Monday, March 17, 2008

Gary Gygax

Gary Gygax, co-inventor of Dungeons and Dragons, died a week or so ago. I was struck by just how many prominent obituaries of him I've noticed. Not only this, I've seen editorials speaking to his influence on our culture (some even saying that his game set the groundwork for the widespread success of the Lord of the Rings films, and definitely were foundational for the last twenty to thirty years of computer adventure games). It's nice to see D&D (or at least it's co-founder) receive some sort of recognition as a creative and potentially positive activity after all the lost-in-the-sewers-satanic panic against the game in the '80s. The game got my friends and I interested in medieval history and literature. For us, the games were always about problem solving, interaction, and being creative rather than the "hack and slash/might makes right/where's the treasure?" direction of some of the games. These were interactive novels that we created collaboratively (yes, in the basement of my parents' house, surrounded by Mountain Dew and Doritoes) where we thought about such things as character and setting. I still remember some of them, like good books I enjoyed reading. I remember that at some point in one of the manuals (perhaps the Player's Handbook or the Dungeon Master's Guide), Gygax urged players to avoid combat if at all possible: to think and not just fight. We always took him seriously on that point. Out of nostalgia, I dug up my old books (signed by Gygax, himself, no less). So I'll have to check.

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