Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Book Review for Gamers: Empire of Imagination: Gary Gygax and the Birth of Dungeons & Dragons

I loved this book!  It is a narrative biography of Gary Gygax, the creator of Dungeons and Dragons.  The cover is an homage to the D&D book Unearthed Arcana and the end-papers feature Gary's hometown of Lake Geneva drawn in blue-inked graph paper in the style of old D&D modules.  Michael Witwer, the author, has taken information on Gary's life and turned it into a story of his rise, fall, and recognition as the father of geek culture.  It is the story of how one man turned his passion of gaming into a cultural phenomena.

The author writes the bio as a narrative story.  Conversations are made up based on interviews and historical documents.  This gives the reader the impression of reading a biopic on Gygax.  Witwer includes notes in the back so that nit-pickers can check his sources.  I found the format entertaining and since I have read other books on the subject the information seemed pretty accurate.  Reading this book was a huge nostalgia trip, as I remember reading through my brother's modules back in the 80's and the crazy moral panic that sprung up around D&D.

The last few chapters of the book focus on the cultural significance of D&D.  The author does a great job of showing the events in Gary's life and placing his life in the context of American pop culture.  Witwer makes the case that role playing games have had a far wider impact than is generally acknowledged.  He even mentions how the West End Star Wars rpg added to the Star Wars canon.  I recommend this book to all nerds, gamers, and anyone interested in the history of the hobby.