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Davis, California

Monday, June 24, 2024

Gaming legend Gary Gygax passes away

The gaming world lost one of its guiding lights last week as Gary Gygax passed away Mar. 4. Gygax is best known for his role as co-creator, with David Arneson, of the role-playing game Dungeons and Dragons.

Dungeons and Dragons, or D&D for short, is a game without winners and losers, played in the imaginations of those participating. Known in popular society for its many sided, multicolored die and its vast array of rulebooks, what started as a hobby has become a profitable industry, boasting over $1 billion in estimated sales. Similar estimates place the number of people who have played the game at over 20 million.

Gygax, 69, died of an abdominal aneurism at his house in Lake Geneva, Wis. His presence is already being missed in the gaming community.

Wizards of the Coast was deeply saddened to learn that Gary Gygax passed away, said Katie Page, a Wizards of the Coast spokesperson in an e-mail interview. His innovation created an entirely new type of hobby that now attracts millions of players worldwide to face-to-face and online role-playing games.

Gygax was a grand storyteller renowned for his unique style, sprawling ‘Gygaxian’ adventures and the fantastic World of Greyhawk, she said. He inspired generations of players, designers, and authors, and he will be sorely missed by legions of fans. We extend our sincerest condolences to his family and friends.

The impact of his death is also being felt on the UC Davis campus. The Aggie spoke to Brendan Baker, president of the Davis Roleplaying Activities and Gaming Organizational Network.

I would say some of the members of DRAGON have been hit hard by the news, he said. There are those who have been playing the game for over two decades, and the loss of Gygax is the loss of an icon, a legend. Some would say Gygax was to the gaming world what John Lennon was to the music world.

Gamers note that Gygax, through D&D, has had a profound impact on other gaming areas such as computer and video games, going so far as to say that without him, there would be no World of Warcraft, currently the number one Massively Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Game with over 9 million players worldwide.

Yeah, I think that’s accurate, said Wes Pierce, store manager of the Davis gaming and hobby store Bizarro World. A lot of the guys who create the games nowadays grew up in the 1970s. [These are] guys who played D&D or even Chainmail. Anyone who’s grown up around any of this will be influenced by it. All of it can be credited back to Gary Gygax. He’s the founding father, so to speak.

Though D&D is based primarily in fantasy, its roots are in war gaming. Gygax was one of a small community of war gamers in the ’70s who enjoyed collaborating on tabletop military simulations. Dungeons and Dragons grew out of earlier iterations, such as Chainmail, into what it is today. The first edition of D&D materials was published by Gygax’s company Tactical Rules and Strategy (TSR) in 1974. The game is now published by Wizards of the Coast, a subsidiary of Hasbro, which acquired TSR in 1997.

Gygax often said in interviews that the aspect of the game he enjoyed most was that people would approach him years later and tell him what an impact the game had had on their lives, something he thought was important.

The essence of a role-playing game is that it is a group, cooperative experience, he said in a 2006 interview.

Gygax is survived by his wife and six children.


RICHARD PROCTER can be reached at arts@californiaaggie.com.


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