I see that Gary Gygax has failed his final saving throw and has lost his last hit point.
I never met the man, in fact I never even went to a convention, but Dungeons and Dragons in various incarnations has consumed thousands of hours of my life.
The thing about D&D that was fascinating was not that it earned some pretty fanatical adherents, it was how quickly it spread into the mainstream. When I was in middle school, we formed a lunchtime group over the winter and started our own campaign. It was made up of the usual suspects – the nerds.
The funny thing was how many other people – non-nerds – wanted to join. Eventually we had to put a cap on new players because the game was simply too big.
Within the gaming community, Gygax was a controversial figure. He’s reputed to have “stolen” the copyright on D&D and despite having his name on it, never duplicated its success.
As a system, D&D was clunky, badly edited, horribly laid out and in terms of game balance, it sucked rocks. Yet millions of teenagers paid for these books – campy artwork and all – because it allowed them access to their inner hero.
With D&D, one could put aside being a middle-class high school kid with all its uncertainty and awkwardness and instead embark upon a glorious career of conquest and adventure. I agree with Gygax’s assessment that computer games have ruined a lot of what role-playing achieved. Though its players were famously anti-social, at least you were playing face-to-face with live human beings.
Computer role-playing games, either against a machine or unknown online human players, doesn’t have that. If anything, our imaginative outcasts are becoming even less able to deal with other people. It is for this reason that I don’t much care for computer games and have never bothered to do online roleplaying (which in my college days consisted of MUDD or MUSH or some such nonsense).
Now we have World of Warcraft and its competitors, and clearly something is lost in the translation. Maybe it is a harbinger of things to come: an increasingly impersonal world shaped by technology rather than personal interaction.
But from the 1970s until the mid-1990s, Dungeons and Dragons were the only outlet creative folks could find. If Gygax didn’t write it, he at least was part of it the creative process and was bright enough to recognize a good thing when it came along.
So let us pass the dice and roll up a new character in honor of the original Dungeon Master. Rest in Peace.