I like to think I can see different sides of an debate, though I’m sure I’m as guilty as anyone of assuming that my experiences/opinions are universal (and as such TEH DEVS SHOULD DO EXACTLY WHAT I SAY OR EVERY PLAYER WILL QUIT). So, as a bit of a background to frame my posts, I’ve been playing PC games since about 1989, starting with an 8086 with 512k of RAM, mono CGA graphics (4 shades of gray) and games like Zork, Elite, Rogue and The Ancient Art of War on 5.25″ disks. No hard drive; Curse of the Azure Bonds was about four disks, and as I remember you had to swap disks around pretty much every time you got into combat.
About the earliest multi-player gaming I can think of (aside from clustering around a single keyboard trying to play some beat ’em up, which never really worked so well) was carting a PC round to a friend’s house, connecting it to another PC with a null modem cable, and shooting each other down in Falcon (yes, Falcon before it had numbers on the end…) This LAN party-without-a-LAN wasn’t a frequent event, though, as lugging PCs around was a bit of a pain, and trying to get them to talk to each other via the null modem cable was an exercise in frustration involving a couple of hours of changing random options, maybe five minutes of playing, then losing the connection. (So, good training for a life of computers). Skipping over ten years or so, there were odd bits of multiplayer fun, like getting an actual LAN going for Doom and Descent and playing XPilot on the university Sun stations instead of working, but generally games were still single player, offline experiences. I was vaguely aware EverQuest and Counterstrike existed, but was playing Baldur’s Gate and Half-Life. Not much choice, really, with a dial-up internet connection (not if you wanted to stay sane, at any rate.)
I only got broadband a few years ago (thanks to the fantastic telecoms infrastructure and absurd prices for even 512k connections until recently), and dabbled in a few online games; a bit of Neverwinter Nights, some Unreal Tournament 2004. With a broadband connection I looked more seriously at MMOGs, but was put off by the monthly fee and the prospect of being months or even years behind players in established games. I almost got Star Wars Galaxies when it launched… lucky escape there, I guess! I’m not entirely certain quite why I went for City of Heroes a year later. A few slashdot comments, some buzz from a friend-of-a-friend, the client was available as a download and I wasn’t doing anything else that evening… but that was it, and I’ve been MMOGing since.