After virtual reality had a prominent presence at this year’s GDC, this vehicle for entertainment was elevated in the technology space with Facebook’s $2 billion acquisition of Oculus last week. Negative reactions were in high supply from “creeped out” developers, to gaming cynics, to Oculus Rift’s very own Kickstarter backers.
It’s insensitive to dismissively wave away the attitudes of backers given their relationship to the Oculus Rift. With all the technological advancements in the medium of interactive entertainment, virtual reality has never really come to fruition before Oculus. The company made a promise that it would be the first to commercialize the technology, and construct it to be THE immersive experience everyone had wished it to be. Turning to consumers for financial support for the project inadveredly created a powerful relationship, making each individual backer integral to the development of the Rift from concept to functioning tangible hardware. That $2.4 million generated from the community all of a sudden feels insignificant in the light of a $2 billion dollar offer from a single company.
I get it. It’s upsetting.
But after hearing that Oculus and family members of those that work for the company have been inflicted with a series of death threats, it, a. Reminds me that there are assholes on the internet; and, b. That falling back on issuing death threats has become the default reaction to anything that upsets the gaming community.
The saddest part of this is that in hindsight, there’s little justification to be angry over Facebook’s acquisition of Oculus. Does it fully justify concern? Yes, but not anger.
Oculus fulfilled everything they set out to do with its Kickstarter pledges. Nothing less, nothing more. The mentality among some in the backer community assume that Oculus owes them something as if their pledge was some sort of investment. Mo Koyfman of Spark Capital stated that, “they wanted to try it, wanted to experience it, wanted to see it. They got exactly what they bargained for."
Oculus was well aware that their acquisition was going to upset many people, “We expected a negative reaction from people in the short term,” says founder Palmer Luckey. “We did not expect to be getting so many death threats and harassing phone call that extended to our families. We know we will prove ourselves with actions and not words, but this kind of shit is unwarranted, especially since it is impacting people who have nothing to do with Oculus.”
Entitlement and death threats both seem to be an all too common practice and attitude in the gaming community. It’s toxic, it’s dangerous, and most of all, it’s surprisingly ineffective.
So cut it the fuck out.