It wasn’t until I encountered both the skills focused Basic Roleplaying System (via Call of Cthulhu and Stormbringer) and the rules light Storyteller System (Vampire, Werewolf), that I really found gamming a truly immersive experience. It was also around this time that finally realized why I found D&D to have such a strange, clunky, mechanistic feel. It’s because Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson were strategy game players first and then developed D&D roleplaying out of that. I was never a strategy game sorta’ guy and that’s why their approach to the gaming seemed backwards to me. Levels, experience points, tons of charts, character classes, and mutually excusive rules for every little aspect, was really just too much in my opinion. But for other folks, with a more mathematical or legalistic mind, probably found these rule mechanics pure heaven. For some, roleplaying was a numbers and accounting game but I never saw it like that. For me, gamming should be a character driven, story creation experience. On the other hand, I always greatly appreciated the world building that went into Dungeon and Dragons and the different types of dice as well. I believe those two aspects were some of D&D’s greatest strengths beyond just simply using your mind's eye.
Now it may seem like I’m bashing Mr. Gygax, but I don’t feel that I am, rest his soul, but rather I’m merely providing context and probing the memories his death has brought up. Gary Gygax was an entertainment innovator and brought a new way to experience, and harness imagination. I just needed it in a different form than he originally designed it. Regardless, thanks for starting the roleplaying game industry Mr. Gygax.
I think the New York Times has the best article about Gary Gygax, so I’ll post the whole of it here, as it will eventually disappear behind a registered user function.
Gary Gygax, Game Pioneer, Dies at 69
By SETH SCHIESEL
Published: March 5, 2008
Gary Gygax, a pioneer of the imagination who transported a fantasy realm of wizards, goblins and elves onto millions of kitchen tables around the world through the game he helped create, Dungeons & Dragons, died Tuesday at his home in Lake Geneva, Wis. He was 69.
His death was confirmed by his wife, Gail Gygax, who said he had been ailing and had recently suffered an abdominal aneurysm, The Associated Press reported.
As co-creator of Dungeons & Dragons, the seminal role-playing game introduced in 1974, Mr. Gygax wielded a cultural influence far broader than his relatively narrow fame among hard-core game enthusiasts.
Before Dungeons & Dragons, a fantasy world was something to be merely read about in the works of authors like J. R. R. Tolkien and Robert Howard. But with Dungeons & Dragons, Mr. Gygax and his collaborator, Dave Arneson, created the first fantasy universe that could actually be inhabited. In that sense, Dungeons & Dragons formed a bridge between the noninteractive world of books and films and the exploding interactive video game industry. It also became a commercial phenomenon, selling an estimated $1 billion in books and equipment. More than 20 million people are estimated to have played the game.
While Dungeons & Dragons became famous for its voluminous rules, Mr. Gygax was always adamant that the game’s most important rule was to have fun and to enjoy the social experience of creating collaborative entertainment. In Dungeons & Dragons, players create an alternate persona, like a dwarven thief or a noble paladin, and go off on imagined adventures under the adjudication of another player called the Dungeon Master.
“The essence of a role-playing game is that it is a group, cooperative experience,” Mr. Gygax said in a telephone interview in 2006. “There is no winning or losing, but rather the value is in the experience of imagining yourself as a character in whatever genre you’re involved in, whether it’s a fantasy game, the Wild West, secret agents or whatever else. You get to sort of vicariously experience those things.”
When Mr. Gygax (pronounced GUY-gax) first published Dungeons & Dragons under the banner of his company, Tactical Studies Rules, the game appealed mostly to college-age players. But many of those early adopters continued to play into middle age, even as the game also trickled down to a younger audience.
“It initially went to the college-age group, and then it worked its way backward into the high schools and junior high schools as the college-age siblings brought the game home and the younger ones picked it up,” Mr. Gygax said.
Mr. Gygax’s company, renamed TSR, was acquired in 1997 by Wizards of the Coast, which was later acquired by Hasbro, which now publishes the game.
In addition to his wife, Mr. Gygax is survived by six children: three sons, Ernest G. Jr., Lucion Paul and Alexander; and three daughters, Mary Elise, Heidi Jo and Cindy Lee.
These days, pen-and-paper role-playing games have largely been supplanted by online computer games. Dungeons & Dragons itself has been translated into electronic games, including Dungeons & Dragons Online. Mr. Gygax recognized the shift, but he never fully approved. To him, all of the graphics of a computer dulled what he considered one of the major human faculties: the imagination ’ ”
“There is no intimacy; it’s not live,” he said of online games. “It’s being translated through a computer, and your imagination is not there the same way it is when you’re actually together with a group of people. It reminds me of one time where I saw some children talking about whether they liked radio or television, and I asked one little boy why he preferred radio, and he said, ‘Because the pictures are so much better.’ ”
Nice article huh.
On another note, if you are a serious journalist (by serious I mean you get paid) and you use the words “geek,” “geeky” or “geeks” in your news article about Gary Gygax's death, you can FUCK OFF… …Just go fuck yourself. Those geek words are pejorative and not appreciated. Some folks in the gamming community use them, but that’s simply to take the word geek and disarm it while turning it’s original demeaning meaning on it’s head. “Geek” has no place in a eulogy or a serious piece of journalism and certainly shouldn’t be used by folks that don’t consider themselves a part of “geek culture…”