Eyes have been on Palmer Luckey, the founder of Facebook-owned Oculus, following an article linking him to ‘Nimble America’, a polarizing political group that’s been described as part of the fringe ‘alt-right’. Following developer and community backlash, Luckey has issued an apology and a denial of some of the claims made against him.
While Brendan Iribe is the CEO of Oculus, Luckey is the company’s founder and in many ways an important public face of Oculus thanks to his role in bringing about the VR renaissance we’re currently enjoying.
Luckey was the subject of a recent article by The Daily Beast which claims that he has admitted to being a financial backer of Nimble America, a group dedicated to supporting Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump by circulating negative memes of Hillary Clinton, Trump’s Democratic opponent in the race for the White House.
While Road to VR doesn’t cover politics, backlash among Oculus’ developers and community has brought the issue into the VR realm.
According to the original article, Luckey confirmed to The Daily Beast that he had used the pseudonym ‘NimbleRichMan’ to write a (now deleted) post in the pro-Trump subreddit /r/The_Donald, on behalf of the organisation which says it’s dedicated to proving “shitposting is powerful and meme magic is real.” Founders of that subreddit have helped circulate and popularise white supremacist memes depicting Trump, according to the same Daily Beast report. Nimble America had apparently taken credit for a billboard spotted in Pittsburgh, depicting a caricature of Clinton bearing the slogan “Too Big to Jail,” referring to the Democratic candidate’s recent email server troubles.
Luckey has issued a statement in response to the article via his personal Facebook page. The part-apology, part-denial confirms that Luckey made a large donation to Nimble America, but refutes claims that he made specific posts under the Reddit username NimbleRichMan.
I am deeply sorry that my actions are negatively impacting the perception of Oculus and its partners.The recent news stories about me do not accurately represent my views.
Here’s more background: I contributed $10,000 to Nimble America because I thought the organization had fresh ideas on how to communicate with young voters through the use of several billboards. I am a libertarian who has publicly supported Ron Paul and Gary Johnson in the past, and I plan on voting for Gary in this election as well.
I am committed to the principles of fair play and equal treatment. I did not write the “NimbleRichMan” posts, nor did I delete the account. Reports that I am a founder or employee of Nimble America are false. I don’t have any plans to donate beyond what I have already given to Nimble America.
Still, my actions were my own and do not represent Oculus. I’m sorry for the impact my actions are having on the community.
Following Luckey statement, Daily Beast Senior News Editor Ben Collins, one of the authors of the initial article, says that the refutations are false, citing emails from Luckey himself, which Collins posted to Twitter.
— Ben Collins (@oneunderscore__) September 24, 2016
VR Developer and Community Backlash
In the aftermath of the story breaking, Motherboard has reported that several developers producing titles for Oculus’ Rift VR platform have spoken out in response, many stating they’re withdrawing their support for the Oculus platform as long as Luckey is still with the company.
SUPERHYPERCUBE will not be supporting Oculus. https://t.co/sqtAzZ8hJZ
— Polytron (@Polytron) September 23, 2016
I'm dropping Oculus support from Tower Underworld Online V due to Palmer Luckey's politics. If you're not familiar with TUOV, ask me.
— Merisa (@cambrian_era) September 23, 2016
With Fez and Superhypercube publisher Polytron stating, “In a political climate as fragile and horrifying as this one, we cannot tacitly endorse these actions by supporting Luckey or his platform.”
Insomniac Games, who have developed and released two games exclusively for Oculus’ platform (with one more on the way), took a more measured and diplomatic approach; speaking to Motherboard, the company said, “Insomniac Games condemns all forms of hate speech. While everyone has a right to express his or her political opinion, the behavior and sentiments reported do not reflect the values of our company. We are also confident that this behavior and sentiment does not reflect the values of the many Oculus employees we work with on a daily basis.”
As for the VR community which has grown alongside the fledgling VR industry, many have expressed anger at Luckey’s stance. A thread about the Daily Beast article on the Oculus section of Reddit has seen a whopping 3,900 comments, with some users disavowing Oculus and its Rift headset while others expressed shock, disbelief, and disappointment at the news.
Whether this will have a tangible impact on Oculus as a company remains to be seen. For now the company hasn’t made any public statements regarding the incident except to point to Luckey’s personal statement.