20 years ago to the day, Microsoft launched Xbox Live, just a year after its first ever console hit the market. It was a momentous day for gaming, as the console world took a gargantuan leap towards mass adoption for online play. Admittedly, I'm a bit young to have too many memories of its initial launch, but Xbox Live in general changed how I looked at video games, and the service ultimately made me fall in love with the Xbox brand in a big way.

Truth be told, I never considered myself a 'gamer' before Xbox Live. Sure, I messed around with both a PS1 and a PS2 as a young kid (yeah, they were around before Xbox burst onto the scene for me), but my playtime was limited back then, and I mostly dipped into the same few games here and there. Gran Turismo, GTA and Pro Evolution Soccer were a few I have strong memories of playing.

Fast-forward to late 2007, and I was finally getting my hands on an Xbox 360 after months of torment watching my brother play his machine. Before the 360 came around, sharing systems with him was viable. That all went out the window with Xbox Live; you simply didn't want to give up the controller.

Xbox 360 pad

While my Xbox 360 arrived as a family pack with Forza Motorsport 2 and Viva PiƱata, it was the first Gears of War that delivered my best early memories of online gaming. Playing 'Annex' and 'Execution' back then with randoms online was such a novel experience, and even though I was pretty poor at the game in all honesty, that didn't stop me from going back almost every single day, striving to improve.

Then, everything changed when Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare arrived on the scene. Sure, I played bits of Halo 3 that year as well, and I loved the online modes for Project Gotham Racing 4, but COD4, man; I was straight up addicted to that game's multiplayer! I've already spoken at length about how seminal the first Modern Warfare really is, but it obviously needed Xbox Live's platform to take it to the next level.

Speaking of the next level, a little sequel called Modern Warfare 2 (2009) dropped two years later, and I'm not sure I've ever seen a 'fever pitch' moment in gaming quite like it since. Well, I imagine it's what the cool kids are like when a big Fortnite event drops these days, but still, it seemed so unique back then; the whole release felt like a huge event.

Everyone I knew who owned an Xbox 360 was playing Modern Warfare 2... everyone! My entire Xbox Live friends list would be filled with Modern Warfare 2 players, every evening of every day. Xbox Live became a huge part of my social life as a teenager, and I think that aspect of the service can often be overlooked. There are probably thousands of gamers out there who have enjoyed a similar experience thanks to a particular game paired with Xbox Live, and there are some great memories there for many of us.

Online gaming has grown significantly since I was first hooked on the notion of playing games over the internet in the early 2000's, but we owe a lot to those early years of Xbox Live for making that concept accessible to millions of players back in the eras of the original Xbox and Xbox 360. Happy 20th birthday, Xbox Live!

What are your fondest memories of playing on Xbox Live? Drop some down in the comments!