Empire of Imagination: Gary Gygax and the Birth of Dungeons and Dragons – Review
Written by Michael Witwer
Foreword by John Romero
Published by Bloomsbury
Many D&D players think they know the history behind the creation of their favorite game, but do they really? This book delves into the past of Gary Gygax, creator extraordinaire of Dungeons and Dragons, a game so feared that back in the day it was thought it was a recruitment tool for devil worship. It was also seen as psychologically dangerous to teens. How did it then develop into the game that it is today?
Have you ever stopped to wonder just how much creative talent one must possess to create a game on the level of Dungeons and Dragons?
This book touches on all those questions and so much more. It sets the tone by tackling a hard time in Gary Gygax’ life, when he was let go from TSR. Then the story meanders back to the early years of Gary’s life and from there on out it builds up to reveal and explain the story behind it all.
Michael Witwer has put a tremendous effort in creating this book, one can only imagine the countless hours of research that have gone into this. Which we discussed in the herewith released interview. He also said that he had to use some creative license to fill in gaps in the story. As he states, “In many cases, scenes and dialogue have been re-created, combined and in some instances imagined to best support the known documentary record.” And I must admit he did a remarkable job of it to bring forth a multidimensional Gary Gygax. It even delves into some events that are deemed as controversial, which, is never an easy task to do, especially when it does not reflect your own beliefs. But that is also one of the things I like about the book, it offers no judgment. It is merely a story told of an oftentimes flawed person. It is up to us to interpret Gary Gygax for ourselves.
I have to admit to a deep respect for Michael Witwer’s writing skills, as it has to be a tall order at times to write such a comprehensive biography based entirely on the written archives of Gary Gygax and many people who knew him. An endeavor that took 3 years to complete and the in-depth details of the book show the care and passion for the project.
If you are an avid player or merely a beginner, I must say do pick up this book. You will not be disappointed. It will enrich your game play that much more when you know the history behind it. When you realize that an entire universe has been created by one man and how that man has left a legacy that will last for generations to come.
If you are interested in discovering even more, you can always attend Gary Con at the end of this month. It is set at Lake Geneva, WI from March 23rd to March 26th, more information can be found here.
The book can be found here: Empire of Imagination: Gary Gygax and the Birth of Dungeons & Dragons
I also highly recommend the audio book read by Sam Witwer, available on iTunes.