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 Gary Gygax, Game Pioneer, Dies at 69

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Date posted: 05/03/2008

Yesterday, Gary Gygax, pioneer of tabletop roleplay, and the man largely responsible for D&D, the fantasy ruleset that popularised roleplay and brought so many fantasies to life, passed away.

He died Tuesday at his home in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. He was 69.

His death was confirmed by his wife, Gail Gygax, who said he had been ailing and had recently suffered an abdominal aneurysm.

Before Dungeons & Dragons, a fantasy world was something to be merely read about in the works of authors like J. R. R. Tolkien and Robert Howard. But with Dungeons & Dragons, Mr. Gygax and his collaborator, Dave Arneson, created the first fantasy universe that could actually be inhabited.

Dungeons & Dragons formed a bridge between the non-interactive world of books and films and the neophyte computer game industry.

?The essence of a role-playing game is that it is a group, co-operative experience,? Mr. Gygax said in a telephone interview in 2006. ?There is no winning or losing, but rather the value is in the experience of imagining yourself as a character in whatever genre you?re involved in, whether it?s a fantasy game, the Wild West, secret agents or whatever else. You get to sort of vicariously experience those things.?

These days, pen-and-paper role-playing games have largely been supplanted by online computer games. Dungeons & Dragons itself has been translated into electronic games, including Dungeons & Dragons Online. Mr. Gygax recognised the shift, but he never fully approved. To him, all of the graphics of a computer dulled what he considered one of the major human faculties: the imagination.

?There is no intimacy; it?s not live,? he said of online games. ?It?s being translated through a computer, and your imagination is not there the same way it is when you?re actually together with a group of people. It reminds me of one time where I saw some children talking about whether they liked radio or television, and I asked one little boy why he preferred radio, and he said, ?Because the pictures are so much better.? ?

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