Oculus Co-Founder Palmer Luckey, 24, was outed by The Daily Beast on September 22nd for financially backing a politically conservative “shitposting” political action committee, Nimble America, causing Virtual Reality developers Kokoromi, Tomorrow Today Labs, and Scruta Games to drop Oculus support for future games. Tomorrow Today Labs called Palmer Luckey’s actions “unacceptable” while Kokoromi accused Luckey of supporting “bigotry, white supremacy, hate, and fear”. Scruta Games announced dropping Oculus support in a tweet, calling for Luckey to step down. They would later respond to critics that their choice wasn’t about “politics” and was instead about Luckey “backing racist trolls”.
Luckey has since issued an apology via Facebook, stating his only interaction with Nimble America was a $10,000 donation because he “thought the organization had fresh ideas on how to communicate with young voters”. He later disclosed his plans on voting for Gary Johnson in the upcoming election before emphasizing his actions “do not represent Oculus”. Responding to the apology, Gideon Resnick, journalist at The Daily Beast and contributor to the original article exposing Luckey’s connection to Nimble America, revealed an email thread from September 20th between himself and Luckey where the co-founder admits using reddit account “NimbleRichMan” to solicit donations for Nimble America. In the apology, Luckey claimed that he “did not write the ‘NimbleRichMan’ posts”.
Whether for lying or for backing Nimble America to begin with, Palmer Luckey has sparked much scorn from different communities. But along with the scorn comes those like James Green, co-founder of Carbon Games, who said to Tech editorial Motherboard that he will “absolutely support [Luckey] doing whatever he wants” and that “taking any other position is against American values”. But to what extent should we separate the creation from the creator? While ideally I think we should separate them, there are cases where it is impossible to perform that undertaking, especially in personal games like Numinous Games’s That Dragon, Cancer. Would that game be as emotionally effective if it was discovered that the developer supports a group that wants to hinder cancer research?
So why not allow people to decide their own interpretation between the creation from the creator? Just as there are developers who will not let Luckey’s political activity sway them from Oculus support, let there be developers who will not choose to make that distinction on grounds of principle, morality, or otherwise. The way forward is paved with disagreements, and handling those disagreements in a civil and non-aggressive way is essential to engaging in intelligent dialogues and debates.