Fabulous Eulogy for Gary Gygax

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.

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  • Arwen O'Reilly

    Make sure to enlarge the image in the article! It’s a hilarious illustration … just *try* to get to “Girls.” Turns out there’s only one true path :-)

  • I love the way that “FUR CON” leads to “NO”, “NO”, “NO”, “NO”, “NO”, and “NO”.

  • Tim, I’m glad we can count you among us in the “Blogging about diagrams” box.

    -Noah, diagram geek

  • LA Times columnist Joel Stein (who apparently took the “Short-Fiction Writer” path), wrote another heartfelt tribute about his D&D experience from 4th to 8th grades: “But the true thrill of the game was that it made you feel smart. You constantly had to consult actuarial tables in the back of the dozens of “D&D” books to determine the results of a battle, convert currency or figure out how many kilograms your character could carry. Everything was documented in such detail that in the event of a nuclear holocaust, Gygax had left survivors a complete guide to replicate society. A society like a Renaissance Faire.”

  • I thought the diagram kinda sucked, given that it didn’t really parse as a flow chart, but whatever.

    But I was a major league D&Der, back in the day, playing with friends who had the first three books (and Chainmail, to boot). Our favorite DM is now a scientist with the Weather Underground (the Ann Arbor-based weather folks, not the radical arm of the SDS, mind you), two of the players have doctorates in entomology (and, come to think of it, all of the folks I know the current whereabouts of from that crowd have either PhDs or JDs), and all of us look back on that era with fondness.

  • “I’m not talking about the cosmological, Big Bang part. Everyone who reads blogs knows that a flying spaghetti monster made all that.” LOL! Very witty!

  • George Humphreys

    Strange – Just last week my 11 year old son asked “have you ever heard of D&D?” Heard of it! I dug out the 3 original books/Chainmail/figurines/dice from the attic, and set him loose – the graph paper’s out and the juices are flowing. A tiny tribute to a timeless contribution – thanks Gary Gygax.

  • i want to share with you.

    Minister Rolls -2 to Eulogy for Gary Gygax

    Pastor John Waler admitted to his nervousness in performing the service for the late “Dungeons and Dragons” co-creator, Gary Gygax.

    “Some of my parishioners had mentioned that he was a man of notable fame,” Said Pastor John. I was not familiar with “Diamonds and Dragons” so I had to hurry and gather information, or risk looking like a fool in front of his fans and family.”

    After co-creation of the legendary role playing game, Gygax had been prolific creating other RPGs and board games, as well as popping his head in and out of any place where his name was mentioned. He was a fairly regular fixture at various gaming events. Gygax had been in poor health for quite some time.

    Personally naïve on the subject, I spoke with our “Nerds-and-Virgins” columnist, he had this to say;

    “Gary Gygax? You’re seriously asking me who Gary Gygax is. What in the hell were you doing in high school? I mean, where have you been since 1974? You are such a dork. Whatever, he was one of the coolest guys ever. I met him once, and he signed my Monster Manual.” It was cryptic.

    Fortunately for Pastor John, there were members of his flock who were willing to fill him in on the subject. (Unlike some spiteful, elitist, employees here.) Standing before the mourners, he showed confidence and pretended that he knew Gary…unsuccessfully.

    “He was never afraid to help a fellow elf, or troll up to a task with Dee-twelve charisma. Gary’s stats were all four dee six, as I am sure those of you who knew him can attest. He once said to me, ‘Pastor Dave, we all have a little dagger and dragon inside us’. He was right, just as it says in the book of Matthew…” In an inexplicably strange effort, Pastor Waler wore pointed plastic ears, and what seemed to be some sort of cape as he delivered these words.

    After the service, the mourners quietly mocked the Minister and headed home to battle their own trolls and unicorns, or whatever those kind of people do.

    as original http://www.monkey-breath.com/2008/03/minister-rolls-2-to-eulogy-for-gary.html