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This may be a long shot, but here it is. I remember reading a story/novel fairly recently (few years) about a young guy that gets to beta test a new VR style video game. It is set in a futuristic dystopian society. He lives with his mom who seems to be an addict of some sort. He keeps his room locked and has many tech type devices and I believe has modded his own VR helmet. He gets into the game which seems to start them out in a maze like area. It is all dark and dank, and he is dropped in naked. As he gets along in the maze, he can see in a HUD when he improves his skills. He makes a friend while in the maze/dungeon area and helps her escape. While in the dungeon area, they do run across other players, but he goes his own way. Once out in the rest of the playing field, he ends up running across a for lack of better word, nomadic 'native' tribe and is welcomed into their society. Things progress, there is a love interest. He learns lots of things and grows stronger as he plays longer. There are occasional times where he logs out of the game back to 'real life' and figures out a way to bring something back with him. (book of some sort?)

I believe it may have been a serialized story, because I don't recall and ending, or I read it so fast, that part didn't stick. He does have friends in the real world that are worried about him since he has mostly disappeared from every day life. There is also some sort of political intrigue/police state type issues as well.

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Parts of the question sound like Ready Player One (2011). Specifically:

It is set in a futuristic dystopian society. He lives with his mom who seems to be an addict of some sort. He keeps his room locked and has many tech type devices and I believe has modded his own VR helmet.

The protagonist Wade lives in a dystopian, futuristic trailer park with his aunt, who is an addict. To escape, he uses a VR rig to play Oasis, the super-MMO that is the world's dominant form of entertainment. (Side note: you can always tell the dystopian futures by how there's only one thing the population does for fun.) His family is dirt-poor and subsides on government handouts, so he jury-rigs electronics including his VR equipment.

There is also some sort of political intrigue/police state type issues as well.

Oasis is under threat of being taken over and monetized by IOI, the Generic Dystopian MegaCorp, and later in the book Wade undertakes considerable efforts to stop them, including once arranging to become an indentured worker for them so he can infiltrate one of their corporate buildings.

However, some of the details match up only partially:

He gets into the game which seems to start them out in a maze like area. It is all dark and dank, and he is dropped in naked. As he gets along in the maze, he can see in a HUD when he improves his skills. He makes a friend while in the maze/dungeon area and helps her escape.

As mentioned, Wade attends school in the Oasis, so that's where he first logs in. But one of the first plot-relevant sections that he spends time in is an old-school fantasy dungeon styled after D&D's Tomb of Horrors. Wade isn't naked but neither can he afford quality equipment. At the end of the Tomb, he meets Artemis, his rival/friend/love interest, but I don't recall that he specifically saves her.

And there are some parts that don't match at all:

beta test a new VR style video game

As mentioned, Oasis is the most popular entertainment in the world.

Once out in the rest of the playing field, he ends up running across a for lack of better word, nomadic 'native' tribe and is welcomed into their society.

No nomadic society exists in the game. There is a subculture that he becomes very prominent in, but they don't have any 'native' feel to them.

There are occasional times where he logs out of the game back to 'real life' and figures out a way to bring something back with him. (book of some sort?)

There are occasional segments in the real world, but aside from information and money, nothing passes from the virtual world to reality.

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  • There are a lot of other details that don't match; he doesn't live with his mom, he doesn't have a lot of gear (at first), he never plays the game with his character so poorly-equipped as to be "naked," there's no improvement of an in-game HUD...
    – DavidW
    Dec 7, 2021 at 14:19
  • @DavidW I was on the fence about whether it was similar enough to be worth posting, but I figured it was better to present it to OP and let them decide.
    – Cadence
    Dec 7, 2021 at 17:28

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