A review of “Empire of Imagination: Gary Gygax and the Birth of Dungeons & Dragons,” Michael Witwer’s biography on Gary Gygax,  examines the life of the enigmatic man behind the massively popular role-playing game that became a cultural phenomenon which foreshadowed the state of today’s pop culture. As Michaud points out, D&D’s use of avatars seems like a preface to today’s identity shape-shifting on the Web, and the new world it creates — not unlike virtual worlds of today — becomes a prism through which to examine real world dynamics.

via The New Yorker: 

Gygax was an ur-nerd who not only changed the way games are played but who also endured a tumultuous business career that, in the right hands, could make as compelling a story as that of Steve Jobs. He was a high-school dropout who lost his father when he was still young, never had a driver’s license, married early, had six children, two wives, turned an obsession with military war-gaming into a worldwide phenomenon, started a successful company from which he was later pushed out only to return and then be bought out once again. Following a well-trodden path, he went to Hollywood, where he briefly prospered, snorting cocaine and hosting pool parties at King Vidor’s mansion, before failing, miserably, to get a motion picture made. His influence can be seen in everything from video games to “The Hunger Games.” Like Debbie in Jack Chick’s “Dark Dungeons,” Gygax, who died in 2008, made his way back to God at the end of his life, writing in January of that year, “All I am is another fellow human that has at last, after many wrong paths and failed attempts, found Jesus Christ.”

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