When I started getting bored of the popular gaming consoles of the time (Nintendo, Super Nintendo, Sega Genesis, etc), I started playing the shareware games that my dad had downloaded from the BBS's on his computer. These were simple games, games like the original Duke Nukem (the platformer), Crystal Caves, Cosmos's Cosmic Adventure, Space Quest, Leisure Suit Larry (when my dad wasn't home
Doom was a game changer for me. Aside from the graphics (which were amazing for the time), I found the concept of multiplayer fascinating. Playing Doom with a friend over the modem, on two separate machines, located in two separate houses was the coolest thing my pre-adolescent mind could fathom...I was hooked. I spread around copies of Doom to whoever I could find that had a computer capable of playing it. In order to play Doom with others, they needed a copy. I'd use archive software like pkzip to compress and span it over multiple disks to take to school with me and give it to whoever I could. For my more tech-savvy friends, I'd send them a copy over the modem with terminal programs like QModem or QuickLink II.
Once the problem of finding other players was solved, the problem of getting it working started. This is where I started learning about things like COM ports, IRQs (and conflicts), init strings, etc. Eventually the fruits of my labor began to pay off and things started to work. I was in heaven. I'd spend as much time as my parents would let me playing games on their computer with friends. Eventually my parents got a new computer and I inherited their old one. Score!
As the games got more advanced, so did the minimum system requirements. My hand-me-down 486 with 8 megs of RAM wasn't keeping up with my gaming addiction. After a year of saving, I finally had enough money to purchse my own gaming rig: a blazing fast AMD K5 PR133 with 24 megs of RAM. Up until now I had only dealt with minor upgrades; this was the first time I'd built my own system from the ground-up. That thing blazed through Duke Nukem 3D and Quake like butter. Everything was going great. Then the Internet happened.
Not having to go through the routine of pursuading my friends why they should trade sleep for getting their asses handed to them at Doom and Quake on the weekends was liberating. Now all I had to do was get online and jump in a server that had *gasp!* more than one other person in it! Growing up, we never had a LAN setup in my house so all my multiplayer gaming was done over the modem by directly calling my friends' modem. This meant that there was always only one other person to play with (or against). Gaming over the Internet thrust me into the world of TCP/IP networking at a relatively young age. Learning about how TCP/IP networks worked (IP addresses, subnets, DNS, IP routing, etc) came as a result.
As a function of my love of working on computers (which in turn was a function of my love of gaming on them), I took a computer science class in high school to see if I might like programming. I figured that since I'd mastered the hardware side of things, I should move on to software. During my junior year of high school I took a beginner computer science class and fell in love with programming. I knew that this was the career path for me and pursued it in college and eventually ended up with a degree in the field.
Somewhere along the way I got invovled with Linux. Back then, the PC was synonymous with Microsoft. Until I was 16, I didn't even know there were alternatives to their operating systems. I found the concept of running a 'foreign', and especially free, operating system on my PC fascinating. I spent many frustrating nights trying to get even a basic graphical interface working properly. By the time I knew enough to get OpenGL and Quake III working properly on my Linux rig I felt like a certified bad ass; I had conquered the final frontier of PC gaming.
The skills that I picked up along the way were crutial in landing my first jobs in IT. At the age of 18 I was working as an EMR (Electro-Mechanical Repair) technician for Dell, a feat that was unheard of for an 18 year old still in temp-to-hire status. I had learned the skills necessary for this job building and troubleshooting my and my friends' gaming machines.
As the years increased, so did my skills and knowledge of computing. The rest, as they say, is history.