No, I'm not going to be making puns about him failing his Save vs. Death Magic, lord knows everyone else will. But if you want to know what Gary's contribution to the world was, before him, there was no "gaming world'.
No Monster Manual. No THAC0. Nobody screaming in anguish because a character they'd spent years building had just died ignominiously in the green devil's mouth in S1, "Tomb of Horrors". I loved that module, by the way. It was, and is, one of the most evil meatgrinders ever designed in RPG history, and even today, it can turn a party of epic-level characters into dust.
People like to make fun of D&D fans, and to a large part we've earned it, but a lot of the memories I truly cherish come out of that game. Weekends spent playing until the keg ran out. Maybe I could have been drinking in a bar, trying to get laid, but there were beholders to kill, and the plans of DMs to ruin. For a long time in my Air Force years, weekends were spent in Arvilla, playing D&D, and having a shitload of fun. Besides, this way, I never had to worry about where to crash. I had the couch.
That's something that gets overlooked in the mocking. The amount of fun that a good group and a good DM can have. Not to burst bubbles, but we didn't ever forget, contrary to bad Tom Hanks movies, that it was just a game. But D&D was our game. The rules were just a loose framework, at least when you did it right. Rulemongers didn't last long in our group, we had no use for them. We'd grab stuff from any RPG we could, because all that mattered was the game we were playing. Would our games have passed muster at Gencon? Don't know, didn't care. So we'd have situations where a ferret, who was a ranger's companion, (mine actually. Bynkii Ath Baegdique. Yes, I know, it's horrible), would roll 7 20s in a row, (of course our dice weren't right. A certain low level amount of cheating was expected, made life interesting) and wiping out a pack of ghouls that had paralyzed an entire party.
A halfling magic-user/thief who, thanks to 6 20s in a row, and some crit tables borrowed from ICE, teleported and backstabbed a possessed bronze dragon for around 600 points of damage. "Hmmm...there's a rain of Dragon McNuggets...oh, and a halfling...she's falling from about a thousand feet, and quite unconscious. You should do something about that."
A new DM who didn't realize the way we played watching the evil grey slaad he had pumped up as "the face of evil in this world" fall to the ground due to simultaneous hits from 4 arrows of piercing in its left eye, a crushed skull from a hammer of thunderbolts, and two chain lightning spells. "Umm...he falls dead...very dead. He may in fact, be the deadest dead that any dead thing has ever been."
My favorite was during the finale of an adaption of "Curse of the Azure Bonds" we sent our clerics and magic users on a little espionage mission to deal with some problems. Like a beholder, a dracolich, an evil storm giant and lotas gargoyles. The clerics positioned themselves behind a dracolich, and the magic users verrrry carefully tiptoed behind "the biggest fucking beholder you've ever seen" while the rest of the party huddled in a hallway. The monsters knew we were near, but not how near. Magic user #1 casts "Wall of Iron" above the beholder. About a foot thick. Horizontally. Nigh-simultaneously, magic user #2 casts "Transmute Rock to Mud". On the anchor for the wall of iron, above big fucking beholder.
3...2...1.."you FUCKERS!" "It's dead, isn't it." "Yeah, you're both dripping in beholder goo. What are the clerics doing" "How distracted is the dracolich?" "It's got beholder all over one foot, what the fuck do you think? It's pretty grossed out" "Oh good, so stone shape..."
I can still see the look on Mark's face. He was pissed. We gutted his monster force. Still damned near lost. But it was worth it.
You talk to anyone who's gamed a lot, and they have similar stories. All involving gales of laughter, lots of profanity, and usually a metric assload of beer. See, that's what the people who mock what Gary and Dave Arneson helped create don't understand. They mocked gamers for being anti-social, yet we spent weekends with our friends, having fun. What else do you do on the weekends, but hang out with friends and have fun? Contrary to popular belief, we didn't have issues with women in our group. In fact, the aforementioned halfling? That was Karen's, aka "Mom"'s character. Partha. Partha Non. Did I mention the whole pun thing? Yeah. She liked guys who thought chicks couldn't play D&D the way a T. Rex likes a tethered goat. Ever see a paladin scream when you grab his nuts for a surprise shocking grasp? Yeah.
We were a group of people having fun, like millions of other players for over 30 years. D&D grew into other gaming lines, other gaming types, computer games, LARPs, you name it. Miniatures too. Loved the miniatures.
Gary helped do that. His creation, along with other people's creations at the time, led to millions upon millions of creations. The Dragonlance epics. Ed Greenwood helping create the Forgotten Realms, Elminster, and all the rest. Books. Movies, usually bad.
For those of us his creation touched, he changed our lives. He brought me friends and times that I probably wouldn't have found without him. He created something that anyone could do, and have fun with, and make their own. There's not a lot of people you can say that about. In truth, I'd rank what he did above what even Woz and Jobs created. Those two created an industry. D&D created worlds.
Goodbye Gary, and thanks. My life wouldn't have been the same without you.