Wednesday, March 05, 2008

R.I.P. Gary Gygax

There was a note on SF Signal and a couple of other sites the other day reporting that Gary Gygax, co-creator of Dungeons & Dragons had died.

For more than a few of us, D&D was a presence (sometimes near, sometimes distant but still there) in our childhoods and teen years. And there are certainly many who still enjoy the game and its various spin-offs and clones as adults.

I can remember buying some of the toys and watching the game-inspired “Dungeons & Dragons” Saturday morning cartoon back in the early 80’s. Back then, it was one of the cooler shows, what with the constant barrage of monsters and magic and weird landscapes. Later, as a pre-teen, some of the older kids introduced me and my friends to the role-playing game that started it all. Soon enough we were buying modules and strange multi-sided dice and building our own adventures once or twice a month. I remember having to explain the game to my mother when my younger brother and his friends started to play it regularly (more regularly than my friends and I had done) – some uptight members of the town’s mothers’ grapevine were trying to convince her it was a dangerous game and I had to make the case that, like any game, roleplaying was only trouble in the hands of kids who would were themselves dangerous and would be dangerous in any activity. From D&D, my friends and I went on to play the Marvel superheroes RPG for a little while in high school – usually for an hour or two after school in one of the school library’s board rooms (sometimes our girlfriends would play, other times it was just the guys). My brother and his buddies favoured the Teenage Mutant Ninja turtles and the Rifts systems. Roleplaying had more or less lost my interest by the time I went to university, but I had friends who continued to play and my brother’s group kept at it for many years.

It’s pretty impressive how one game rooted in consensual imagination could spawn into so many sub-groups, inspire copies and branch out into other media. In fact, in the age of huge MMORPG’s, it’s interesting to note that the old game, the one that started it all, is still around. Yeah, there may be more people logging on to World of Warcraft and games like it, but most colleges and universities still have gamers clubs, comic and games shops host regular games and tournaments, and nearly every SF con has a gaming room where you can still see groups of men and women tossing strange dice as they explore the depths of their imaginations.

Getting people to come together to build their imaginations and tell stories is a great legacy for Gygax to leave behind.

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