I almost missed this because I was polishing off a 10K-word opus, but yesterday was the 15th anniversary of the release of Quake, the seminal first-person shooter that in many ways fueled the nascent PC enthusiast community of the day.
There's a nice post at the Bethesda blog that will take your memory for a pleasant jog, if you lived through it, as will this video from the QuakeWorld launch event:
Technologically, Quake was a whole bundle of firsts wrapped together in one ridiculously ground-breaking package. Among them: the first true 3D first-person shooter, the first with real-time interactive gameplay via the Internet, and the first game to take advantage of consumer 3D graphics chips from the likes of Rendition and 3dfx. The community that popped up around the game featured a number of firsts, as well, including competitive tournaments, multiplayer clans, a big network of dedicated servers that could be browsed and tracked via various utilities (like GameSpy), a robust modding scene that eventually spawned a zillion careers at places like Valve, and gaming web logs that trounced print mags as the go-to source of information about it all.
The blog post I linked above has a short reminiscence from John Carmack, the id Software programming guru who engineered most of Quake's technological innovations. If you scroll down, there's also post in the comments from his former co-worker and fellow graphics programming luminary Michael Abrash; he explains Carmack was being a little too modest about the networking innovations in QuakeWorld, the version of the game playable over the Internet. Although many hands made Quake, it seems clear Carmack's genius was the key to making it all happen when it did, instead of some years later, if at all.
Living in the world we do now, it's difficult to fathom how ground-breaking and unifying Quake was at the time. I can say Quake and its successors altered the course of my life dramatically. Too much QuakeWorld threatened my grades in grad school and fueled my interest in the Internet, causing me to pursue a career in network and system administration rather than another degree. My hunger for higher frame rates piqued my interest in building my own PCs and overclocking them, and a series of after-work LAN gaming sessions forged the bonds of friendship that led a group of us to launch a website called Ars Technica. Without Quake, I dunno where I'd be, but it sure wouldn't be here, running TR and having a blast doing it. I expect there are many stories from folks in this community that follow a similar trajectory.