I'm something of an anomaly in my gaming group in that I came to gaming from a different perspective. My fiancee is the same, too. Both of us didn't start with Dungeons & Dragons as our "gateway" to role-playing games.
When I was 10, my dad took me to see the movie Aliens, and that was a big experience for someone who had seen the original movie when he was five. While my parents encouraged me to read everything I could, they were also very firm proponents of "focus on the here and now" and "think about the future" schools of thoughts.
So taking those two things in my mind, when my parents took me to a bookstore, it had a small section of gaming books, saddled with board games and software. Among them were things like Red Box D&D, Call of Cthulhu, and even the James Bond: 007 RPG. Now, I knew about RPGs because my cousin told me about them, and talked about how his elf archer had kicked an orc in the 'nads. I wasn't interested in any of that. I was interested in space marines, fighters, power armor, and things that went boom. So instead of the warrior fighting the dragon, I picked the book with the soldier in power armor. That was MegaTraveller, and it was my first RPG. Or rather, Classic Traveller, since my cousin decided it was a better book to teach me how to game. For the next few years, I go my hands in every single game I could find, from Paranoia to GURPS to Champions. And yes, I got to play them, too. It was usually on weekends at a friend's house, or a small room in local library, where people thought we were "studying."
Then in middle school, we got around to reading Lord of the Rings for English class, and it was probably the worst thing that could happen to someone like me. I'd grown up with the stories of Robert E. Howard, Michael Moorcock, and Karl Edward Wagner. That was my view of fantasy and adventure, and that's what I wanted out of role-playing games as well. Unfortunately, most of the D&D players at the time were trying to ape Lord of the Rings, and I got bored fast. After the sixth stereotypical "Scottish" Dwarf and tenth "graceful and beautiful" Elf, I decided that traditional fantasy just wasn't for me. From then on D&D and lot of fantasy RPGs fell by the wayside. Of course, I didn't care since I preferred sci-fi/modern day games, and there were plenty of those.
Another unfortunate event was the coming of Palladium games and they had one of the things I loved the most at the time: Robotech. It just happened to be one of my all-time favorite anime series, and I got my hands on everything they had. It was pretty much the only game we played for an entire year. But that's when the glaring flaws of the system started to rear their ugly heads, and we didn't have the internet to read up on errata or ask other people about what to do when characters always took Boxing and Gymnastics to help them become better marksmen. Buh-wha? So that's when the idea that "system matters" got into my head. That the system should be able to support the setting of a game well, with minimal interruption of gameplay and enjoyment.
About the time I got to high school, I already had played dozens of games, and probably read even more. I'd played TMNT, Mekton, Amber, Tales of the Floating Vagabond, Warhammer Fantasy Role-Playing, Elric!, Mechwarrior, Millenium's End and more. This was when I was introduced to White Wolf games, like Vampire. By this time, D&D seemed to be dying, and I wanted to play something new, so playing a weird game where you didn't have "alignments" and you were playing a "monster" seemed interesting...and it was. But I didn't like vampires...or rather, I didn't like playing them, even if the system was fun. I liked staking them. So White Wolf came out with another game, Werewolf, and we got to see their little pattern, and it was fun for a while. That is, until Mage came, and there were more arguments about turning vampires into lawn chairs than actually doing it.
By then, it seemed as if I was stuck in limbo, because lot of gamers seemed to be polarizing. From ones that liked "high brow", serious gaming like Vampire and Mage, to others who just wanted to kill things in dungeons, or spend $200 a week on little plastic soldiers (Warhammer 40K was huge at this time.)
So after I graduated from high school and went to college, I took a break from gaming. I decided that life was too short to deal with people you disliked in a hobby you loved. I did game from time to time, but they were short affairs. Maybe an Amber here, a little Battletech in between, or a Bubblegum Crisis there. I did eventually get back to gaming when White Wolf started making more interesting stuff for Mage, like fleshing out the Technocracy, as well as publishing Trinity and Aberrant.
The big one that brought me back in was Exalted. I'd been so burnt out with gaming that I knew there was very little that could get me interested. But then I found out about a game that was combining Greco-Roman influences with Japanese animation aesthetics, and mechanics from videogames like Final Fantasy. That seemed to be exactly was I was looking for. Hell, I even forgot about D&D 3rd edition because even all the fixes and reworking of the system didn't interest me. I wanted to play a Solar-powered demigod that roamed around a Dali-esque setting, kicking ass and taking names. Also, without Exalted, I would've never have met my wonderful fiancee, who also loved the game...as well as the same things I do.
So that was 5-6 years ago, and quite a bit changed. I learned that the people you game with are more important than the games you play. I learned that system does matter (at least for me) when choosing which games to play. And I learned that I really like dice pools. ;)
So that's my RPG/gaming story in a nutshell.