cover image Empire of Imagination: Gary Gygax and the Birth of Dungeons & Dragons

Empire of Imagination: Gary Gygax and the Birth of Dungeons & Dragons

Michael Witwer. Bloomsbury, $26 (320p) ISBN 978-1-63286-279-2

In this entertaining biography, Witwer follows the life and accomplishments of Gary Gygax, called here the “King of the Nerds” for his creation of the long-enduring Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) role-playing game. As Witwer demonstrates, Gygax was one of the modern gaming industry’s most instrumental figures, taking a lifelong passion for chess, strategy, and wargames, and adding Tolkien-inspired elements to create one of the earliest fantasy games, the Fantasy Supplement for Chainmail. Through interviews and research, Witwer reconstructs Gygax’s journey through the decades in “greatest hits” fashion, dramatizing and expanding on his family life (his first wife was convinced he was cheating on her, not playing board games); his troubled relationship with Tactical Studies Rules (TSR), the game publishing company he cofounded but eventually lost control of; and his erratic post-TSR career. As Witwer states, “Gary Gygax’s legacy lives on through... the culture of geeks who played [D&D] and subsequently took over the world—a world that he prepared for imagination.” Though Witwer clearly intends the book as a respectful tribute and often paints Gygax as the hero, he doesn’t shy away from his subject’s faults and failures, resulting in a fascinating examination of the birth and growing pains of the gaming industry and of Gygax’s lasting influence on pop culture. [em]Agent: Jacques de Spoelberch, J. de S. Associates. (Oct.) [/em]