Having gotten into gaming in Minneapolis in the early 80s, it’s hard not to have some interest in the history of RPGs. Where did Arneson & Gygax get their ideas from? How did gaming spread? Where were ideas first expressed? How do I fit into all of it?
A huge volume called Playing at the World has recently come out, and my friend John let me page through his copy. The book attempts to be a very thorough, well-researched, almost academic history of gaming as it led to the creation D&D, and of D&D’s influence on later gaming. On paging through it, I had a small amount of trepidation; for example, a random page toward the end contained a sentence that seemed to betray a grognardian, conservative mistrust of 1980s ‘realism’. But I wasn’t sure of the context of that quote (perhaps it wasn’t actually as grognardian as it sounded), and the book intrigued me. The research really does look good; I checked a couple important but somewhat obscure names in Twin Cities gaming, and they both get multiple mentions in the index, for example. Last night I finally relented and bought a copy.
As Peterson remarks in the introduction, his book tries to stick as closely as possible to well-documented sources, which is good. It’s too easy for people’s reminiscences to lose objectivity over the years. But at the same time, Playing at the World makes me wonder what other corners of gaming history have yet to be documented. And it makes me want to get down my reminiscences while I can.
To help do my part, I’m going to start an occasional series here, documenting Twin Cities fandom as best I can. (Which is to say, not in nearly as much depth, or with as much objectivity, as Peterson does.) Hopefully I won’t become mired in sentimentality or ‘get off my lawn’-ism. Please let me know if I do!
And I’ll continue to review Peterson’s book as I work through it.