Serendipitous. That's the word that springs to mind when I think of The Lords of Midnight. There was no reason why I should have encountered it at a rather young age. I can't see it having been sold in Toys R Us or my local indie gaming store. By the time I owned a Commodore 64, the system was dying a slow death and shops only really stocked budget offerings from Ocean or Codemasters. As an eight or nine year old, I didn't care that I had a dated system though. I had games to play! That's all that mattered.
Childhood friendships are frequently born out of practicalities, I suspect. Things like being geographically nearby are important, but there's also the more mercenary aspect of childhood - having a friend who has all the 'cool' stuff that you don't. It may have blossomed into a solid adult friendship too, but I suspect convenience was a big part for how my childhood best friend and I came to be.
I was a huge wimp when I was younger. The strangest things would unsettle me. Red Skull in the very dodgy early 1990s version of Captain America terrified me for some unfathomable reason. I didn't sleep for days. Walking past Aliens action figures in Woolworths scared the life out of me, simply because I'd played five minutes of Aliens on the Commodore 64 and it was far too atmospheric for my overly imaginative mind. That's how absurd it was.
You're sitting in someone else's house. You can't help but look around briefly at your surroundings. Ooh, that looks like an interesting selection of books in the bookcase and what's that pad of paper in the corner for? I wonder what that ornament on the cabinet represents. Is there a story behind it? Then the person you're visiting leaves the room for a minute. There's a strong urge to look far more closely, isn't there? A completely inappropriate part of your brain would love to open a cupboard, just to see what's behind the door. Not for nefarious reasons, of course. I couldn't even say why it's so appealing. Is it just the fact that you can't see behind that door in the first place?
I can still remember when I first laid my eyes on it. On a shelf full of the usual mid-1990s suspects - Streets of Rage, Sonic the Hedgehog, Revenge of Shinobi, so many sports games - Buck Rogers: Countdown to Doomsday stood out. A distinctive red box with some garish and heroic art, it couldn't help but stand out. I'd later learn this was the NTSC version of the game (fortunately, it was region-free), but for now, that just made it look a bit exotic for an 11-year-old who mostly bought into the 'judge a game by its cover' conceit. At that moment, I was just delighted that I'd stumbled across this game at a rare time when I had £15 to spend. £15! It was a veritable fortune back then, and this proved to be the perfect investment.