Wednesday, Dec. 17, 2008

Gary Gygax, 1938-2008

A college dropout from Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, Gygax was one of the creators of a game that transformed popular culture. In Dungeons & Dragons, players attempted epic quests in a heroic fantasy world that was confabulated from a grab-bag of mythical sources — including J.R.R. Tolkien, Norse mythology and Robert Howard — and which was ruled by chance, as determined by rolls of exotic, oddly shaped dice. Dungeons & Dragons sold millions of copies in the 1970s and 1980s and laid the cultural groundwork for movies such as The Lord of the Rings, video games like World of Warcraft and a generation of fantasy writers and fans. Gygax's vision was so potent that it fused with the subconscious of his fans; even after they grew up and left it behind, those who loved Dungeons & Dragons never really stopped playing it.

Lev Grossman

See pictures of Barack Obama's college years.