The New York Times does a lovely piece on Mr. Gygax's passing. Very worth having a look at. For the HIGH-larious flowchart, if nothing else.
I've been in touch with a few old friends regarding Mr Gygax and the legacy he had on our lives. We all agreed that it's difficult to imagine what sort of people we'd have turned out to be if Dungeons and Dragons had not existed. The thing is that people are defined (and even created, if you will) through how they socialize. And we spent a lot of our time socializing through the avenue provided by this game and others like it.
It's interesting how an activity in which I bring to life some other character has turned out to have a huge influence on how I brought myself to life.
I remember a conversation with Blake ages back, on the shore of a lake in Seattle, in which we were discussing role-playing games and character definitions and up came the idea (I forget if I had it or if he did; probably he) that the reason every game reinvents the rules of defining characters is that nobody agrees on what the critical qualities are for humans to possess. And that's because, we theorized, everything that's actually interesting about human beings lies BETWEEN any categorization you do of them.
And that's ultimately why these games are so much fun to play -- because no matter how detailed the character sheet, no matter how many tables the rules provide to outline each quality of your character, it's only IN PLAY that they come to life. And play is social.
Demented and sad, to be sure, but social.