Book: Gaming the System
Author: P.A. Wikoff
Genre: LitRPG, Fantasy
Part of a Series: Yes, Imprisoned Online Book 1
Sephiroth, or Seph as he prefers to be called, is the child of a new age. Robots and A.I. have advanced to the point that humans really don’t need to do anything. Instead, they get to sit at home and game all day, and big names gamers are a big deal. Unfortunately for Seph, he doesn’t like games.
When a midnight release for the newest gaming tech comes out, his parents ask him to pick their order up. In the process, Seph wrecks his bike, “borrows” a car that was meant to be delivered to the daughter of one of the largest game streamers, and finds himself publically tried and convicted. His sentence? Three years in a virtual jail where he will have to play games while also having to earn in-game currency in order to pay back his fine as well. Will he be able to survive his sentence, both physically and mentally, or will he crack under the weight of his virtual jail?
So, like most LitRPGs, this book also starts out in the “real” world. Unlike most LitRPGs, this book spends about the first quarter in the real world. Now, I get wanting to get to know the main character prior to their trials, but this felt a little long to me. In addition to all of that, Seph really isn’t that great of a character in the real world. He’s whiny, his internal monologue and rhetoric feels vaguely like the complaints of the “nice guy” who always gets stuck in the friendzone (except, of course, there is not enough human contact in the world to have that even be an issue). And then, in a moment of affluenza, he steals a car in order to deliver his parents game systems all because he didn’t want to borrow their car from the start.
Now once the trial hits, Seph feels like a different character. He still has his disdain of A.I. and artificial life, but all in all, there is a character shift that follows him into the game. The Seph that starts playing Dreamscape, the MMORPG that he chooses as his prison, is a lot more likable. He is determined if a little naive. He bumbles through the game having foolishly skipped the tutorial despite not being a gamer (though it was a convenient way for us to get exposition) but never gives up. This is a Seph you can root for.
As for the game, it has the typical feel of a fantasy RPG. There is nothing too special or unique about it, but this isn’t a bad thing. Once Seph starts to open up to some players, he starts to develop some friends (a connection he never had outside of prison), and he grows and learns. He gets targeted by a gang that likes to lurk in the starter area and attack new players, but through some luck and ingenuity, he is able to overcome both them and the level boss.
If you are new to the LitRPG genre, this is a fine book to start with. It has all the base pieces for the genre while also being entertaining. P.A. Wikoff doesn’t bog his story down with numerous side quests (at least not yet), but it also doesn’t feel boring. It’s a tight, well-paced story that succeeds technically and enjoyment-wise. All in all, I award it a (weak) Silver Stash. I look forward to seeing where this storyline goes from here.
What are your thoughts? Did you enjoy it as well or am I off my rocker? If you want some more LitRPG goodness, check out some of The Completionist by Dakota Krout. And as always, I mustache y’all to stay fantastical.