I was deeply saddened to find out that Gary Gygax passed away today, after struggling with health issues for several years. Gary Gygax co-created the Dungeons & Dragons role-playing game, and thereby invented the entire role-playing game genre.
Like any good geek, I grew up playing role-playing games during my teens. Even though we did not actually play that much D&D in particular, all the RPGs we played were directly descended from it, and none of them would exist without Gary Gygax. The first RPG I ever played (this must have been around 1986) was Das Schwarze Auge (The Dark Eye), a relatively simple German role-playing game that was strongly inspired by D&D. After my friends and I grew out of this, we explored many other games. Some of the ones I fondly remember are RuneQuest, Traveller, Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay (probably my all-time favorite role-playing game; not to be confused with the Warhammer table-top game), Paranoia (“Trust The Computer. The Computer is Your Friend.”), Vampire: The Masquerade, and KULT. We even participated in a Live action role-playing game once (yes, and I’m not ashamed to admit it. :) ). We hung out at our local game store (luckily the city I grew up in was big and progressive enough to actually have a game store that stocked RPGs) and bought dice (the store owner would always give us the option to role each die against him for double-or-nothing) and miniatures.
There were phases where we played every weekend, and phases where we played less, especially during the 90s, as most of us started to become more interested in going out to bars and clubs (and the opposite sex…). Still, we played at least occasionally during college, until I got married and moved to the US in 1998 (gosh, has it really been almost 10 years?) and started my first job.
For some reason I never got back into role-playing after that, although the thought to make an effort to find a new group did occur to me a few times. But I still like to nostalgically think about the great, both intellectually and emotionally stimulating (and simply fun) times we’ve had playing RPGs. Many of my German friends are still regularly playing role-playing games these days.
And of course D&D has similarly influenced computer games, and many of my favorite computer and video games (like The Bard’s Tale, the Ultima series, or the Elder Scrolls series, not to mention the myriads of AD&D computer games) would not exist without Gary Gygax.
For all of this I am truly grateful. Gary Gygax, rest in peace.