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Playing games is one of the things that makes us human, and goes back thousands of thousands of years into the blurry depths of prehistory; games resembling chess and checkers and Go or "Chinese checkers" have been found in the ruins of vanished civilizations from Egypt to China to Sumer, and crude dice made from animal bones have been found in caves lived in by Ice Age hunters. Who knows what games were played that left no trace behind in the archeological record? My guess is that some sort of chaseand-catch games, the ancestors of soccer and football, were played wherever there were the combination of good summer weather, an empty meadow, and restless hunters still charged up from the hunt, and those long nights huddled around an Ice Age fire had to be filled somehow, if not with dice, then with cards (which probably would leave no trace behind, but which likely have a heritage almost as old as dice), or word-games, or the kinds of finger-games such as "Paper, Scissors, Stone" or "Thumb War" that may well go back to a time before there were such things as paper or scissors ("Mammoth, Spear, Stone," perhaps?).

All games are competitions, though, which implies a winner and a loser. And the best games are those that have an element of risk involved in them. The more dangerous they are, in fact, the more the loser has at stake, the better we like them. And the ultimate stake is life itself.

Even today, in spite of living in a safety-obsessed culture where every jar and bottle has a warning label on it and every car comes equipped with air-bags and seat-belts—or maybe because we live in such a culture—people like dangerous games, as witness the development and sudden popularity of "Extreme Sports," and the more dangerous they are, the more popular they are as well. It only takes a slight heightening of conditions to imagine a game where there's not just risk, but a certainty of death for one competitor or another, like the Roman gladiatorial games, and science fiction writers have been coming up with just such scenarios, like Frederic Pohl and C.M. Kornbluth's Gladiator-At-Law, for decades now.

Another parallel social development predicted long ago by SF writers is the "Reality Show," and stories such as Robert Sheckley's "The Prize of Peril" and "The Seventh Victim" and Kate Wilhelm's "Ladies and Gentlemen, This Is Your Crisis!" that strongly resemble shows such as Survivor, were around long before "reality television" was even a gleam in a TV producer's eye. As was the idea that every moment of your life would not only be observed but would become fodder for entertainment television. This is a version of 1984 that never occurred to Orwell—that people would not only want Big Brother to watch them, but that other people would find it fascinating to watch too, so that today you not only are watched by security cameras every time you go into a bank or a store or a gas station or even walk down the street—with nobody objecting to this—but people willingly take web-cams into their bedrooms as well and record themselves having sex to broadcast to wide audiences on the internet. Some of the most popular shows on television involve "ordinary people" under 24-houra-day scrutiny by the cameras.

All this seems weird enough to old dinosaurs like your

editors who grew up in the '50s, but where is it going to go and what's going to happen next, in the future? Our intuition is that you ain't seen nothing yet.

So open up this book and let some of SF's most expert dreamers show you eleven extreme and radical games that people in the future will play. Dangerous games. Games more addictive than heroin, and just as deadly. Games that will take you completely out of this world and into fantastical and fabulous realms of your own creation, where the dangers are still as real as a knife in the dark. Games that will become the hit TV shows of the future and will boil couch potatoes everywhere in their skins. Games that affect reality itself, where your success or failure in life depends on your gaming skills. Games that will take you to Mars and to the icy darkness of the outer Solar System. Games that you can't stop playing, even if you want to.

Dangerous games. Games to die for—quite literally.

Enjoy! The game is afoot!

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