I had a spiffy post all ready to go, when I heard the news – Gary Gygax is dead.
For those of you who don’t know, Gary Gygax, one of the great minds behind the original Dungeons & Dragons game, died today. There’s plenty of news out there on Google, but I’d like to take a moment here to talk about the impact his creation had on me, and the world we live in.
The first time I ever saw D&D was at a day camp one summer, when I was about 7 or 8 years old. The kids that were playing it were older than me, and seemed far too cool to approach and find out what all those strangely-shaped dice were all about. I wouldn’t experience exposure to the actual game until much later, oddly enough at summer camp. I only played a short adventure, but I was hooked; I had played computer-based RPGs before, but THIS was the real deal. Over the course of several years, I tracked down all sorts of dice (which I still have), D&D and AD&D books and box sets (which I don’t have anymore), and also expanded my horizons to other pen-and-paper RPGs such as Rifts (which I still have).
The modern video game world owes a lot to those humble dusty tomes of Saving Throws, Armour Classes, and Magical Items. While most games certainly have different systems of combat, magic, etc., they all stem from two basic premises: that people want to participate together in an adventure (even just an imaginary one), and that a story can be interactive and still go somewhere. Up until a few years ago, computer-based RPGs tended to be mostly a solitary endevour, but with the advent of Massively Multiplayer Online RPGs (MMORPGs), that community aspect is rapidly returning. Still, no computer game has yet to beat a good Dungeon Master when it comes to originality, as well as being able to make changes on-the-fly to suit the needs of the story and the adventure.
As for popular culture, it’s becoming more and more cool to be a “geek”, though like most cultural groups that become popular, there’s posers and there’s the real deal. Regardless, D&D-related imagery and concepts continue to resound throughout the realms of the Geek.
It’s sad that he’s gone, but he’s left a real mark on modern culture. How many can say that?