Book Review: Empire of Imagination


Unless you know absolutely nothing regarding tabletop games or Dungeons & Dragons, it would be news to you that Gary Gygax was the man responsible.  Empire of Imagination is the tale of how a very smart and smart alecky kid, grew up to be the “father of role-playing games.”

The book is very well written, well researched, and hard to put down.  The chapters are short and concise and move quickly from Gary’s childhood, to early years of work and marriage, to the beginnings of D&D.  Sections are headed by a faux D&D campaign which sets the reader up for what lies ahead.  If the campaign is doing well, so was Gary’s life.  If the campaign took a turn for the worse, life was about to get messy.   

It took luck and determination to make D&D as successful as it was in the 70s.  By the 80s, with Satanic Panic and the help of a publishing deal by Random House the game exploded into popularity making Gary and his company rich.  Witwer also doesn’t shy away from the bad parts of Gary’s life.  There was an early marriage that ended in divorce, drugs, falling out with friends and business partners, and finally a severing of ties with the company Gary created.  It was up and down, and really highlighted that fact that just because a company is making a lot of money, that doesn’t mean it is successful.  

I’m embarrassed to admit that I was scoffed at the cover up until halfway through the book when I realized the cover was modeled after the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons book.  There's a shot to my nerd cred.  If you’re looking for something to read while standing in line at the next Gen Con, you can’t go worse with reading this book to kill time.  Maybe wait for the paperback edition to save room in your swag bag.