Writing in yesterday’s New York Times, Wired senior editor Adam Rogers contributed a wonderful meditation on the recent death of Gary Gygax, creator of Dungeons and Dragons, in which he argues that Gygax’s contribution to modern culture is far more profound than most people realize:
GARY GYGAX died last week and the universe did not collapse. This surprises me a little bit, because he built it.
I’m not talking about the cosmological, Big Bang part. Everyone who reads blogs knows that a flying spaghetti monster made all that. But Mr. Gygax co-created the game Dungeons & Dragons, and on that foundation of role-playing and polyhedral dice he constructed the social and intellectual structure of our world….
We live in Gary Gygax’s world. The most popular books on earth are fantasy novels about wizards and magic swords. The most popular movies are about characters from superhero comic books. The most popular TV shows look like elaborate role-playing games: intricate, hidden-clue-laden science fiction stories connected to impossibly mathematical games that live both online and in the real world. And you, the viewer, can play only if you’ve sufficiently mastered your home-entertainment command center so that it can download a snippet of audio to your iPhone, process it backward with beluga whale harmonic sequences and then podcast the results to the members of your Yahoo group.
Adam’s eulogy also includes insightful comments (and a great chart) on the geek character, as well as the influence of D&D all the way through to Facebook. Well worth a read. [via Tom Christiansen, who knew Gary when he was growing up in Wisconsin.] Update: Be sure to click through to the chart linked above.