pop culture.
Throughout the book, it was speculated that Halliday has Asperger's Syndrome, an autistic spectrum disorder which affects a person's social interactions and non-verbal communication. Being celibate, Halliday died without having a wife, although he was in love with Kira.