Those of you who have done programming work in your career: did video games influence your path?
Not really. My dad was the one who set me on this career track the day he came home with a Amstrad CPC 646 when I was 6. It came with one game on casette (my dad bought that extra), a book on BASIC in English (which was not my native language), and an insatiable curiousity (although that might have been there at the time). I was lost in the book at the point where it explained how to draw a circle on the screen, but I pounded in the code and started playing with the variables in and before those weird sin() and cos() functions.
And yes, I played videogames. I saved up months worth of allowance (money to buy candy, hey, I was 6) for that dinky little joystick, but I spent more time playing around with it than actually playing videogames on it.
When I was 12 I saved up for a "real" computer. An 8086 with 640KB of memory, and after I got used to working with DOS, floppies and a hard drive with a giant 20MB of space, I bought books on programming for the PC. Yes, I also played videogames, but it was the programming that fascinated me. Making that computer do things for me, albeit very useless but that wasn't the issue, it was doing things I had told it to do. I learned how the machine worked, what memory addresses were special, what interrupts were,
By the time I was 17 a friend of mine introduced me to Linux, and it didn't take long for me to make the switch. A program crashing wouldn't take down the whole operating system anymore, and best of all, it was free (gratis), came with a compiler (again free), and it came with everything you ever wanted in documentation, and if that failed, there was the source code. I played games... I had to dual boot for it, but I played games and even organized a small LAN party with friends in the basement and learned the basics of networking as I went along. When the internet became a thing in my country I could e-mail people around half the globe about a bug in a program, send a patch file, download the source code to something I wanted to try, and learned something new every day.
I'm sad for a lot of the programmers graduating today. The fact that the phone in my pocket has thousands of times the resources of that old 8086 of mine means that inefficient code comes at a smaller cost for small programs. And sure, it doesn't matter in small programs, but when they start writing real code it shows and often in painful ways. Instead of learning how to program, they've learned how to play games. Aside from the graphics card, there's no real need for adding something to a desktop machine anymore, and even if it were it's all pretty much (actually working) plug and play these days. There's no incentive for people who play games anymore to tinker with a machine and learn how it works.
As time has progressed I've seen less and less interns passionate about computing, and more and more people who say "I went in IT because I'm good with the Internet, like chatting and playing games.". Oh, there's a big buzz around the usual hot topics, like "social", "big data", "cloud", "internet of things" and whatnot, and I'm not claiming that's a bad thing, after all times have changed and everyone adapts new models and technology, but still... There's few who are interested in the machine, and how to really make it do things. When a kid tells you a database with 2GB of data in it is "big data" and we should be putting that shit in "the cloud" I start wondering about the future. There are exceptions, but far and few in between.
And yes, as the gray hairs on my head have started to become quite numerous, I still play videogames. But I still spend most of my time with the machine doing other fun things.