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.
* "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:
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.
The author is solely responsible for the content.
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.
Guest blogger Elizabeth Manus is a writer living in New York City. She has been a book review editor at the Boston Phoenix, and a columnist for The New York Observer and Metro.
Guest blogger Sarah Laskow is a freelance writer and editor in New York City. She edits Smithsonian's SmartNews blog and has contributed to Salon, Good, The American Prospect, Bloomberg News, and other publications.
Guest blogger Joshua Glenn is a Boston-based writer, publisher, and freelance semiotician. He was the original Brainiac blogger, and is currently editor of the blog HiLobrow, publisher of a series of Radium Age science fiction novels, and co-author/co-editor of several books, including the story collection "Significant Objects" and the kids' field guide to life "Unbored."
Guest blogger Ruth Graham is a freelance journalist in New Hampshire, and a frequent Ideas contributor. She is a former features editor for the New York Sun, and has written for publications including Slate and the Wall Street Journal.
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.