Gary Gygax and the Birth of Dungeons & Dragons
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A gaming enthusiast pays homage to Gary Gygax (1938-2008), the creator of the swords-and-sorcery role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons.

Chicago native Gygax acquired his taste for fantasy from a father who regaled him with bedtime stories of “giants and dragons [and] wise old wizards with magic rings.” As he grew up, he indulged his escapist daydreams by reading pulp science fiction and fantasy magazines like Weird Tales while cultivating a passion for war games and chess. By the time he married and began his adult life, Gygax was spending so many of his evenings gaming with other locals that his wife suspected he was having an affair. In 1968, he helped organize the first war-games convention in Lake Geneva (called Gen Con for short) and started to develop games based on fantasy themes that used elaborate table settings, multisided dice, and miniatures. In 1973, Gygax formed a partnership with his closest gaming friends called Tactical Studies Rules and published the first 1,000 copies of the game he would call Dungeons & Dragons a year later. D&D grew rapidly in popularity during the late 1970s and into the 1980s. Yet its successes, which included cartoons and a (aborted) movie deal, were tainted by internal problems within TSR—e.g., lawsuits brought against Gygax by former partners and Gygax’s own financial mismanagement. The D&D creator would eventually go on to found other small gaming companies, develop other games, and even write pulp sci-fi–style novels. By the early 2000s, he had become a beloved popular-culture icon, and Sync magazine “named Gary as number one on its list of the ‘50 Biggest Nerds of All Time.’ ” Witwer’s respect for Gygax is evident throughout, but while his overview of D&D's influence on popular culture is informative, this book will likely find its strongest readership only among fellow gaming aficionados.

Well-researched but with limited appeal.

Pub Date: Oct. 6th, 2015
ISBN: 978-1-63286-279-2
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15th, 2015


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