Who doesn't remember Tom Hanks as the role-playing game obsessed college kid in the 1982 TV movie 'Mazes and Monsters'? The film, of course, overstated the evil of Gary Gygax's demented invention, Dungeons and Dragons, but nonetheless is indicative of the kind of power of this seemingly inocuous game, hatched from the mind of this recently deceased genius - and I think if you look into D&D's unbelievably complex set of rules and scenarios, genius is the right word.
I wasn't like Tom Hanks, but I must note the effects of Gygax's game on my own formative psyche. First of all, I was saved from immortal ruin by the fact that I could never find anyone with whom to play this game, forcing me outside onto basketball courts and baseball fields. On the rare occasion that I met someone who shared my interest, I immediately percieved the kernel of truth hidden in Groucho Marx's famous joke: I would never belong to any club that would have me as a member. Other D&D fans were not fun to hang around with. Universally bossy, compulsive, ill-mannered and generally uncool, I eschewed their company and so rather withdrew into the encyclopedic rulebooks alone, descending headlong into a dream world of wizards, dwarves, thieves, goblins and most importantly, dice.
Yes, dice. No D&D set was complete without a massive assortment of various sided die with which every chance occurence, every physical and mental capacity of your character, every battle scenario was decided. As soon as I laid my little twelve year-old hands on those dice, I was lost forever. Anyone who knows me can attest to the omnipresence of at least five die in my hands at any given moment; they serve me to this day, comforting and rattling in my paw like some holy rosary of the fatalistic. Over the years, I invented my own games, including a baseball game which, using only a six-sided dice rolled innumerable times, can determine outcomes so detailed as to be determined by a player's zone-rating and fielding percentage.
At weaker moments in this life of mine, I have let the dice make important decisions. Call in sick or go to work? Roll! Drive east or west? Roll! Break up with the girlfriend? Roll! Most recently, I have decided to start a small cinema society, in order to justify the purchase of expensive DVDs. So, in compiling the list of films to be purchased and then shown to my fledgling society, I compiled a list of the 432 most acclaimed movies in film history. You see, 432 is divisible by 36, which divides perfectly into six - and six sides has a dice! - therefore the entire decision-making process is taken out of my hands and put in the hands of better, more divine Being. My faith and trust rests wholly with God; God just happens to be black and white with six sides.
Thank you Gary Gygax. You ruined my life and made me insane.