I started gaming in 1984, with Gamma World. My friend had the game and we played a handful of sessions right before I moved away. I photocopied the mutation tables and when I arrived in the new town I started a game group with the neighborhood kids. We played for a few years using only those tables and a freeform hack of the Gamma World game system.
When I discovered Marvel Super Heroes, I knew I wanted to be a game designer. That game took over my brain for years. I hacked and remixed it into all kinds of things and learned a lot.
And that work lead to my discovery of Talislanta, which is where my introduction to the world of game design really took off, thanks to the amazing Talislanta email list in the 90s. I met Steve Sechi (the creator of Talislanta) through the email list, and he became my mentor and friend. I wouldn't be doing game design today without Steve. I also got to connect with Robin Laws, Jonathan Tweet, Rob Heinsoo, and Peter Adkison (in the early days of Wizards of the Coast) thanks to Talislanta. It's a hugely important touchstone in my gaming history.
Other influential early RPG experiences were Call of Cthulhu (as run by the incomparable Jay Fore), Champions, and Greg Costikyan's D6 games: Ghostbusters and Star Wars.
Hearing your podcasts and google hangouts we can infer that you play A LOT.
that's still playing Blades in the Dark. We've been playing it since the first version, about two years ago, and everyone wants to keep going. We're on our fifth (?) series now. I'm also a player in a Blades game over Google hangouts, which is really fun.
Neither role is placed in authority over the group as a whole. Each person at the table has equal say in how the game goes, what it's about, what's out of bounds, what's desirable, what tone is expected, what kind of action is reasonable, all that. A group of adults, having a conversation like adults, in other words.