Gary Gygax

Hello BoFN fans and welcome to the last day of 2013. We started the month with a Swiss-American and it looks like we’ll be ending the month with an American of Swiss decent. In some weird way, Arto and I have segued a mind meld on topics that don’t even jive this time. If you read his post yesterday, you’ll see the connection . . . read on if you dare!

How was your Christmas? Perhaps you got the new X-Box or Play Station for Christmas. Maybe you or someone you know, plays MMORPG’s (for those of you not in the know—like me—it’s Massively Multiplayer Online Role-playing Game—phew). Feeling the acronym love here.

Take a step back in time before the advent of online gaming and what do we have? RPG’s, the diet version of MMORPG. (Tomorrow’s when the diet resolution kicks in, right?)

Meet Ernest Gary Gygax, the father of and co-creator of Dungeons and Dragons and founder of Gen Con, the gaming convention.

Gary Gygax. Photo courtesy of Alan De Smet. What a great pair of names.

Gary Gygax. Photo courtesy of Alan De Smet. What a great pair of names. What, you thought I was going to say something else?

You have to love a man who’s initials spell E.G.G.. *Fannie geek glasses steam up.*

Gary was born in Chicago, Illinois, on July 27, 1938, a few blocks from Wrigley Field. In 1946, he was involved with a large group of boys in a brawl. As a result, his father, Ernst Gygax—a Swiss immigrant and a violinist for the Chicago Symphony—packed up the family and moved them to his mother’s home town of Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. (Perhaps Liz can tell us where that is? 😉 )

During this time young Gary developed a passion for games and a love of fantasy and science fiction literature. By the age of ten, he and his friends played games that today would be called live action role-playing games.

Fast forward a few years, married, five children, the oldest named Ernest, and going to school, he decided to forego his bachelor’s degree for a job in insurance.  A few years later he lost his job. To make ends meet he worked in shoe repair, which gave him more time to work on his role-playing games.

By the early 1970’s he found work with Guidon Games, giving him experience in the game industry. In October 1973, he and partners, Don Kaye and Brian Blume, founded the publishing company, Tactical Studies Rules, later known as TSR, Inc.. By 1974, the first commercial version of D&D was released as a boxed set.

His partner, Don, died a year later from a heart attack. Brian Blume’s father, Melvin, bought out Don’s widow, saving the company.

In 1979, Michigan State University student, James Dallas Egbert III (I loved that there were three of them), made headlines by allegedly disappearing into the school’s steam tunnels while playing a live-action version of the game.  It generated a lot of negative publicity for D&D.

In 1982, Patricia Pulling’s son killed himself. She blamed D&D for her son’s suicide, and formed B.A.D.D. (Bothered About Dungeons and Dragons). Gary received death threats and had to hire a body guard. As a result of all the publicity, TSR’s annual gross sales of D&D rose to $16 million U.S. dollars.

Leaving TSR in 1986, he went on to author several books and continued to design games until his death on March 4, 2008 in his home in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin.

He once said, “I would like the world to remember me as the guy who really enjoyed playing games and sharing his knowledge and his fun pastimes with everybody else.”

Tracy – Fannie Cranium’s Guide to Irreverent Wisdom


About Fannie Cranium

Writing since she could first hold a pen, Tracy Perkins formed her alter ego, "Fannie Cranium" at the suggestion of her husband. Tracy understands smiling makes people wonder what she’s been up to.
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29 Responses to Gary Gygax

  1. amb says:

    Fannie !!! I’m so happy we get to end the year with this post, on several levels. First of all, it’s you 🙂 Second of all, this name in all its geekiness is just glorious. Lastly, one of my favourite “Community” episodes involves the study group playing D&D, so now I’m going to be rewatching it and thinking completely inappropriate things about elfin knights for the rest of the day. 😉 What a way to close out 2013!

    • Thanks Amb! Have I told you I ❤ you lately?

      On a separate note, if you ever saw the movie, Rona Jaffe's Mazes and Monsters, it was loosely based on the media hyped story of James Dallas Egbert III. It's one of Tom Hanks early movies.

      Happy New Year my friend.

    • Dave says:

      The D&D one was sooooooooo intense! It was one of Pierce’s better episodes in my opinion.

  2. Reblogged this on Fannie Cranium's and commented:

    Ever heard of Dungeons and Dragons? Meet one of the minds behind the game. My third post on the BoFN this month. It must be a record. 🙂

  3. Liz says:

    Now this is why I read BoFN: I learn all sorts of cool things about someone I normally wouldn’t have even know existed. Sci fi, video games, etc…none of that has ever been on my radar, so I had forgotten that D&D had been such a big thing. But what a cool story about a guy following his passions–instead of what was expected of him–and living a satisfying life. Love that he wants to be remembered as someone who enjoyed games and also sharing that enjoyment with others. Doesn’t matter what your path–if you’re following your passions and heart–it’s a life well lived. Thanks for sharing.

    And HAPPY NEW YEAR! Will you be listening to late ’80s, early ’90s rap this evening?

    • Dave says:

      Is late 80’s/early 90’s rap Fannie’s music of choice? I remember we had a few cracks about Fannie listening to Justin Bieber and One Direction when you and Amb filled in for her comments when she was out of town way back when, but I didn’t actually know much about Fannie’s musical preferences.

      HAPPY NEW YEAR to you as well, Liz!

    • Liz-Glad we could serve up something new for you today. 😉 I, too, admire a person who is able to live their passion.

      Tonight’s music of choice is a little earlier than my usual rap fare. I’m going to go back to the early 80’s for a little Kool and the Gang. I’ve already started celebrating with them–causing my husband to seek refuge in the man cave. 😀

      Happy New Year!

  4. Arto says:

    This post has it all. Ernests up the wazoo, an Egbert III, and a lovely shirt choice by the man in the title of the post. What a ride! And the EGG related confluence of course very much appropriate for this week.

  5. ksbeth says:

    i remember the eggbert lll tunnel escapade very well, with msu only an hour from my house. love gg’s name and his myriad of jobs all leading to his game breakthrough.

    • That’s cool that you remember the event. I remember it too. I remember hoping he did not pass away in the tunnels.

      Regarding GG’s jobs, I agree, you never know what path of jobs might assist you to your passion.

  6. wdydfae says:

    “. . . Fannie sends out the year in a blaze of delightfully dungeony dragonishness . . .”

    “. . . having ridden down, roped and branded the techno sphere with her unforgettable Bhushan post, Fannie now turns to wrangle with the bucking bronco of fantasy gaming pioneers . . . a rousing and raucus rodeo to round out the year . . .”

    “. . . readers will gasp and glare agog at Gigax in Fannie’s penetrating and comprehensive thumbnail . . .”

  7. Great post and good to finally BoFN one of y personal hero’s.

  8. I’m sorry, why was there nothing written about ALAN DE SMET????? THAT IS AN AMAZING NAME!!!!
    Happy New Year, dudes 🙂

  9. Hello, its nice article on the topic of media print, we all understand media
    is a fantastic source of data.

  10. Pingback: Greg Bear | The Blog of Funny Names

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