05 March 2008

RIP: E Gary Gygax

E Gary Gygax
27 Jul 1938 - 4 Mar 2008

ZUI this article from the New York Times:
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.


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.

ZUI also this article from the Toronto Star:
Gygax and Dave Arneson developed Dungeons & Dragons in 1974 using medieval characters and mythical creatures. The game known for its oddly shaped dice became a hit, particularly among teenage boys, and eventually was turned into video games, books and movies.


Born Ernest Gary Gygax, he grew up in Chicago and moved to Lake Geneva at the age of 8. Gygax's father, a Swiss immigrant who played violin in the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, read fantasy books to his only son and hooked him on the genre, Gail Gygax said.

Gygax dropped out of high school but took anthropology classes at the University of Chicago for a while, she said. He was working as an insurance underwriter in the 1960s, when he began playing war-themed board games.

But Gygax wanted to create a game that involved more fantasy. To free up time to work on that, he left the insurance business and became a shoe repairman, she said.

Gygax also was a prolific writer and wrote dozens of fantasy books, including the Greyhawk series of adventure novels.

And this article from The Globe and Mail:
Mr. Gygax and Mr. Arneson originally came up with the concept for Dungeons & Dragons - played with graph paper, pencils, polyhedral dice and a lot of imagination - for a small community of like-minded gamers after playing war games with miniature figurines. But the game caught on and they went on to sell millions of copies.

"Everyone knows about the game he created - whether they play it and love it or whether they point and laugh and say, 'Oh, that's for geeks,' " said Steve Jackson, himself a popular games designer in Austin, Tex., and considered by some in the online gaming community as the Gary Gygax of the eighties.

Mr. Jackson said it's thanks to Mr. Gygax and Mr. Arneson that popular cultural icons such as the Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter series are now household names.

I first heard of D&D back around '79 or '80, though it wasn't until the fall of '81 that I started playing. A friend from Mensa invited me to join the game he was playing in; it was fun, but it was about a 30-minute drive each way, so I started looking at the cards on the bulletin board at the local gaming shop. The first one I called turned out to be only a mile or so away, so I made my apologies and switched groups.

The new group were playing AD&D, a similar but more complex game. I played with them - and took my first turn as DM - for several months, right up until I left for boot camp. And I kept on playing and DMing for the next decade. Along the way I tried other games, too - GURPS, Traveller, 2300, &c - and enjoyed most of them.

My favourite RPG now is Traveller (especially the MegaTraveller version), and it's been 15 years since I last did any face-to-face gaming at all, but I still have all of my AD&D characters and books somewhere....

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