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The Gygax biopic, and what I'm hoping it will do

Posted by WJWalton on Sun 14 of Aug., 2011 20:14 PDT
Michael Tresca at the Examiner has broken the news about the upcoming film on the life of Gary Gygax, and if you haven't already heard, here are the juiciest bits - George Strayton (scriptwriter for the Hercules and Xena TV shows and an animated Dragonlance feature) will be doing the writing, the budget is set at $150 million, the plot will switch between details of Gygax's life and the fantasy realm of Dungeons & Dragons, and the lead will be played by a "huge star." (So it looks like at least part of the casting is already complete.)

There have been rumblings in RPG blogs and forums about the feasibility of such a project - will it have any public appeal at all, how well could such a film do at the box office, and could it ever hope to recoup its budget - and I'm sure some excellent points have been made on both sides of the argument.

But I'd like to leave those arguments where they are, and talk about the actual content of the movie. This film could have a lot of potential to help the roleplaying hobby, and I'm hoping that at least four areas will get some attention.

Here's what I'm hoping this Gygax biopic will do:

- Give a bit of time to the negative backlash against the game in the early 80s through the 90s. This is a big opportunity to set the record straight on a lot of the misconceptions that people had about the game, and I hope they take it. It would be helpful not only to the hobby, but to helping everyone improve their critical thinking skills.

- Demonstrate how the game is played. Many people still have a big misunderstanding in this area, and a simple demonstration of how the DM and players interact to create a story would help a lot. Sure, it will be fun to see big and loud fantasy scenes explode across the screen, but I'm hoping that it will be made clear who is really making those things happen - the DM and the players - and how they're doing it.

- Show how much fun it is. This may be a given, or it may not. Since the focus is on the early days of D&D, there may be some temptation to portray all of the players as stuffy science nerds who show no outward signs of enjoying themselves. What I'm hoping for here would be the exact opposite, obviously.

- Demonstrate what Gygax started, not just what he created. After D&D became popular, a few other RPGs sprang up to appeal to fans of other genres, and then the hobby exploded with new games through the 80s and 90s and into the new millennium - from small press affairs of blotchy photocopied rulebooks to full-color hardcover tomes to the self-publishing PDF revolution. The influence on video games, celebrities inspired by the RPG hobby, the Vampire television series, references to D&D on shows like Freaks & Geeks and Community - Gygax provided the spark, but to really do justice to his accomplishment, they should show how far the fire really spread.

Almost eleven years ago, many of us were hoping that the Dungeons & Dragons movie would help inspire a renewed interest in the roleplaying hobby... and were sadly disappointed. Here's hoping that won't happen again.

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