Since GamePolitics broke the news about Barack Obama's Xbox Live ads last weeks, they have become an international media sensation.
But, GP didn't actually find the ads; we were just first to report on them. Credit for the actual discovery goes to "Jeff", a 39-year-old gamer who lives in one of the 10 battleground states in which the Obama ads are running. He'd prefer that we not say exactly which state, for privacy reasons.
Married with a family, Jeff works in a machine shop and of this he told GP, "It's far more interesting than anyone will give credit, and more honest than most professions."
But life has not been all fun and games for Jeff. A couple of years back, he was involved in a high speed, head-on crash caused by a drunk driver, suffering horrendous injuries. Afterward, he spent nearly three months in a wheel chair and endured several surgeries. Despite it all, Jeff has managed to maintain his sense of humor:
I've had so much hardware installed and removed that I was feeling like a catch-all bin at Home Depot...
While recuperating and doing battle with insurance companies, Jeff kept himself busy by writing, drawing - and gaming:
I've always been something of a sideline gamer, dating back to the Atari 2600... but spending 14 hours a day watching Discovery Channel while waiting for my bones to knit together bored the crap out of me so I convinced my wife that we needed an XBox to supplement the PS2. It allowed me to connect directly with other members of the Rooster Teeth community who had helped me stay sane through everything.
It's ironic that Jeff's now-famous pictures of the Obama ads were very much of a random occurrence:
The funny thing is that I had already played through 97% of the game months ago and it was collecting dust on the shelf. I had only tossed it in [the Xbox 360] because we just bought the new TV and one of my daughter's friends wanted to see the motorcycles in action. We'd been buzzing around the city in various vehicles at high speed for about half an hour before I happened to crash right in front of one of the billboards. Burnout's in-game camera induces vertigo if you try to manipulate it so you normally have to get a car airborne before you can actually read any of the signs close up. It was a genuine "WTF?" moment.
Jeff snapped the pictures directly from his TV screen (left) using an Olympus 550UZ camera. He never imagined that they'd go very far:
The only reason I took the photos to begin with was to share them with my friends. [My friend] Claude asked if he could show it to a few people to get confirmation, because he was rightfully skeptical too. I agreed and now this thing is just taking on a life of its own...
I just saw [the Obama ads] on a blurb on MSNBC. That's crazy. I'm actually a little glad they aren't mentioning my gamertag anymore, though part of me is a bit pissed that they aren't giving [GamePolitics] proper credit for breaking the story.
The truly ironic part of this entire ride is that I find myself being the catalyst for Obama's media exposure. As you said, I was the only one to say anything about it and now it's being picked up across the web - far outside the original 10 states that the ads were planned for. That's exposure that exceeds the original investment of his campaign by an order of magnitude. For that matter EA must be clapping their hands at the prospects of increased revenue to their checking accounts. As they say, "you can't buy this kind of advertising..."
Granted, anyone could have done the same thing, but this time it happened to be me. That's an odd feeling that I'm still trying to get used to.
Ironically, Jeff is neither an Obama or McCain supporter. He's just an average guy who games.