March 04, 2008


Thirteen years ago, I met a group of people who crouched around a map with tiny miniatures scattered around it and rolled dice as they exclaimed what their imaginary characters were doing. I read a lot of fantasy novels and it SHOCKED me that you could sit down with a group of friends and play a role as a character for fun! We played Dungeons and Dragons during recess. I was a hobbit by the name of Shorty, who loved to play the flute and annoy people. Shorty was very good at being sneaky and he eventually got the ability to fly. It was a silly game, but it meant a lot to me as a seventh grader. I learned about philosophy through the game. I found a website hosted by a doctor! who called himself the Pathguy and in his spare time, he wrote blurbs about other planar dimensions filled with mythical creatures and treasure, as well as world-views and values.

Sadly, I found out that Gary Gygax passed away today. He was one of the creators of Dungeons and Dragons that inspired a generation of geeks to channel their creative energies and create entire worlds for storytelling and fun. So much of today's movie and video game industries have him to thank for providing the framework for gaming.
His wife, Gail Gygax said that he had a lot of health problems for several years, including an abdominal aneurysm. Despite his declining health, he hosted weekly games of Dungeons & Dragons as recently as January, she said. "It really meant a lot to him to hear from people from over the years about how he helped them become a doctor, a lawyer, a policeman, what he gave them," Gygax said. "He really enjoyed that."

I am one of those fine citizens that benefitted from the cooperative adventure game he created. I still play to this day. Through D&D, I learned about leadership, cooperation, tactics, problem-solving, resourcefulness, attention to detail, mastering obscure rules and most of all, empathy.

I love stories. One of the things I feel so lucky about as a student doctor is my opportunity to hear the stories of my patients! They give me with small snippets of their lives, bits and pieces that I scribble down onto their character sheets. Then I report to the attending physician and get my experience points in the form of teaching topics. My life may not have a Dungeon Master guiding me along on a quest to rescue a damsel in distress, but I do feel glad that I get the opportunity to play a hero sometimes :)

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