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Quote of the Week: Gygax’s Radio

An anecdote as told by Gary Gygax, creator of the role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons:

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.’
The quote appeared in an obituary for Gygax, who passed away this past week at the age of 69 (nytimes.com). Gygax’s development of table-top, turn-based, dice-and-paper collaborative games laid the groundwork for what became today’s MMOGs, or “massively multiplayer online games” — and, more broadly, for virtual reality and the widespread adoption of avatars or online alternate personalities, which have long since seeped from controlled gaming environments into everyday life.

As a kid, I was less into the dense hardcover manuals of Dungeons & Dragons, and more into the elegant, bare-bones rule systems of Melee and Wizard, designed by Steve Jackson. In my childhood imagination, to borrow Gygax’s analogy, D&D was TV and Melee and Wizard, later collectively known as The Fantasy Trip, were radio: far simpler tools that left more to the imagination.

Jackson, just to further emphasize the link between table-based role-playing games and nascent computer culture, also was involved with the GURPS Cyberpunk gaming manual, which was the subject of an infamously uninformed raid by the FBI in 1990, back when the word “hacker” was more closely synonymous with “terror” than with “entrepreneurship.”

By Marc Weidenbaum

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