Dungeons & Dreamers: The Rise of Computer Gaming Culture From Geek to Chic, just like the title suggests, chronicles the rise of the computer gaming culture from the early seventies through the present.
Computer gaming reaches back to Dungeons & Dragons, the popular paper game that let storytellers lead their charges through mystical worlds where the only limitation was imagination. Millions would play the game, but it would particularly resonate with a group of kids who were in the midst of discovering the birth of home computers.
The story follows Richard Garriott, the developer of the first commercially successful online role-playing game Ultima Online. Garriott, then an awkward teenager in 1978, lived a fantastic life. His father Owen was an astronaut who was always bring home strange sci-fi toys from NASA. His mother Helen was an artist, who was creating larger-than-life art projects.
A newbie to computer programming, Richard began trying to re-create the D&D; games on his computer, creating worlds and adventures that would capture the spirit of the groups playing in his house.It was a task that thousands around the world were also starting. The next twenty-five yearswould see an explosion of online gaming through college networks and online services. People from around the world would find each other online, oftentimes meeting nightly to play, chat, and pass time.
Very quickly, online gaming became less about killing dragons and more about finding a community where you fit in. The types of games were, for the most part, still grounded in fantasy and science-fiction.
By the late 90s, sports, war simulations, and relatiohship games found their place. Millions of people were logging onto their computers, making friends, and playing. But, always at the heart of computer gaming, there has been the Richard Garriott types. The people who wanted to create worlds — any kind of world — where people could gather and play.
This is the story of those gamers.
The book, though, evolved from a rather lengthy night of drinking at the 21st Amendment, a bar in San Francisco’s Multimedia Gulch. Both John and I had spent the better part of three years writing about the clash of digital entertainment and mainstream culture (think Napster). That story had grown weary. We were looking for a new angle, a new story that hadn’t been told.
Using a bar napkin and Jameson’s Irish Whiskey, we sketched out what would become the very broad framework for the book. It was rough. The chapter outlines had heads that read: “Richard Garriott, he seems cool. We should learn more about him.” As we left, though, we were ready to quit our jobs (only one of us did that), and start writing (we both did that.)
Oddly enough, within three weeks of working on a proposal, we received a call from an editor at Osborne/McGraw-Hill, pitching us on the idea of writing a book about violence in video games. Serendipity. Thankfully, after a few meetings, we all agreed that the story of game culture was bigger, and maybe more misunderstood. The topic just lent itself to a big story.