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Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Gary Gygax has passed away

It's weird: I was just thinking of Gary Gygax last week, after reading a review of the new 4th edition of Dungeons & Dragons. It was back in the early Seventies that Gygax, along with Dave Arneson, created the first Dungeons & Dragons game. Gygax has since been widely hailed as "the father of the role-playing game".

Now comes the sad news that Gary Gygax has passed away at the age of 69.

I think it's safe to say that Gygax's influence on popular culture for the better part of the past four decades has been profound, if subtle. Gygax's rules for Dungeons & Dragons became the basis for not only pretty much every role-playing game that followed, but also made an enormous impact on video games and even some real-world simulations and tools for education. Gygax's work had a tremendous effect on many movies and television series... to say nothing of the mammoth library of novels that the Dungeons & Dragons franchise and other role-playing games has spawned over the years.

And let's face it: for those who ever played the original "pen and paper" Dungeons & Dragons, it was - and I've heard still is - a heckuva lot of fun! The first "D&D" game that I ever played used one of Gygax's modules (those were pre-packaged "adventures" that you'd buy in a bookstore or wherever). Gygax was not only a brilliant innovator, but he also knew how to be downright lethal: I lost soooo many characters to his traps and monsters. Something about a game like that as opposed to a computer-driven role-playing game: you really did have to use your imagination, and you could do pretty much anything no matter how wild and crazy. We've yet to see a video game that gives you that kind of freedom.

Anyways, part of this blog's purpose is to chronicle and celebrate people who have lived interesting lives, and Gary Gygax certainly had that. Farewell, great Dungeon Master.


Anonymous said...

He made a saving throw and lost.

Chris Knight said...

Somebody HAD to say that, didn't they?!? :-P

Don't think that I wasn't tempted to make that same joke when I was writing this, LOL!

We played the original Dungeons & Dragons back in elementary school (even though it is a considerably mature game in terms of rules and play mechanics, not talking about *content* at all) and then not again until some friends in college got me into playing some campaigns with them many years later. It was then that I came to appreciate the great thought and planning that Gygax put into D&D, especially how using the various dice simulated outcome of events and random chance.

When you think about it, the concept behind the saving throw is at once both one of the simplest and among the most ingenious devices ever created for simulated models. Who knows: maybe someday Gary Gygax will be thought of as much a computer pioneer as Alan Turing and John von Neumann.

Anonymous said...

I played the board based D&D in junior high & high school (back in the 70's-80's) but then I started running into people who couldn't separate game life from real life (much like people today who kill themselves if their online character dies).

To me, D&D was just a fun board game. (Actually I liked the post-apocalyptic Gamma World even better).

I regret that I let the freaks who played these games in my area ruin what was an otherwise pleasurable hobby for me. Now I am old fart, overloaded parent who doesn't have time for anything but paying bills and taxes and supporting the wife & kids.

Enjoy your freedom while you have it!