::Literate Blather::
Saturday, March 08, 2008
R.I.P. Gary Gygax

The Death of a Bard

Gary Gygax, the co-creator of groundbreaking game Dungeons & Dragons, died last week at his home in Wisconsin.

He was only 69 years old.

Gygax’s fantasy role playing game is responsible for opening up the minds of millions of children, teenagers, and adults to the possibility of making the impossible possible.

His world was populated with wood elves, mountain dwarves, and halflings welding magic spells, battle axes, and enchanted daggers. Red dragons breathing fireballs soared through the skies, kobolds and goblins lurked in abandoned ruins, and sprites and fairies gamboled in deep forests.

And more pragmatically, Gygax is responsible for the 20-sided die and why graph paper can be found in so many wood-paneled recreation rooms in Middle America.

One could also argue that Gygax was the grandfather of fantasy role-playing games like World of Warcraft and the popularity of first person video games. He certainly played a major role in making J.R.R. Tolkien and “Lord of the Rings” a modern classic.

He founded game company TSR, wrote novels and game modules, and developed other role-playing games such as Chainmail and Gamma World. But it was Dungeons & Dragons that became a cultural phenomenon. The game spawned books, playing cards, magazines, online communities, films, and, of course, video and Web games.

Gygax never really approved on the video games based on his game arguing that the imagination came from the game creators – not the players. His pen-and-paper creation forced the participants to play together in tight-knit communities and rely on their imaginations to create the worlds they played in.

“There is no intimacy; it’s not live,” Gygax said of the video games spawned from his Dungeons & Dragons empire. “It’s being translated through a computer, and your imagination is not there the same way it is when you’re actually together with a group of people.”

I spent my hours of my teenage years being a Dungeon Master – the narrator of the Dungeons & Dragons game who creates the worlds and encounters for his players. I designed intricate dungeons for the clerics, fighters, wizards, and thieves of my friends to explore. They discovered treasures and magic troves and fought off trolls, goblins, and hordes of lizardmen.

Dungeons & Dragons unleashed my imagination. It solidified my desire to be a writer and, as I get older, it reminds me to keep the wonder alive.

So thank you, Gary. Here’s hoping they bury you in chainmail armor with a two-handed sword and a magic wand by your side.

Not everyone loves Dungeons & Dragons -- Just ask the Reverend

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