My first encounter with computer games came when I was fourteen, and this was September of 1997, and the game was a graphical online sword and sorcery style fantasy roleplaying game, and the computer (alas!) I played it on was not one my father built but one I purchased (to my chagrin) from a large box store, already assembled, and nothing fancy at all.
My friends were pretty much techies, and they ridiculed my machine, but they consoled me and said that they would help me improve it with this or that component, but it didn't matter, and I scoffed, because it could do what I wanted it to do. See, I bought it for a single, soliary purpose, to play the game they had all started playing, my first "computer game." It was called "Optima Online," or "OO," and it was multiplayer, and gripping, and it sounds silly, but it changed my life, and not totally for the worse. The jury is still out, and I have a good number of real-life scars (and tattoos) to tip the balance for good or ill in either direction.
The first night I logged on to OO, I stayed up until the servers were taken down, and I don't think I blinked once. Not once. I can remember the opening montage, in clunky first generation CGI: a mighty warrior in chain mail standing before a sprawling starfield, gripping a gleaming sword, battling a pointy-bearded and snarling sorcerer who wore a black robe; the triumphal music--all brass horns and lutes; a glowing and levitating red gem spinning; the gem is broken; the logo materializes--two metallic "O's" glimmering in lurid torchlight--and as the music crescendoes, the narrator announces in a deep, grandfatherly voice, "Welcome to the world of Optima... Online!" Needle passes flesh, syringe is pressed, heart pumps blood, bliss.
In spite of the fact that I was just starting my first year at preparatory school, I am sure I logged eight hours a day on OO. Staring into the glowing computer screen, slurping one cup of black coffee after another, crunching handfuls of rice crackers, occasionally slapping my own face to fight back drowsiness, I would never have expected that I had developed an addiction. An addiction that, taken in the direction I took it, resulted in--and I apologize for the flowery, quasi-romantic language I am about to deploy, but it must be used to get the right note in this narrative melody I am trying to riff--resulted in, resulted in, resulted in me walking through what Aldous Huxley terms the "Doors of Perception."