“We should learn more about Richard Garriott.”


Back in 2003, Brad King released the first edition of Dungeons & Dreamers: A story of how computer games created a global community, which chronicles the history of the emergence of MMORPGs, but which was also a biography of Richard Garriott.

King recently explained the genesis of the book idea in a blog post:

I moved to Austin on Christmas Even in 1995 without a job, a plan, or any prospects. The story of how I ended up in that situation is for another time and place, but the result of that decision led to Dungeons & Dreamers.

I met a young woman who worked for David Swofford, the director of public relations for Origin Systems, a then-thriving game company run by Richard and Robert Garriott. From that meeting, I’d somehow convinced Wired magazine that I could get an interview with Garriott to discuss his Ultima series and the upcoming game, Ultima Online, which he’d promised would be the first massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) that scaled.

[Ed note: The veracity of this claim is tenuous as Meridian 59 beat Garriott to the punch, but the impact of UO would far outshine every other game of its class. Let’s not quibble in my story, okay?]

As it turns out, Richard and I can both talk. He’s a Texas and I’m an Appalachian. I don’t know how long we ended up talking, but I had three tapes filled with various amounts of talking. Mind you, this piece was slated for the front of the book, which mean I was writing 200-500 words, and he was taking me through every aspect of his business including the server rooms.

Wired never ended up publishing the piece that King put together. King (foolishly?) discarded many of his notes Years later, he and his brother John had an idea:

While sitting in San Francisco’s 21st Amendment, John and I began discussing book ideas.

“I have several hours of interview recordings with Richard Garriott,” I said drunkenly. “He talked me through the entire Ultima series. These MMOs are huge right now, and we have the best history of how it happened.”

We grabbed a stack of little square bar napkins, and began to scribble ideas for the book. As I recall, we originally conceived a series of biographical essays about the developers, the games, and the players. We jettisoned that as too dry. John, in particular, wanted us to be literary in our approach so we settled on the idea of a narrative biography serving as our book’s hook.

With that as our tent pole, we wrote the very first outline for Dungeons & Dreamers. After several hours of brotherly arguing, drinking, and scribbling, we proudly reviewed our outline. It read:

“We should learn more about Richard Garriott.”

And from there, Dungeons & Dreamers became a reality. As noted above, the book was first published in 2003, but King has put together a second edition that will be coming out on March 15th. Although King has significantly re-organized and expanded the book, it still follows a mostly biographical format, as the About page on the book’s website explains:

Our story follows Garriott, then an awkward teenager in 1978, who was then a newbie to computer programming, as he tried creating the D&D games on his computer. It was a task that thousands around the world were also starting. Through the next 25 years, developers create a plethora of games played on college computer networks and through online services. People from across the globe were finding each other to play, chat, and pass the time in virtual game worlds.

By the late 90s, the game landscape had grown beyond fantasy role playing. Gamers could enter virtual spaces to play sports, engage in war simulations, or explore vast lands. Millions of people were logging onto their computers to play. But, always at the heart of computer gaming, were people who wanted to create worlds where friends could gather to have fun.

You can check out the second edition’s table of contents here, to get an idea of the subject matter it ranges over. The book can be pre-ordered from a number of storefronts, and autographed copies are also available.

7 Responses

  1. Sanctimonia Sanctimonia says:

    The book sounds trippy. Anyone read it?

  2. Brad King says:

    Thanks for the post. We hope you read (and enjoy) the book 🙂 And yes, it was ridiculous of me to throw out all those tapes. It’s something I’ve not really gotten over.

  3. Stile teckel says:

    Im 37% through it at the moment. Planned on publishing a news piece similar to this one in next few days but wanted to finish it first.

    Im loving it, but for me its how much i can relate to since i started gaming in 80-81 area.

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