UPDATE: Palmer Luckey issued a statement saying “the recent news stories about me do not accurately represent my views” and that he did not post under the pseudonym as The Daily Beast reported.
Virtual reality enthusiasts know the fun of introducing people to modern VR and having in-depth conversations around the dinner table with family about how the technology will change our future. Those conversations may head in a political direction now, at least when an Oculus Rift or Samsung Gear VR is involved, after a report from The Daily Beast painted Oculus co-founder Palmer Luckey as a financier of Internet-based groups supporting Donald Trump.
E McNeill, the developer of early VR titles Darknet and Tactera, both available through the Oculus store, tweeted a screenshot of a $1,000 donation to Hillary Clinton’s campaign after the report published on Thursday afternoon. Another Twitter user wrote “I’m cancelling Touch support in my game as long as Palmer works for Oculus” along with a photo directing the middle finger at the as-yet unreleased controllers.
The Daily Beast article is sourced from a mashup of different places allegedly including Luckey himself, as well as an apparent pseudonym and members connected to the group he was said to be supporting. The string of connections and lack of details in how they were acquired were enough for some to question the report’s authenticity, or view it as satire. At one point Luckey expresses a fairly lighthearted view of his role in allegedly saying “I thought it sounded like a real jolly good time.” But the article subheadline asserts “Palmer Luckey—founder of Oculus—is funding a Trump group that circulates dirty memes about Hillary Clinton.” For some enthusiasts, a 24-year-old who was once viewed as a visionary achieving The American Dream, is now also seen, during a particularly divisive election, as a man using the money he made from other dreamers for a crude kind of political influence.
Since the story broke, the below video has been discovered, showing Luckey at a Costa Mesa rally for Trump back in April, which spurred major protests. To be clear, the video doesn’t confirm Luckey was a part of the rally, just present during the discord that ensued.
We’ll update as this unfolds. We reached out to Oculus and confirmed Luckey is currently a part of Oculus/Facebook — an early version of The Daily Beast story said he was not a current employee.
The only person who can really shed light on this is Luckey, though, and he hasn’t commented publicly yet about the report. A thread on the Reddit Oculus community crossed 1,000 comments during the writing of this post. Here are some tweets we noted:
— Lee Vermeulen (@Alientrap) September 23, 2016
@hmltn he can support whoever he wants. But paying to attack someone with very nasty smearing would be different
— Markus Nigrin (@MarkusN) September 23, 2016
that Oculus Rift kickstarter sure had weird stretch goals
— Tim Dawson (@ironicaccount) September 23, 2016
How are the VR subreddits? pic.twitter.com/00bTAcZebX
— Ben Kuchera (@BenKuchera) September 23, 2016
— Callum Underwood (@DevRelCallum) September 23, 2016
Oh wow, I thought the pro-Trump Palmer Luckey story was satire the first time I read it. Just realized it’s true.
— Min-Liang Tan (@minliangtan) September 23, 2016