Thursday, March 06, 2008

Gary Gygax dies.

Though I never met the man, one of the major influences in my life passed away Tuesday March 4, 2008.

Gary Gygax was the inventor of the pen and paper game system called Dungeons and Dragons.

I can't remember who or how I got introduced to Dungeons and Dragons but I remember it was around eleven or twelve years old. I remember sitting around my parents kitchen table with a few friends with a giant pile of dice, papers, pencils, books and our imaginations. I didn't realize back then how much of an influence those 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, and 20 sided dice would have on me all the way to even today.

It wasn't until last year that I finally decided to retire my old pen and paper games because I hadn't picked up the dice for so long and had lost contact with the people I played with regularly. It was a sad day and still occasionally I look at where they used to be on my shelves and think fondly, those were good times.

Gaming for me was like imagining I was part of a story book, instead of simply reading a book. Through gaming, and the progression of pen and paper to computer, I've fought dragons, fought evil, piloted star ships, lived after nuclear war, rescued towns, saved the world, and even witnessed the destruction of worlds (Final beta of Asheron's Call closed with a comet smashing into the planet). We've only been limited by what our imagination (and sometimes programming skills) have been able to conjure up.

Through D&D I was introduced to even more books to read. Two of my favorite book series of all time, Dragonlance Chronicles and Dragonlance Legends were based on Advanced Dungeons and Dragons. I still have the annotated editions with the three books of the trilogies bound together on my bookshelves.

One thing about AD&D and other pen and paper games that a lot of people didn't realize is that we gamers crossed social boundaries to find new players. I remember the geeks and the nerds mixing with the jocks and preps at gaming sessions. People that weren't allowed to even talk to each other at school were sitting at the same table having a great time and cooperating in something that seemed bigger then themselves.

I remember the "great purge" I call it. The 700 club featured D&D saying it was satanic and crap like that. Eventually my church also apparently made some statement against it because my parents went through all my gaming stuff looking for things bad about it. I don't think it was ever actually my church but more like a few of the

It was a tough time for an early teenager (I had to be thirteen to fifteen) to defend his hobby and friendships to his parents, a church, and even schools got into it. Movies were made about the dangers of D&D. All because a small troubled few had problems and the finger pointing went to D&D. Us gamers in our own way knew that it was probably D&D that had kept them sane and kept him socially aware and active. I defended my choices to my parents fine btw, but it still felt like we had to take our gaming underground. My school for example still banned D&D and any pen and paper games.

It was because of Gary Gygax and D&D that I first learned that everyone at one time has to stand up for what they think is right, and stand against what they think is wrong. At fifteen I stood against my parents, the school, and my church against what I thought was wrong in the mistaken believe that Dungeons and Dragons is a bad influence. I saw it as learning cooperation, fair play, sportsmanship, imagination, problem solving, and fun...among many others.

I remember getting up early one Saturday morning to go to my first gaming convention. Hundreds of people from all age groups, all races, and all social classes game together just to play their various pen and paper games. And we were all equals, gathered together by our mutual interests and hobbies. We weren't forced to be together, we chose to be together.

It was through these pen and paper games that I was introduced to computer gaming. I had been around computers because my Dad worked with them, but not really for games. It was a fellow RPG player that introduced me to his C-64 collection of various games. From there I amassed a large collection myself.

Then Microsoft took hold and I got myself a PC just for the new games available. That led to learning DOS so I could install and play the new games...most of the computer version of RPG's that wouldn't have existed without Gary Gygax. There was too many to list or remember, but one in particular was Ultima.

Eventually the Ultima Legacy came to it's height with Ultima Online...the first of what would soon be many Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games (MMORPG). And I've played most of them, including the current World of Warcraft the first officially mainstream computer RPG with over 10 million US subscribers. That is more subscribers then some of the highest rated network televisions shows get.

It was through pen and paper role playing that I had met my closest friends and even some of my closest girlfriends. I don't remember any girlfriend that didn't at minimum pick and and play a game system (nes, snes, playstation, etc) lasting for more then a month or so.

My wife is a computer gamer. We didn't meet through gaming, but it is one of the mutual interests that we have. My daughter will be a computer gamer. I know that as even at four months I have a hard time keeping her away from my keyboard if I'm holding her at my computer.

Because of MMORPG's I've "met" people all over the world that I would not have met otherwise. I remember late one night playing Harpoon Online (now defunct) against a fellow in Russia. I played the Russians and he played USA. I consider myself friends with many of those I've "met" even though I've only communicated with them via game chat or occasionally voice chat.

I didn't care what race, creed, religion, age, social class, or anything. We were all equals, gathered together by our mutual interests and hobbies.

I never met the man, but I am who I am in large part due to Gary Gygax. May he rest in peace.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This was a nice tribute. Mr Gygax was unknown to most people yet greatly influenced our culture in so many ways.