Archive for March 10th, 2008

So farewell then to the twelve-sided dice

March 10, 2008

I was sadden to hear the news that Gary Gygax, co-inventor of the Dungeons and Dragons role-playing game, has died. I confess that, like many computer scientists of my generation, I was an active player in my youth and I had one of the first copies of the UK version of the game. Although 1970s Britain may have been a grey and grim place of mass unemployment and stagflation, the game easily transported me to a magical land of dragons, trolls, swords, sorcery and heroes.

These games involved nothing more sophisticated than a group of people, lots of pens, graph paper, bags of imagination and of course the famous multi-sided dice collection. Computer scientists tend to have a reputation of being rather anti-social types who like to hide in cupboards but role-playing games could be intensely social and I’ve been involved in truly raucous games with a dozen or more players.

As far as I can tell D+D (as it was known) is the basis of the vast majority of modern computer games. I was interested to read in Gary’s obituary in the Guardian that although he accepted that computer games were inevitable he wasn’t that enamoured with them, preferring the sociability of the original role playing game. He is quoted as saying: “Your imagination is not there the same way it is when you’re actually together with a group of people”.