In 1974 Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson published the first edition of Dungeons and Dragons – a game which took place substantially in the imagination. It was a ‘role-playing’ game, (RPG for short) and by the time the 80’s rolled around, there was barely a college dorm that didn’t have a Dungeon Master, and Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) had turned from a few-hours-a-week diversion to what was for some a fully immersive experience.
D&D was only the first of an ever-expanding coterie of role-playing games, with the company founded by Gygax and Arneson, Tactical Studies Rules (TSR), and others offering RPG’s with science-fiction, superhero, and other themes and genres.
By 1982 a movie had been made – Mazes and Monsters (starring the then barely known Tom Hanks) – not to extol the game, but to express the dire outrage about the ‘evils’ it was believed to perpetrate, and a host of urban legends had developed about RPG’s in general, and D&D in particular – which was viewed as close to dabbling in the occult.
The company started by Gygax and Arneson was eventually sold to Magic: The Gathering, and then absorbed into toy giant Hasbro, with the age of players gravitating downward, and the original cult devotees becoming more involved in reality games – daily life.
Gygax died on March 4, 2008 as he was approaching his 70th birthday.
But with the advent of the world-wide-web, and immersive cyberspace, the second age of modern RPG’s was just getting started – in the form of massively multiplayer online role-playing games, able to span not just a dorm, but the entire globe.