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Gary Gygax: The Father of Games Design

July 27, 2012

I’ve got an article out in GamesIndustry.biz on Gary Gygax, who died on this day in 2008.

“So how do I become a games designer?” is a question I often get asked as I engage with students and gamers in my work. The reply I often give is simple, “Shutdown your PC, switch off your tablet, turn your phone to silent then get hold of a copy of Dungeons & Dragons”. Of course I don’t mean the various video game versions (great as many of them are) and I don’t mean the recent Facebook game (which is also fun). I mean the original rule book plus some pens, paper and loads of dice (don’t forget those d20s!). Then, Level 1 Magic User, you will be ready to begin your journey…

Playing Dungeons & Dragons is one of the best ways to learn the foundations of game design. It is how I (and lots of others in the industry) learned about making games. By running Dungeons & Dragons games we had to master a number of key skills including narrative, drama, gameplay balancing and crucially, the all important stats systems. These diverse areas make Dungeons & Dragons a bit of a paradox; at once a geeky stats-fest and yet also the ultimate social game that only works with a group of friends. What makes it a great way to learn about game design also points to why all games developers owe its co-creator and gaming legend, Gary Gygax, a full horn of ale and a lot of thanks.

PS.  They highlighed this quote in the article:

“I often feel that all we are doing with digital technology is trying to emulate the purity of gameplay that D&D achieved”

And I was thinking, “I wrote that? Cool!” Sometimes you forget what you did write (I wrote the original for this a few weeks ago) and then are pleased when it hangs together. They gave it a better title that my original had too.

Gary Gygax, as he appeared in Futurama

A big thanks from me Gary, D&D was one of the best things that happened to me!

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