Gary Gygax's Video Gaming Legacy

In the fall of 1972, Dave Arneson gathered a group of friends around a table in Gary Gygax's Lake Geneva Wisconsin home and changed the gaming world forever. After that fateful weekend gaming session, Gygax took Arneson's notes, and using rules form his own fantasy miniatures game Chainmail, created the game that would go on to sell millions of copies around the world - Dungeons & Dragons. A huge accomplishment for a couple of gaming geeks, but it was only the beginning. Dungeons & Dragons spread beyond the tabletop into the hearts and minds of some of the earliest pioneers of gaming. Now one of the fathers of role-playing has passed on, but Gary Gygax's legacy lives on in the video games we play. In honour of this great man, let's take a look at the influence his work has had on our favourite pastime.

1971 - Gary Gygax and Jeff Peren create Chainmail, a fantasy miniatures game implementing rules from standard medieval gaming, adding elves, giants, halflings, and other elements borrowed from sources such as Tolkien's Lord of the Rings.

1972 - Dave Arneson visits Gygax in order to demonstrate the game that would become Dungeons & Dragons.

1973 - Gygax and Don Kaye found Tactical Studies Rules - TSR.

1974 - TSR publishes the first edition of Dungeons & Dragons.

1976 - Willie Crowther, an early D&D player, creates a text-based game called Crowther's Colossal Cave, which would eventually morph into Adventure, which was a direct influence on the creators of the ultimate text-based game, Zork.

1977 - Young Richard Garriott attends a sumer computer camp, where he earns the nickname Lord British and is exposed to Dungeons & Dragons for the first time. Soon he would be hosting popular D&D weekends at his parents house.

- Roy Trubshaw and Richard Bartle create the first MUD - Multi-User Dungeon. It is the precursor to the modern MMO.

1980 - Richard Garriott releases one of the first computer role-playing games, Akalabeth: World of Doom. This year also sees the release of Dungeons & Dragons Computer Labyrinth Game, the first computer game using the D&D license. as well as Garriott's Ultima I: The First Age of Darkness - a game that influences the RPG genre to this day.

1982 - The first Dungeons & Dragons console game is released for the Intellivision, simply titled Advanced Dungeons & Dragons. Dragonstomper is released for the Atari 2600, widely considered to be the first console RPG. Dragonstomper included gathering experience points and gold, random battles, and multiple ways to solve problems in the game.

1985 - TSR lets developers know that the AD&D license is up for grabs, with big names like Electronic Arts, Origin, and Sierra being beaten out by SSI (Strategic Simulations, Inc.). SSI would go on to create 30 AD&D games.

1988 - SSI releases Pool of Radiance, the first in the Gold Box series of D&D games, which allowed you to import your characters into subsequent games to continue your adventure.

1991 - The first graphical MMORPG is released via America Online - Neverwinter Nights. Based on the Dungeons & Dragons setting The Forgotten Realms, the concept of clans and PVP in online role-playing started here.

1996 - Ultima Online is released, its popularity paving the way for the enormous glut of MMORPG games we're experiencing today.

1998 - A small company called BioWare gets put on the map when it releases the Forgotten Realms game Baldur's Gate - incidentally the first computer game I ever reviewed on a professional basis.

2002 - BioWare releases a new version of Neverwinter Nights, featuring the ability for players to create their own modules and run them via the internet, effectively bringing the tabletop experience online.

2006 - Gary Gygax lends his voice as the Dungeon Master to Turbine for certain quests in Dungeons & Dragons Online: Stormreach, bringing the whole thing full circle.

While certainly not a complete listing, you can easily see how the creation of Dungeons & Dragons influenced the video game industry. Every time you gain hit points, or generate your numeric attributes, or choose what type of elf you want to be in the latest fantasy MMO, you're dealing with concepts that spawned from that weekend in 1972. Even when you play a game that isn't an RPG, there's a good chance that someone involved in the creation of that game wouldn't be here today if the works of Gary Gygax hadn't inspired them to dream up their own fantastical worlds. He will be missed, but more importantly - he will forever be remembered.

Portions of this article were referenced from Brad King and John Borland's excellent 2003 book Dungeons and Dreamers. The book explores gaming from those early days in Wisconsin up to today's massive online communities, and is a must read for anyone interested in the roots of gaming.


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