Stan can't afford to have his brain removed. The richest and luckiest players of the video game "Thousand Tales" get their minds uploaded to its virtual paradise world, while Stan can barely buy a handheld console. Instead of sulking he plays, and grows, becoming a skilled craftsman and seafaring explorer. The game's ruling AI, Ludo, helps him find the hope and inspiration missing from his real life.
When the AI starts asking for favors and having him reach out between the real and digital worlds, Stan has a chance to turn his life into an actual adventure. But first he needs to earn the most valuable prize of all: his freedom.
"Crafter's Passion" is part of the emerging "LitRPG" or "GameLit" genre, combining science fiction with the world of gaming.
My Opinion: 321 pages, $3.99, Available on Kindle Unlimited
Unlike many of the other more side stories in the Thousand Tale universe, this one doesn’t focus on a digital heaven or uploading minds to a full immersion game universe. Instead, it’s a coming of age story combined with fascinating speculative narrative about skills learned in a game transferring to the real world.
This one is definitely my favorite of the independent novels from this series. Instead of being another VR heaven story. This one is almost a speculative story. It combines real world backstory of a kid living in a resource sharing collective and him playing the Thousand Tales game on an old tablet he bought. He gets into crafting in the game and gradually becomes interested in it in real life because of the limited money in community.
Lessons he learns in game translate to real life woodworking skills. There’s also a gamified system for working in the community, chores and social stuff. But the game also gives him real life quests in town that further his crafting skills and help him accomplish goals. Then as with any kind of education that takes you out of what you grew up with, he starts to see cracks in system he lives with and possibilities for himself he never thought possible.
There is still adventuring, monster fighting, and exploration. However, a lot of the story is a coming of age story set in a semi-dystopian future. There is commentary on both the negative and positive aspects of community projects, incentivisation, gamification, communalism, and more. You can tell the author has an opinion here about this digital training/education tech, its possibility, and pitfalls.
Now, I’ll be honest, this novel is not for everyone. It’s not a very crunchy or number heavy LitRPG story. The RPG aspects in the game part of the story are rather minimal, but they’re constantly used and the game stuff matters to the story. Yeah, I’d personally love it if there were more numbers or detailed item and ability descriptions but that’s not how the author writes this series. You might like this story more if you like sci-fi stories that make you think a little about technology and where it might take us.
For me, this was an enjoyable read and I really did like it. I’m kind of a sucker for crafting. But more than that, I liked that it made me think about where VR and education may go in the future. Possible social backlashes and how that all might play out. Neat stuff.
Score: 7 out of 10