Ernest Gary Gygax, the widely acknowledged "father of the roleplaying game," passed away on March 4th, 2008 at his home in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin.  It was in Lake Geneva in 1967 in Gygax's basement that a 20-person game tournament took place--the first GenCon, and the beginning of an annual tradition that has grown into the largest hobby gaming convention in North America.


Gygax was born on July 27th, 1938 and by 1950 he was immersed in the fiction of Robert E. Howard and Ray Bradbury.  He began playing wargames in 1953 and was influenced by the Avalon Hill line of sophisticated historical war-themed board games.  In 1966 Gygax founded International Federation of Wargamers, and in 1971 Gygax, who was always enthralled by all things medieval, created Chainmail (with Jeff Perren), a medieval-themed miniatures wargame from which Dungeons and Dragons evolved.


In 1974 Gygax and Don Kaye founded Tactical Studies Rules (TSR) and published the first edition of Dungeons & Dragons, which combined elements of Chainmail with what some called "acting gaming" (and quickly became known as "role-playing") to create the roleplaying game. 


The RPG has arguably had a huge impact on all forms of gaming, including online and video gaming, thanks to its core elements of "character building," "levels," "spells," "class," and "race," etc.  Dungeons & Dragons has also played a major role in the popularization of fantasy, not just in American pop culture but across the entire world, and its influence can be seen in movies, anime, comics and manga as well as in all forms of gaming.


Gygax certainly didn't create every element in the complex world of D&D by himself.  He had help from Dave Arneson (who sued TSR five times before settling out of court in 1981) in the initial creation of the game, and the host of talented game designers who worked at TSR fleshed out the game, adding levels of complexity and new campaign settings and "worlds" to make it quite possibly the most multi-faceted gaming experience ever created.


When Don Kaye died in 1976, Gygax gained a controlling interest in TSR and created TSR Hobbies, Inc.  But faced with financial difficulties, Gygax quickly ceded control to the Blume brothers, though he continued to work at TSR until 1985.  In the mid-1980s Gygax was spending much of his time on the West Coast where he succeeded in getting the Dungeons & Dragons cartoon series on CBS.  When he found out that TSR was in financial difficulties, he returned to Lake Geneva and became involved in a management dispute that eventually caused him to sell his remaining shares of the company and leave the company that he had founded. 


Gygax returned to the world of D&D in 2005 through his work with Troll Lord Games.  Although a heart attack forced him into semi-retirement, he continued to be an active member of the gaming community through his online comments at key gaming Websites such as EN World and Dragonsfoot.