It’s been long enough since I felt the impetus to get a blog going again that I had begun to idly wonder what it was going to take to finally inspire me.
I wish I hadn’t found out.
Across the RPG industry, scores of people are attempting to summon up words regarding what this day means to them. Most of them are going to make the point that if not for the work of Gary Gygax, they wouldn’t be doing what they’re doing. I, too, can state the conspicuous — that if for not Gary Gygax’s vision, his passion for game play, and his belief in the value of this new thing called roleplaying games, my life would look very different today.
But for me, it’s not just a matter of saying “If it wasn’t for Gary Gygax, I don’t know where I’d be right now.” If it wasn’t for Gary Gygax, I don’t know who I’d be right now.
Throughout our lives, there are a number of key moments that define our state of mind and imagination. In my own life, I have the same number of linchpin turning points as anybody — points that mark my journey along the increasingly complex social and intellectual pathways that brought me to the point where I stand right here, right now. But though those points all carry the same amount of potency as we pass through them the first time, one realizes in looking back at it that very few of them are really all that irreplaceable. For the most part, their value lies in their transformative power, but most transformation is subtly self-directed in the end. We become what we seek to become, searching mostly for impetus, not innovation.
Like many geeks of my generation, Star Wars was a monumentally important moment in my life, but with the benefit of hindsight, it’s clear that Star Wars was mostly about meeting a previously established need for vicarious wonder. If George Lucas had never made Star Wars, something else would have happened to take its place. Likewise, if I’d never read Harlan Ellison or Philip K. Dick, some other pair of authors would have shown me the upper limits of what speculative fiction can do because exploring those limits was already a predefined hunger in me.
But in all the world, there is nothing that ever could have or ever would have taken the place of what Dungeons & Dragons did for me. What it did to me. What it made me.
Like I’m guessing is true for pretty much everyone else sharing their thoughts on what this day means, Gary’s work changed my life.
As I suspect is secretly true for a smaller number of us, Gary’s work saved my life.
I’m one of those fortunate enough to have had the chance to follow professionally in the footsteps of Gary and the other giants who built this hobby, this game, this shared world of imagination. When I do so, every word I write, every assessment and adjustment I make as an editor is built on the singular memory of sitting in a darkened bedroom on a winter night in 1981, opening a thin paperback volume with a dragon in blue on the cover, and having my life changed.
Everything I do in this industry is built around the vain hope that somewhere, sometime, a 15-year-old kid will read something I’ve worked on and feel what I felt that night.
From the AD&D Players Handbook:
“Enjoy, for this game is what dreams are made of!”
See you in dreams, Gary.
(Archive post from the personal blog.)