I didn’t read much as a kid, but one book I read cover to cover dozens of times was the Advanced dungeon’s and dragons handbook. In elementary school my friends and I played that game several times a week, and despite our ridiculous abuse of the rules and complete disregard for fair play (think Lord of the Flies mixed with the Soprano’s) the effect the game had on us was transformative.
Without knowing it we did a kind of improvised, collaborative theater, and used our imaginations to create worlds, instead of using the passive, pre-fab ones found in video games or television shows. Sure, the games gave us a structure we didn’t make, but what a bunch of 11 year old kids did with it – wow.
I never knew much about who he was, or what he did: my D&D phase ended well before I though much about authors and creators. But that that name, that crazy name that seemed like it belong in the game and not in the real world, Gary Gygax, matched with that wild image of thieves and demons on the cover, was etched in my mind mind forever.