Guest Post: Personal Experiences Behind the Dangerous Games Anthology

Guest Blog: Personal Experiences Behind the Dangerous Games Anthology by Jonathan Oliver

I came relatively late to gaming. I’d tinkered with Warhammer back in my youth and gobbled up Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone’s Fighting Fantasy novels, but I didn’t really become a ‘proper’ gaming geek until my early twenties. It happened when I went to the University of Reading to do my MA in Science Fiction. I’m  a big horror nerd, and my friend had told me that there was a roleplaying game based on H.P. Lovecraft’s works. I knew I just had to play such a thing, and so I joined the university’s gaming society. It took a few months before I finally got to play Chaosium’s absolute classic Call of Cthulhu. Before then I was in a Werewolf group for a while and we also played a lot of 3rd edition Dungeons & Dragons. However, it was Call of Cthulhu with its loose and easy system and its emphasis on story-telling and characterisation that recently cemented my love of the hobby.

The folk I met back then are amongst my oldest friends, and my current regular gaming group started life at that society back in 1999. Gaming has been a hugely important part of my imaginative play and my two novels in the Twilight of Kerberos series – The Call of Kerberos and The Wrath of Kerberos – were massively influenced by gaming as well as the fantasy stories of Fritz Leiber. My gaming group actually appear as city guards in the first novel, each meeting their demise in a fittingly gruesome way. There is this image in the popular imagination of gamers (and players of roleplaying games in particular) as being friendless, single nerds.  But the fact is that tabletop gaming is one of the most social hobbies there is. You gather together to tell stories and interact with each other’s narrative in imaginative ways.

Video games, likewise, became more a part of my life after my youth had largely passed me by. Oh, I had a Spectrum computer like many of my fellow geeks of the time, and then moved onto an Atari ST. But I don’t have a huge fondness for games from my youth – though a few do stick in my mind – Midwinter, Lemmings  and some of the Mario games on the Gameboy being some examples. But games weren’t as immersive back then, in my opinion. Now they are much much more complex, both in terms of gameplay and narratively. Some of the recent crop of games have just been mind-blowing in terms of the experience they present. I’m a huge fan of Fallout 3 (who could forget stepping out of the Vault and into the wastelands for the first time?) and the Bioshock games have both scarred the shit out of me and left me emotionally wrenched in equal measure; I adore the end of Bioshock: Infinite in particular. I wish I had more time for videogames, but as hugely enjoyable as they are, they are also a massive time-sink.

To have an anthology on the theme of games felt like a natural progression; the anthologies that I do for Solaris had already become more playful in themselves – subverting themes, stretching the definitions of the horror story, including as big a variety and range of voices as possible. It’s also a theme that gives the authors the possibility of writing broadly. As ever, I’ve gone for a mix of established and newer voices, and I couldn’t be more proud with the stories our contributors have produced. Basically, I put together the sort of anthologies I would like to read as a fan, and I hope, I trust, that other readers will get as much enjoyment as I did from editing this volume.


Jonathan Oliver is the multi-award winning editor of The End of The Line, Magic, House of Fear, End of the Road and Dangerous Games. He’s also written a couple of novels and a bunch of short stories. He lives in Abingdon with his family and their cat.


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