Jennell Jaquays, an American game designer, video game artist, and LGBTQ+ activist, tragically passed away at the age of 67 due to complications from Guillain-Barré syndrome. She was known for her significant contributions to tabletop role-playing games, particularly for TSR, Chaosium, and GDW.
Early Life and Education:
Born in Michigan, Jennell Jaquays, also known as Paul Jaquays, grew up in Michigan and Indiana. She graduated from Michigan’s Jackson County Western High School in 1974 and later earned a Bachelor of Arts in Fine Art from Spring Arbour College in 1978. This educational background laid the foundation for her future career as a distinguished artist and designer.
Jennell Jaquays: Career Highlights
Jaquays left an indelible mark on the gaming world through her artistic and design contributions. Notable among her works are Dungeons & Dragons modules like Dark Tower and Caverns of Thracia for Judges Guild. Her versatility shone as she worked on the development and design of game conversions for Coleco’s home arcade video game system, including classics like Pac-Man and Donkey Kong.
In the later years of her career, Jaquays continued to make waves in the industry with her involvement in the Age of Empires series and contributions to iconic games like Quake II and Quake III Arena. One of her most recognised pieces as a fantasy artist is the cover illustration for TSR’s Dragon Mountain adventure.
Recognition and Achievements:
Jennell Jaquays’ impact on the gaming landscape was recognised with nominations and honours. Her Dungeons & Dragons module, Dark Tower, received a nomination for the 1979 H.G. Wells Award for Best Roleplaying Adventure. Notably, Dark Tower was the sole entry on the list not published by TSR, showcasing Jaquays’ ability to stand out even among industry giants.
Beyond her professional accomplishments, Jaquays was also an advocate for LGBTQ+ rights. She was honoured as one of the Top 50 Transgender Americans You Should Know by the LGBTQ Nation and named a Trans 100 2015 Honoree, highlighting her significant role in promoting visibility and acceptance within the community.
A Tragic Loss:
The family and the gaming community are deeply saddened by the untimely death of Jennell Jaquays. She faced a challenging health situation when she was admitted to the hospital in October due to a rare neurological disorder known as Guillain-Barré syndrome. Unfortunately, despite ongoing efforts and a determined fight, she did not recover from the illness. After a prolonged struggle with Guillain-Barré syndrome, Jennell Jaquays passed away. Jolene Jaquays, a family member, confirmed her passing through a heartfelt Facebook post.
Jennell Jaquays’ legacy lives on through the countless worlds she brought to life with her art and design. As a transgender pioneer in the gaming industry and an advocate for LGBTQ+ rights, she leaves behind a lasting impact that will continue to inspire and resonate within the gaming community. Today, we remember and celebrate the remarkable contributions of Jennell Jaquays to the world of gaming and beyond.