The Unlikely Man Behind A Digital Revolution

On May 26, two weeks before E3, a man named Pete Dodd started a thread on the message board NeoGAF. Microsoft had just announced their next-gen console, the Xbox One, and with it, customer-unfriendly policies like used game restrictions and a mandatory 24-hour Internet check-in. Meanwhile, Sony was staying quiet about their own possible plans for digital-rights management (DRM) on the PlayStation 4.

So Dodd went to gamers with a request: go on Twitter and send messages to Sony executives using the hashtag #PS4NoDRM, asking them to keep those sort of policies off the next PlayStation.

"Will a couple hundred posts from NeoGAF change the entire industry?" Dodd wrote. "No. Can it help give a little more momentum to something Sony seems to be leaning towards already? I would think so."

Over the next few days, the campaign spread across Twitter and reached Sony executives' ears. On June 10, Sony went all in, announcing at their E3 press conference that the PS4 will be DRM-free. The next week, Microsoft followed suit and backtracked on their own digital policies.

Whew. The campaign was ultimately more successful than Dodd ever dreamed it would be, and while Sony execs have denied that their decision was influenced by the outpour of fans, their E3 presentation certainly was — at one point, they even featured a #PS4NoDRM tweet on one of their many big screens. If not for this campaign, Sony prez Jack Tretton might not have delivered his now-infamous smackdown, and if not for that smackdown, Microsoft might not have backtracked on their own policies.

If not for Dodd, the past month could have played out much differently.

It's a climactic moment for the 36-year-old, who has suffered from anxiety for most of his life. In fact, if he hadn't started exercising about a month ago as a way to overcome his condition, #PS4NoDRM might never have happened.

"I don't think I would have been able to lead the campaign in the way that I did if I wasn't feeling better," Dodd told me during a chat this week. "I had this incredible energy and actually felt like I could do it. I have to credit that to exercise."

Dodd has been fighting anxiety since he was a teenager. At 25, doctors diagnosed him with a general anxiety disorder. He's tried to combat it with counselling, meds, and even alcohol, but he says the best remedy has been biking and swimming. It seems almost too simple, but he says it works.

"The clearest way I've ever been able to describe what it's like is think back to a time when you are in a car and someone comes so close to crashing into you," he said. "Your heart goes nuts, you get a burst of adrenaline, your palms sweat... but imagine that feeling happening for no reason, out of the blue. And then trying to rationalize why it's happening. It's terrifying and single-handedly turned me from an extrovert to an introvert."

Same old story: man feels awful; man gets better; man starts a digital revolution. The timing is amazing: Dodd, who lives in Connecticut and works in human services, says that he had just started pushing himself to swim, ride bikes, and walk more, and he had just started to feel better when he started this campaign.

Hours after he started that NeoGAF thread, Dodd was fielding tons of private messages and emails from people who wanted to contribute. The campaign started to blow up on Twitter, and the next morning, Dodd woke up to coverage from all sorts of media sites. Eventually he was getting calls from NBC and the Wall Street Journal — calls that might have triggered an anxiety attack a month ago.

"Pre-exercise, I think the attention would have freaked me out and I would have passed it on or just straight botched it by being defensive," Dodd said. "Instead, I felt great. I was confident and relaxed and was able to lead from a position of calm, which I think was a big part of the success of the movement. We weren't a collection of angry gamers screaming at Sony or Microsoft. The campaign was designed to talk to them in a very polite manner."

Dodd says the campaign boosted his confidence. He says he hasn't had an anxiety attack — big or small — in over a month. And he's proud of what he accomplished.

"What I've realised is that I am capable of much greater things than I thought was possible just a few months ago," Dodd said. "I know a lot of gamers use video games as escapism because of a variety of rotten reasons. I've been there and I fought through that and that's a story that I hope gives hope to others."


Comments

    Considering Sony announced on the 21st of February that they wouldn't 'force' DRM onto the PS4 (it's there, it's just up to the publisher/developer if they want to activate on their game) and Pete Dodd started his thread on the 26th of May. I can't help but feel there is a timing problem and that the twitter campaign is been given far too much credit.

      Came to say this. People seem to forget about that little fact.

    The man behind a digital revolution ... ironically Microsoft wanted to lean totally into digital games but now they've stepped away from it. He's more like a man behind a disc-based revolution.

      But Microsoft shouldn't try force that to happen, it has to happen naturally. They were essentially taking away our consumer rights.

        It was actually a damn good step between all digital and disk based generations...
        You weren't forced to buy one or the other but if you bought a disk you had essentially a disk that can act as a digital copy without the hassle of downloading the same game numerous times or worrying about download speeds and caps (Yes a connection of any type and speed -1.5mbps was an optimal speed not minimum- was required every 24 hours/Sign in )

        It could have taken an interesting and better evolution than just better graphics this gen but people like this guy complained and started a "revolution" but that revolution was one of the worst ones for the gaming community.

        Last edited 30/06/13 10:25 pm

          @dunder
          Your a muppet so ignorant of the facts that you literally made me stupider while reading your comment.

          So sick of these morons saying how taking away consumer rights for no benefit was the "future". Who then blame the people with actual intelligence (that fought against the BS DRM), somehow killed innovation and the industry. fucking bunch of idiots.

          Last edited 01/07/13 9:46 am

          We already have a good step between all digital and disc based generations. Make all the games available digitally through XBL / PSN (which they're doing anyway), and then people have the choice of buying the digital copy (including all the associated things like family sharing and DRM and whatnot if that's what they want) or buying the physical copy under the same conditions they've always had. Trying to impose the restrictions of digital distribution onto physical was NOT a good option for consumers.

          It's not like the market isn't ready to go digital if they actually make it attractive. Like pricing digital content realistically i.e. not charging the same or more for digital versions than we can buy the physical copy for. So far none of the console platform holders have shown much willingness to adopt this approach. Sony's pricing of digital copies of Vita software (10% less than RRP) is a start, but, but still really a token gesture considering that most games can be bought physically for 10% less than RRP anyway. Make digital 30% less than physical and they may find the shift to digital starts happening organically as consumers actually see some benefit from it. MS's approach with the XBone was basically all stick and no carrot, and got rejected accordingly.

          I think AngryJoe on YouTube sums it up pretty nicely. /watch?v=xcXdWRJ-xb4

        Urghh... You are not a customer of Nintendo/Sony/Microsoft if you are buying second hand... You are not a paying consumer...

        You are a consumer of EB/Gamestop etc etc.... So don't bleat about consumer rights when you aren't interacting with the company you are arguing about.

          What are you on about? Im talking about buying a brand new copy of a game and not actually owning the game, only leasing the game, and eventually when the xbox one was no longer profitable and they shut down the servers and move onto the next xbox, then what happens to the games and the check-in required to operate the console. Lucky they reversed it

            What's stopping Microsoft from removing the DRM once they stop supporting the servers the DRM relies on? They've proven they can seeing as they have.

              well then whats the point of having it there in the first place? Point is Microsoft is shady, and cant be trusted.

    THIS! I know the naysayers hated it. And they had every right to question how it was all going to work. But I do find it funny that a group (gamers) built around the notion that I'm after the next big thing and everything must progress was so afraid of change.

      it's not that strange, really. You just need to keep in mind that change and progress are not always the same thing.

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