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."