Dungeons & Dreamers (Second Edition)


In 2002, John Borland and I were having a beer at San Francisco’s 21st Amendment when we decided we wanted to write a book. John was a writer for Cnet’s News.com and I was writer at Wired.com. We covered the same beat — the convergence of technology, entertainment, and society. At the time, that meant: Napster and lawsuits.

And so we decide wanted to write about something more interesting. Something more significant. We settled on the computer games. Particularly the way this tabletop game — Dungeons & Dragons — permeated nearly thirty years of computer game development. That book would become Dungeons & Dreamers.

When we finished the first edition in 2003, we were flummoxed. The end of the story we wanted to tell hadn’t happened yet. But our publishing date was upon us. We decided then and there that we’d revisit the story when all the pieces had come into place. And they did in 2014, eleven years later.

So we wrote the definitive history of computer games, the Internet, and the online world that is spawned.

In 1974, Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson published the tabletop game Dungeons & Dragons, a fantasy role-playing game. Through the next 40 years, computer game developers used these fantasy worlds as archetypes for the budding virtual game worlds. These games would become as varied as books in a library, but the essence of each was built upon community. Dungeons & Dreamers: A story of how computer games created a global community follows the designers, developers, and players who built the virtual games and communities that define today’s digital entertainment landscape and explores the nature of what it means to live and thrive in virtual communities.

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Books Reviews

IGN.com book recommendation: It’s a wonderful read on the social revolution that accompanied the rise of electronic escapism and is one of the more delightfully anecdotal books on video game history. (July 2015)

Northeast Popular/American Culture Association book reviewGamers will be delighted to discover pieces of their history that they might not have known about, such as the origins of video game conventions like QuakeCon. However, gamers might feel some loss because the book focuses more on the people and less on the game-content. (January 2015).

Signal Alpha Five book reviewDungeons and Dreamers is a great read if you’re interested in how gaming got to where it is today in terms of reach and the pursuit of that killer multiplayer experience, written so knowledgeably and with real reverence for its subject matter.

Geeks of Doom book review: (T)his book is a great addition to any library. Brad King and John Borland have created a masterpiece of gaming lore, paying tribute to the wizards and scholars of the digital world who chased their dreams…and caught them. Buy this book, you’ll thank me for it. (May 12, 2014)

PixlBit book reviewThe great thing about Dungeons & Dreamers is that it makes the trip through all of the examples a joyful experience. This is no dry timeline of gaming’s biggest moments, but rather a delicious cross-section leveraged perfectly to hit home its important theme. The only question is what new stories will crop up in the next few years that will work their way into the third edition. (March 28, 2014)

Geek Dad book reviewBy the way, this is only halfway through the book. You’ve still got so much more to read about and enjoy. There’s a bit of history in there on the development of networked gaming and how a few players rose through the ranks to be recognized as the gamer elite. Modding’s place in the computer game development is touched on. And the book doesn’t skip the dark parts, either… government investigations, bad influences, Columbine. (March 15, 2014)

The Caverns, Dungeons, and Beyond book reviewEven if you can’t make those connections though from personal experiences, the book makes you feel the era and the time. What it was like to be a computer game, programmer, or designer in an era that didn’t yet really understand it. For the younger generation its packed full of a rich history that will help them see how what they are playing now started out and the ideas behind it. (March 8, 2014)

Geek Native book review: Dungeons & Dreamers feels like a large book. It feels larger than it is but in a good way; there’s a lot of history here. Once we encounter Garriott he is young and discovering tabletop RPGs for the first time. He goes from running RPG clubs to learning enough code to produce his own games. The geek dream. (March 4, 2014)

Forces of Geek book review (February 18, 2014)

Radio Interviews

  • Impact 89FM, Michigan State University Student Radio, Tuesday, February 17, 2014.
  • KQV AM 1410 with PJ Maloney (Pittsburgh), Friday, January 24, 2014 @ 11:30


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If you're interested in keeping up with my writing projects, I’ll overlook your bad judgement on that and instead say thank you. A writer's life blood is readers. Without you, I'm just a crazy guy sitting in his office furiously screaming on the page for no reason. So not to put any pressure on you, but everything now depends on you
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