Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Geek Love: Gary Gygax, Game Pioneer, passes away

Geek Love
GARY GYGAX died last week and the universe did not collapse. This surprises me a little bit, because he built it. . . (from the New York Times)

Last week Gary Gygax, co-creater of the role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons, passed away. In a somewhat real sense, he created something that changed the world. Not that role-playing games was new (Cowboys and Indians anyone? How about playing 'House'? Or 'Let's have tea') or the having mechanics (H.G. Wells Tin Men) or playing someone else (pick anyone who had thoughts of acting). But it gave a way of thinking and viewing a world, through another's eyes in a way that could be repeated and reapplied. Nowadays, computer role-playing games are more prevalent, but these don't have that same character of having to understand reality through another person's eyes and history. And the social aspect of interacting with people is not there (as opposed to interacting with only characters.) Acting does not require that either (anyone healthy can separate their acting from real relationships. Presumably actors can have actual friendships outside their roles, but it is not required.) Things, situations, and abilities only read about or seen in movies can be played, and choices made, and consequences experienced. It even forced players to declare their version of morality, and act on it with all its freedom, constraints, benefits, and consequences, something that is not in your average board game.

Anyway, do I have anything deep to say? Not really. But I got a message of a somewhat quiet e-mail list that was a game. The organizer was writing a book that was built around the game we were playing, and wanted us to test out the rules. I had made a character some time ago, so dug out his history and the stories of him growing up, becoming an adult and making his way in the world. And translated it into the game. And sent it in. And for a few minutes, thought of the life of someone who does not exist, in a far away world, living a life very different then the nice, safe one I live now.
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