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Gary Gygax commemorated in blogosphere

Posted by Joshua Glenn  March 6, 2008 12:51 PM

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Gary Gygax, one of the co-creators of the popular and influential Dungeons and Dragons role-playing game, died Tuesday at his home in Lake Geneva, Wisc. The blogosphere is reeling in dismay.

gygax.jpg
Gary Gygax

* "I don't think I've really grokked it yet," Mike Mearls, the lead developer of the upcoming 4th edition of Dungeons and Dragons, told Wired's Underwired blog. "He was like the cool uncle that every gamer had. He shaped an entire generation of gamers."

* Over at The Cimmerian, a journal dedicated the fantasy novels of Robert E. Howard (including Conan, the Cimmerian himself), we read that

Gygax was a giant, a man whose enthusiasm and sense of adult play took a weird cerebral offshoot of board and strategy games and turned it into an accessible, endlessly stimulating, life-changing mythology for the Star Wars/Lancer Conan/"Frodo Lives!" generation of the 1970s and 80s. Those of us who risked life, limb, and reputation carrying our Player’s Handbooks and Monster Manuals cover-out through the hallways of Catholic school owe to him a large part of our imagination and happiness during those years.

* Brian Crecente, editor of Kotaku, the popular blog for "obsessive gamers," writes:

Gygax was an inspiration to the gaming industry, with his work directly or indirectly influencing entire genres -- role-playing games and MMORPGs specifically. I probably wouldn't be writing this right now if the thought of missing my weekly D&D games hadn't kept me from allocating my 6'6" frame towards more sporting endeavors. Gary Gygax may have passed on, but the legacy he leaves to gaming will live on forever. Rest in peace, Dungeon Master.

* Elsewhere on Kotaku, we find a Gygax-influence timeline based on the 2003 book "Dungeons and Dreamers: The Rise of Computer Game Culture from Geek to Chic." Excerpt:

1971 - Gary Gygax and Jeff Peren create Chainmail, a fantasy miniatures game implementing rules from standard medieval gaming, adding elves, giants, halflings, and other elements borrowed from sources such as Tolkien's Lord of the Rings.
1972 - Dave Arneson visits Gygax in order to demonstrate the game that would become Dungeons & Dragons.
1973 - Gygax and Don Kaye found Tactical Studies Rules - TSR.
1974 - TSR publishes the first edition of Dungeons & Dragons.
1976 - Willie Crowther, an early D&D player, creates a text-based game called Crowther's Colossal Cave, which would eventually morph into Adventure, which was a direct influence on the creators of the ultimate text-based game, Zork.
1977 - Young Richard Garriott attends a sumer computer camp, where he earns the nickname Lord British and is exposed to Dungeons & Dragons for the first time. Soon he would be hosting popular D&D weekends at his parents house.
1978 - Roy Trubshaw and Richard Bartle create the first MUD - Multi-User Dungeon. It is the precursor to the modern MMO.
1980 - Richard Garriott releases one of the first computer role-playing games, Akalabeth: World of Doom. This year also sees the release of Dungeons & Dragons Computer Labyrinth Game, the first computer game using the D&D license. as well as Garriott's Ultima I: The First Age of Darkness - a game that influences the RPG genre to this day.
1996 - Ultima Online is released, its popularity paving the way for the enormous glut of MMORPG games we're experiencing today.

* Jordan Ellenberg, a math professor at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, blogs at Quomodocumque. He offers two D&D memories:

I always had trouble inventing names for my characters until I came up with the idea of naming them after counties in New Jersey — these names (Carteret, Bergen, Camden) were perfect, recognizably Anglo-Saxon but at the same time slightly exotic and antique. This same combination of qualities should make them popular names for baby girls, sometime in the future.
The summer after 8th grade I spent two weeks at “D&D camp” at Shippensburg State U. in Pennsylvania. I was tremendously excited in advance of the trip, but in the end my time at camp burned D&D out of me. Too ambitious. Everybody wanted to pile up gold pieces and experience points, nobody wanted to speak with plants.

* Dungeons and Dragons was great for creative types, according to the New York gossip blog Gawker:

Hey, raging creative underclass! Remember playing pencil-and-paper role-playing games in high school college? I don't, because I was cool and played real-time strategy games on my computer instead. But my friends did! And they were among millions who played Dungeons & Dragons, the first commercial role-playing game. My friends weren't stereotypical nerds (they were unique and unpeggable nerds); they loved plot and character, and in addition to writing and drawing, they told each other stories through RPGs like D&D and Mage.

* Even LOLCats are mourning:

dndkittehmorn128491548670347053.jpg

Brainiac -- who was president of Boston Latin School's Strategic Gaming Society during the school years 1982-3 and 1983-4 -- also bids a fond farewell to Mr. Gygax.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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1 comments so far...
  1. You missed the single finest (and probably most literate) tribute, from Boston-based über-geek web comic xkcd:
    http://xkcd.com/393/

    [PS: I know this whole "blogs with comments" thing is experimental here at boston.com, and I surmise that it really hurts somebody at the Boston Globe's head, but geez, it looks so bush league and anti-web to not ask for the URL of the blog of a commenter]

    Posted by Ezra Ball March 8, 08 03:05 PM
 
About brainiac Brainiac is the daily blog of the Globe's Sunday Ideas section, covering news and delights from the worlds of art, science, literature, history, design, and more. You can follow us on Twitter @GlobeIdeas.
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Leon Neyfakh is the staff writer for Ideas. Amanda Katz is the deputy Ideas editor. Stephen Heuser is the Ideas editor.

Guest blogger Simon Waxman is Managing Editor of Boston Review and has written for WBUR, Alternet, McSweeney's, Jacobin, and others.

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Joshua Rothman is a graduate student and Teaching Fellow in the Harvard English department, and an Instructor in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. He teaches novels and political writing.

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