Move forward a few months, and it's 1994. You're playing Bullfrog's Theme Park, a hugely anticipated game from the genius Peter Molyneux, whom you recently saw on the videogame TV show Bad Influence. Molyneux has created three huge hits in four years - Populous and Syndicate were just as engaging as Theme Park - and the man can do no wrong. Not only that, he's passing on his knowledge to new blood: He's taken on as his apprentice chess prodigy and all-around genius Demis Hassabis. Hassabis, whose bio describes him as "a computer games designer, AI programmer, neuroscientist and world-class games player," is a hero-in-waiting, and one of the first signs of a second generation of gaming luminaries, an exciting gaming renaissance on the horizon. Secretly, sitting among your thick manuals and floppy disks, you hope to be a part of the revolution yourself.
But skip forward through the rose-tinted barrier of the 3-D console revolution, and you won't find a mature, respectable industry, all clean-shaven and smiling with a long-term girlfriend. Staring back at you, instead, is a rebellious mess, at times striving for acceptance from the media, but lashing out angrily on the occasions when it fails. It's an industry broken and addicted to its own self-image. Hero worship has destroyed gaming.
Hassabis broke from Molyneux in 1998. The resulting development house, Elixir Studios, announced their coup d'etat simulator Republic, promising a detailed and reactive world in which you could rise from revolutionary to ruler in whichever way you wanted. People believed in Elixir; not just gamers, mind you, but people. Hassabis made BBC TV with a combination of his child-prodigy life story and claims of gaming magic. The public was captivated for a short while, and then Republic hit the shelves. It ended up a shallow mishmash of political minigames and was ignored, deservedly or not, by gamer and journalist alike.
Flash forward a few months: You're a slightly older gamer now, slightly wiser, and you're reading a Doom 3 preview. You're so excited it hurts. The graphics engine hints at an impossibly pretty future for gaming, but what makes you sit up and pay attention the most is the presence of one name, and one name alone: John Carmack. Even those who weren't old enough to have painstakingly downloaded the original Doom themselves have read the blog posts, seen the historical accounts and heard the campfire stories told in hushed voices. Pioneering men, simpler times. Tears fill your eyes as you pre-order over the internet.
Later, Doom 3 comes out. It's painfully average.