It's official: Gary Gygax, the co-creator of Dungeons & Dragons, has died. (My friend PD alerted me to the rumor earlier.)
I credit D&D for much of my current science aptitude and creativity. I was still in grade school when I took my first foray into the game, adventuring through (like so many others) The Keep on the Borderlands and In Search of the Unknown. Playing D&D and later role-playing games taught me several important skills: I gained an aptitude in basic math and probability from the rules of the games (what are the odds I'll be able to hit that AC -8 will o' wisp?), and the development of adventures for my friends gave my creativity a workout.
Dungeons & Dragons itself grew out of an earlier set of rules for fantasy miniature wargaming, known as Chainmail, developed by Jeff Perren and Gary Gygax. A brief description from Gygax himself about the evolution of Chainmail into D&D can be found here.
The interview also addresses another bit of D&D history: the apoplectic response of the religious right to the supposed psychological threat and demonic influences of the game. To this, I can only observe that in my life I've been an avid RPG player, a heavy-metal music listener, and a player of ultra-violent video games like Grand Theft Auto: and I seem to have turned out just fine.
Gygax himself remained highly prolific in the fantasy fiction world, writing numerous other role-playing games and adventure sets, as well as quite a few fantasy novels. I've been mulling over purchasing one of his more recent novels, The Anubis Murders, recently released by Planet Stories library (in fact, while writing this sentence, I took a break and ordered it).
He obviously had a sense of humor, as well; Gygax appeared as himself (along with Al Gore) in an episode of Futurama, as a member of a super-secret team charged with protecting the space-time continuum.
He will be missed...