The Legacy of Gary Gygax

Ernest Gary Gygax, one of the creators of Dungeons and Dragons, passed away on Tuesday. I have avoided writing about his death because I didn’t want to fall into writing a long geek diatribe. But I realized this morning that what Gygax did is at the core of Fast Company’s focus. Gygax was an innovator whose creation went on to inspire countless others to create.

Gygax himself was inspired by dozens of fantasy novels, from Tolkien to Moorcock, when he decided to take some dry war-gaming rules and add fantastical elements and change the focus from massive armies to small bands of heroes. When he and Dave Arneson created D&D, they begat an entire industry of “paper-and-pen” role-playing games. Dozens of such publishing companies are beholden to his work.

But even if you are not a fan of role-playing, you have been indirectly affected by him. Thousands of writers played around in D&D worlds before they decided to try their hands in creating their own worlds in the shape of novels. Or game designers, who enjoyed partaking in a game of imagination, before going on to create video games. Similarly, screenwriters who bring us television and film have had their creativity tempered by hours of playing Dungeons & Dragons.

It has been 34 years since Gygax created D&D. And in all the releases and editions that have followed, and a new edition being published in June, millions the world over have found themselves using their imagination and creativity to collaboratively form epic tales of heroes on adventures. There may not be another single contribution to human culture that has inspired as many hours of creative expression.

Gary, thanks for the game. Myself and my friends have been better for it.KO