Last week in San Jose, California, thousands of mostly youngish white guys attended Oculus VR’s third annual developer’s conference. Over three days in the San Jose Convention Center, attendees milled from one talk to another and hit up parties with open bars and plenty of food. VR demos were on offer in the hallways, and Mark Zuckerberg gave a keynote speech where he talked about the future of virtual reality and demoed Facebook’s social VR app. It was all about what you’d expect, save for one notable absence: Palmer Luckey, the 24-year-old founder of Oculus VR, the company that makes the Oculus Rift headset, was nowhere to be found.
That’s probably because Luckey, the one-time heir apparent to the future of gaming, has been on the receiving end of a litany of bad press lately. In September, The Daily Beast exposed Luckey’s apparent involvement in a pro-Trump, anti-Clinton political organization called Nimble America, which has the stated mission of proving that “shitposting is powerful and meme magic is real.” (Luckey later lied about some aspects of his involvement with the group, according to Gideon Resnick, The Daily Beast writer who broke the story.) And as Gizmodo reported, Luckey appears to be in a long-term relationship with a vocal member of Gamergate, and has faved tweets that indicate his support for Trump. The coverage prompted at least five game studios and a handful of indie Oculus developers to leave the platform, and caused what was undoubtedly a massive PR headache for Facebook.