It must have been late ’98. This was during the N64 era, an era in which I had purchased no consoles, but I had recently bough a custom-built computer. I was actually thinking I might have grown out of video games. I was anti-Sony back then, and had become quite jaded on Nintendo. Sega was dead to me.

I had a friend who worked at an Internet café place at the time, and I went over to check it out. He sat me down at a station, supplied me with some good headphones, and directed me to play a game he had loaded up. I was probably determined to not be impressed.

So this game has me on the light rail system taking me into the Black Mesa facility, a rather nice intro actually. After arriving, I had some fun wandering around and listening to the scientist’s chatter. I’m quite interested in science myself, and this was probably as close as I’d come to actually working at a research facility, so it was kinda fascinating. All the while, I’m hearing the scuttlebutt about things that have been going wrong and things that maybe will go wrong. I’m directed to get into my HEV suit and go through the tutorial. I get a kick out of trying to make a “duck jump,” trying to think of how to induce water fowl to jump.

I get back to the lab where the experiment is to take place, being reminded that something called a “resonance cascade failure” isn’t likely to happen. Of course, it does happen, and things start to go ka-blooie. Just at that moment, my friend who must have been keeping an eye on me, interjected with perfect timing, “What did you do!?”

It was one of those magical moments you probably had to be there to appreciate.

Of course, he and I both fully knew that all I had done was just follow the script as dictated by the game, but it was a fun gag. I probably played the game for an hour or two, but I was hooked, and my interest in video games was reinvigorated.