A lot of gamers today seem to revere Gary Gygax as a saint. (He lived from 1938 to 2008.) They write about “Gygaxian play” and the real “spirit of Gygax” in games. I agree that his early games and modules have a charm and freshness that goes with their pioneer status as original to the hobby. He ran one of the two first D&D campaigns, the other being that of Dave Arneson. But Gygax's design is not stellar. His prose is pretentious, his game systems were okay, but, as he was a founder, he deserves lots of credit.
When I met Gary Gygax, it was at GenCon, I think in 1992, probably my last time to GenCon. In those days, nobody in the gaming circles I knew thought so highly of Gygax. D&D was not a big deal at all. Other games had all the attention. Gygax’s recent game Cyborg Commando (1987) was an absolute rip-off, with a box of rules that did not even contain everything you needed to play.
As I wandered around the GenCon booths, there was a new game being pitched: Dangerous Journeys, with its Mythus setting. Nobody was stopping by this booth. Nobody cared about Dangerous Journeys. As I came up to take a peek, I glanced at the name tag of the old man sitting behind the booth with an old woman. “Gary Gygax,” it said. He was the author of this new game.
To be honest, he looked sad, like an exile from his original game which he had sold off. There were rumors of past acrimony between him and other D&D game designers. Now here was one of the founders of the hobby, sitting in the middle of GenCon, and nobody was coming to his booth. He looked lonely. Maybe TSR had already filed its injunction against the new game he was selling. This Gygax was not the figure of legend that he has become among OSR players. This was the real human.
I asked, “Are you Gary Gygax?”
“Yes,” he answered in a tired way.
I paused. What would I say? I had not played anything he wrote, including D&D, for years, but I was grateful for the hobby. I looked him in the eyes and said, sincerely, “Thank you!” He smiled slightly and I walked on without spending more than thirty seconds on his game.