It was in my 8th grade Math class and I was doodling pictures from 8 bit Nintendo games on my folder while the teacher scratched out something indecipherable on the chalk-board with a shaky hand.
Out of the blue the kid sitting behind me (Nick) said "Hey, you play Metroid? COOL, have you played Kid Icarus?" I mentioned that I hadn't, but would LOVE to try it! After school we headed to his place for 6 hours of non stop gaming, laughing and high-fiving.
Our deep and life-long friendship was born.
Later on in the school year he whispered, in a hushed but reverent tone, while at our lockers "have you ever heard of dungeons and dragons? I saw it in a game store across the street from my place.. It's about Elves and dragons.. it's sweet!"
We couldn't wait another day! We scrounged up the money we had, ran over to Comics Utah and bought the red-boxed beginner's set of D&D. This wasn't even "A" D&D.. you couldn't play a Dwarven fighter, you were just "the Dwarf" or "the Elf" or "the Wizard".
We strapped on our pointy ears, picked up our wizard's staves and we were hooked.
All of that is almost irrelevant though compared to what I felt when I walked into Comics Utah and looked at the games on the shelves:
Detectives stared suspiciously out at me from beneath their fedoras.
Knights in heavy plate armor clashed with evil wizards.
Large headed aliens dreamed of conquering Earth.
... and I was a part of all of it. I had the power to fight off the aliens, to solve the crime and save the "dame" and to help my stout ally in armor defeat the evil wizard.
At age 14ish that was heady stuff. My normal life of homework, housework and girls suddenly seemed to pale compared to what I could do as a ninja in Ninjas and Superspies. It couldn't compare to what I was capable of as a Terminator Space Marine in Space Hulk.
My imagination was the only thing holding me back from complete world domination, and I loved it. Further, I wanted to - no, I needed to - be a part of it. Somehow, some way.
It was then that I noticed that not many knew about this secret world of swords, sorcery and laser beam robots. They were oblivious to alternate universes and the complete freedom they represented.
I became a one man gaming missionary! My mission was to spread the word and get everyone involved. Who WOULDN'T want to be a part of all that?
Soon it became clear that gaming wasn't cool. Worse, I was uncool for doing it. D&D was for satan worshippers and losers who couldn't meet girls.
(PS - HA!)
I was crushed. Maybe people weren't oblivious after all, they were willfully disinterested. Maybe...... but maybe not everyone?
Over the next 4 years I continued gaming, and telling people about gaming. Pouring the unbridled passion of youth and every bit of determination I had into it. I was paid back, with interest, by my friendships developed in those days centered around a game and some dice. Some of my best friends from that time are still in my life!
One day the unexpected happened - I received a call from Comics Utah about an application I put in a while back. I could work full time, for minimum wage, at the downtown store.
Full circle! It took me four years to get back to the beginning, but I had made it. My life would never be the same.