Thursday, 6 March 2008

Vale Gary Gygax

Nerds the world over are mourning the death on Tuesday of E. Gary Gygax, the co-creator of Dungeons and Dragons and the father of the modern role-playing game.

While I was into some role-playing games as a kid, I wasn't hugely into D&D. The fantasy genre always left me a little cold, and D&D was always a bit too Tolkein for my liking.

Some fantasy-buff friends of mine would spend days at a time building D&D characters, creating scenarios and drawing ridiculously detailed maps of mountain paths and dungeons. I'd sit and watch for a while, play the odd game with them, but soon get bored and go read some Asimov or Lovecraft.

Even in the role-playing world it was always the horror and science fiction genres for me, with games like Chill, The Call of Cthulhu and Paranoia.

But still, I appreciate that D&D is where it all began.

Almost from inception, D&D managed to engender moral panic in some of the less imaginative sections of society. I remember hearing a lot about this when I was at school in the early 1980s, with D&D being blamed for everything from the rise in teen suicide to the impending apocalypse.

Of course, this only served to increase its exposure and popularity. Boggle just didn't get that sort of press.

D&D's influence on popular culture in general and gaming in particular cannot be denied. Its notion of immersive and freeform gameplay has influenced a new generation of computer games, with World of Warcraft and Second Life just two of the most obvious examples.

But even this isn't really new. These recent MMORPGs are just the latest in a long line that started way back with text-based adventure games on the very earliest home personal computers. D&D's genesis in the mid-70s coincided with the introduction of the first PCs, and those text-based adventure games were simple attempts to recreate the atmosphere of a D&D round-table.

The tabletop game still exists of course, although its popularity has taken a hit from the ubiquity and quality of the gaming console. But in any high school or university you'll still be able to find, huddled away in some dark corner, a group of nerds quietly rolling their dice and going on their heroic quests.

Gygax really started something special with D&D. It continues to this day and Gygax will be remembered for as long as nerds continue to gather together, fuelled by too much pizza and coke, to lay waste to the armies of orcs and demons in their imaginations.

And when the battles are done, there'll be more than a few mugs of virtual mead raised in Gary's honour tonight.

1 comments:

Bianca said...

"While I was into some role-playing games as a kid"
Ummm and all the way into your adulthood, you were still buying them admit it *grin*
I played the computer version of Vampire the Masqerade a while ago... I want to go find it again now.
I never really liked live roleplaying but I read a whole bunch of D&D books and watched other people play. Nerd boys are my weakness and all.