As part of an in-depth opinion piece debuting today, Volition senior designer Alvan Monje (Saints Row
) has been examining Gary Gygax's legacy, arguing that, rather than just influencing RPGs, all "games that tell a story" owe a debt to Gygax's Dungeons & Dragons.
Within a wider-ranging essay that also looks at other major influences on open-world digital games from the resolutely pen & paper-based D&D, Monje particularly comments:
"Today most gamers take it for granted that games have stories, yet most traditional games -- chess and checkers, tag and hide-and-seek, baseball and basketball -- don't have any story.
They don't have plot, characters, or themes; in fact they barely represent anything at all. Games pose abstract problems or challenges that players are tasked with solving, and they engage the logical left brain more than the artistic right, the body more than the heart.
In contrast, stories depict fictional people, places, and events; they mirror the real world and are fundamentally representational. Readers and viewers act as silent witnesses, powerless over the characters and events depicted but moved by them all the same. Stories appeal more to the right brain than the left, more to the heart than the body.
Given these stark differences -- games as abstract, interactive problem-solving exercises, stories as representational, passive depictions that elicit emotion -- it's quite strange for game and story to be combined into the same experience, but Dungeons & Dragons did exactly that, and with much success...
Today the vast majority of video games, from FPSes to platformers, adventure games to open world games, are games that tell a story, and D&D blazed the trail."
You can now read the full Gamasutra essay on the subject
, including much more detail on other aspects that digital games take from D&D, suggesting that it "built the progenitor of most contemporary video games, irrespective of genre."