My highest recommendation for "Destroy All Monsters" by Paul Lafarge from a 2006 issue of The Believer magazine. For anyone who grew up playing D&D, this article is a must read. For anyone who didn't play, you can learn what the fun, and the fuss was all about, and with the benefit of time, a little of why it was important to its adherents. It covers the basics of the game (and its complexity), the history and controversy of its creation, extraordinary growth through corporate ups and downs, its cultural place, effects and backlash, and takes a look at what was at the heart of the obscure game that created its own niche and captured so many adolescent imaginations, including mine.
Engaging writing, perceptive analysis, and even some intrepid investigation (like going to Gary Gygax's house!) make this piece fun, informative and thought-provoking.
It takes me back to when I got my first Basic Set at around 8 years old...
As to my personal history with D&D, the Basic Set just whet my appetite for more - why play "Basic" when "Advanced" was out there? it all started with the "Player's Handbook" and the "Monster Manual", but once I read "The Dungeon Master's Guide", I know I wanted to play the role of creator and arbiter of fortunes. I probably spent at least as much time reading the manuals and designing campaigns as I ever did playing, but D&D was a great experience for me, mostly as an interactive story-telling experience as the Dungeon Master. It also was the basis for some good friendships, expanded my vocabulary, exposed me to historical and mythical cultures, and drove some of my earliest computer programming efforts (an automatic character generator).
I still have the full set of AD&D manuals - my favorites were the Fiend Folio with its off-beat British-influenced take on monsters (and their "armour" classes), and Deities and Demigods with its translations of gods, heroes and creatures of myth into the D&D realm - the Norse were my favorite.
If my suggestion is not enough to entice you to follow the link, here's a list of some of the topics covered, from the article: "DISCUSSED: Basements as Dungeons, Middle-earth, War Games, Moral Clarity, Vin Diesel, Biological Determinism, Death by Misadventure, Freaks & Geeks, Tom Hanks, Castration Anxiety, Satanism, The Pantheon of Cool Dangers, The Buck Rogers Fortune, Cthulhu Calamari, Tom Waits, The Holy Scriptures, Orson Welles".
Please check out "Destroy All Monsters" - it's a fun read whether it gets your nostalgia going or lets you in on what you missed. Thanks to my brother, John (an engaging and thought-provoking writer and artist in his own right) for sharing this with me!
Link to "Destroy All Monsters" at Believer Mag: http://www.believermag.com/issues/200609/?read=article_lafarge