Gary Gygax, 1938-2008


Dungeons & Dragons co-creator Gary Gygax has died at age 69.

Gygax always enjoyed hearing from the game's legion of devoted fans, many of whom would stop by the family's home in Lake Geneva, about 55 miles southwest of Milwaukee, his wife said. Despite his declining health, he hosted weekly games of Dungeons & Dragons as recently as January, she said.

"It really meant a lot to him to hear from people from over the years about how he helped them become a doctor, a lawyer, a policeman, what he gave them," [widow Gail] Gygax said. "He really enjoyed that."

It's hard to imagine a the video game world evolving the way it did without Gygax; it's tougher still to imagine the normalization of web interaction and the rise of things like Second Life. In 2004, Kevin Parker traced the history of interactive gaming for reason, and in 2002 Chris Mooney did whatever the digital equivilent is of "shoe-leather reporting," treading inside the world of J.R.R. Tolkein games, to understand the tug of the fantasies that inspired Gygax. Chicken John Rinaldi e-mails reason:

Of all the people who contributed to the culture that made you who you are and championed the idea that you can do anything, be anything and do anything any way you want to however you can think it up… Gary Gygax wrote the book. Literally. He wrote the Dungeon Masters Guide, the greatest book ever written. Human nature, science, play, stats, history, geography, logistics and encumbrance… hit points, armor class, fantasy colliding with fact to make it all so real you just got swept away and actually forgot that you were a teenage idiot with no way out. Gary Gygax saved more lives than pennacillian. When I was 10, he was 39. He knew he was writing a book for 10 year olds… but never talked down to us. He was the only adult presence in my life from the time I was 10 to the time I was like 15 that didn't preach, didn't talk down and didn't have any parameters.

Advanced Dungeons and Dragons may be the butt end of the joke to some of you, but to others who understand you are taking a moment right now to remember the magic missle, the basalik and the mirror trick, White Plume Mountain, The Lich from Tomb of Horrors, Loth and the spider minions, Fonnakin Hoddypeak and astral projection.

Gary Gygax should win a Nobel Peace Prize. Either Obama or Clinton should recognize his death… and cinch the nomination. Gary had more fans than Jesus, likely. And no enemies. I am truly saddened that his life was so short, but I'm sure it was fuller than anything I can imagine. I have always wanted to meet him. Life is simply too short.

After the trouble he's gotten into from Goolsbee and Rezko, I think Obama's going to stay away from creative types with curious ethnic names.