Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and Oculus Rift developers are donating to Hillary Clinton in direct response to news that Oculus founder Palmer Luckey is backing a political action group pushing “shitposts” on behalf of Donald Trump.
Some developers are even pulling support for the Oculus Rift and refusing to continue game development on the platform until Luckey is removed from Facebook, where Luckey’s LinkedIn states he’s worked since he sold Oculus VR to the social media juggernaut for $2 billion in 2014.
A Daily Beast investigation revealed that Luckey, who sold Oculus VR to Facebook for $2 billion in 2014, used the pseudonym “NimbleRichMan” to act as the vice president of Nimble America, which is dedicated to making pro-Trump “meme magic.” A spokesperson for the organization said it had raised $11,000 before a Saturday fundraising round on Reddit.
Oculus founder Palmer Luckey posted a statement on his Facebook page late Friday night admitting to donating $10,000 to pro-Trump “shitposting” organization Nimble America, after a Daily Beast article revealed his involvement in the group on Thursday.
In his statement, Luckey denied using the Reddit pseudonym “NimbleRichMan” to post anonymously about the group. But emails to The Daily Beast’s Gideon Resnick from earlier this week reveal Palmer admitting he “made the post” under the name and he “posted the body himself.” Those emails are provided in the Tweet below.
Repeated requests to Facebook for comment have gone unreturned.
In a later email, Luckey said that the "NimbleRichMan" account "represents" him.
Edward “E” McNeill, who won the 2013 Oculus VR Jam (a contest for early Oculus developers) and created the Oculus Rift launch title Darknet, told The Daily Beast he donated $1,000 to the Clinton campaign directly in response to Luckey’s actions. He then posted a receipt of his donation on Twitter and Reddit.
“I think that Palmer has the right to spend his money as he sees fit. And so do I,” McNeill said. “If he’s going to put his VR money toward supporting Trump, then I’ll put my VR money toward supporting Clinton. It’s not much, but it’s something.”
McNeill said he hopes the donation will spur more developers to take action. “The donation drive was a shot in the dark, and we’ll see if it gains any traction,” he said.
Now, other members of the VR community are joining in.
In the aftermath of the story posting, Logan Olson—who developed SoundStage, which allows users to make music in virtual reality—announced that all profits from SoundStage in the ensuing 24 hours would go to Hillary Clinton’s campaign.
“I want the VR/AR community to be a diverse and inclusive group who welcomes progress, and Trump is the antithesis of those values,” Olson wrote in a direct message on Twitter to The Daily Beast.
Ian Bogost, a video game designer and professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology, wrote an incisive piece in response to the revelation for The Atlantic, in which he tied Luckey to a series of individuals who sought revenge on the people who essentially excluded them in some capacity.
“America’s long dream of electing a business leader as president (Perot, Romney, Trump, etc.) dovetails so well with Silicon Valley’s belief in entrepreneurial success as the ultimate sign of prowess and competence,” Bogost writes. “It’s more surprising that everyone in the Valley doesn’t support Trump than that [PayPal co-founder Peter] Thiel and Luckey do.”
When reached by email Bogost said that Luckey may have complicated the situation by making his participation somewhat mysterious.
“I certainly think Thiel’s support of Hulk Hogan against Gawker was a kind of precedent… but not entirely similar,” he said, referencing the now-infamous involvement of a billionaire funding a war against a publication he did not like. “An interesting thought experiment: had Luckey just donated $1m (or whatever) to Trump’s campaign directly, wouldn’t the reaction have been totally different? It’s this sense of direct but shrouded cynical cloak-and-dagger work against governance as such that feels new.”
He wasn’t so certain that this would have immediate damaging ramifications for Oculus however.
“A number of smaller game developers have already asserted their intentions to remove Oculus support from their games until Luckey resigns from Oculus VR,” Bogost said. “But this is largely a symbolic act. Oculus has already helped establish the VR marketplace, and besides that, the vast majority of people probably won’t notice.”
As Motherboard reported, a slew of virtual reality game developers have already backed away from Oculus less than a day after the news broke—some even insisting they’ll withdraw support until Luckey is no longer associated with Oculus VR.
“Insomniac Games condemns all forms of hate speech,” the makers of “Ratchet and Clank” and game-developers for Oculus told Motherboard. “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.”
Tomorrow Today Labs, a VR game studio out of Seattle, tweeted: “Hey @oculus, @PalmerLuckey’s actions are unacceptable. NewtonVR will not be supporting the Oculus Touch as long as he is employed there.”
“Palmer Luckey’s behavior is unacceptable,” Adrienne Hunter, co-founder of the Tomorrow Today Labs, said in an email to The Daily Beast. “This is the opposite of promoting inclusion in our industry, and the absolute worst way to lead by example. Oculus SDK support for NewtonVR has been shelved, and any VR tools or games we release in the future will not support Oculus products as long as Palmer Luckey is employed at Facebook/Oculus.”
Scruta Games, a Philadelphia-based company, shared the sentiment in a tweet from their company account
McNeill said he likely won’t boycott the company “based on the politics of its founder.”
“I’ve had a great experience with Oculus over the years—including working with a lot of good people working there—and I like the products that they’ve built,” he said. “I’ll keep working with them. But this sure as hell doesn’t make me feel better about it.”
And despite some Twitter abuse for making his donation public, McNeill is proud he made his Thursday night impulse donation—and did so publicly.
“So far, I’ve gotten a few encouraging responses from other devs, plus someone accusing me of treason and a guy on Twitter telling me to ‘gas myself.’ But not much more than that,’” said McNeill. “I’m happy with my donation, either way.”