This piece of news has been already online for a while, and we still need to process it. Palmer Luckey is leaving Facebook. We don’t know the details yet, but it is a sure shock for everyone who has been living the VR revolution, which Palmer has surely been the main proponent. We of VR Gamer, born as Oculus Rift Italia (let’s not forget it), have a very special relationship with Palmer Luckey. We consider him a hero, a young man who, at just 20, had the strength and vision to start a new market, destined to change not only technology, but our very way of living forever. Before Palmer, virtual reality was just a strange remnant of the 90s, which never really managed to take off. After Palmer, VR is the talk of the town, studies and research centers have been born, and hundreds of games have been developed, giving a job to thousands of people all over the world.

Palmer Luckey, just thanks to his own willpower, managed to create something that didn’t exist before. Luckey’s story looks perfect to inspire future generations: starting in a garage, with a bunch of contacts on the Internet, this boy wonder managed to make Faceebok buy his company for 2 billion dollars. Luckey’s story is the story of many other visionaries of computer science, geniuses like Nolan Bushnell or Steve Jobs. Unfortunately, it looks like in our world there is no space for dreams, and fairytales are only in the books. It is no coincidence that we chose to name Bushnell and Jobs, because their destiny has been very similar to Luckey’s: they too were forced to leave the company they had founded. Maybe it’s our world which is not right. Unbridled capitalism, big corporations… sometimes, it looks like a cyberpunk novel. The corporations chew and digest people’s dreams, in the name of the Profit God.

Like a mincer, they squeeze everything out of creative minds, until they have no more to give, and then they become useless in the eyes of the Men in Grey. After all, it’s something that a beautiful movie directed by David Fincher, The Social Network (again, not a coincidence), managed to explain very well. The problem is upstream: some people are more outward-looking than others, and Luckey is one of them. But these people seem to be incompatible with the rest of humanity, especially with those who would like to accommodate everything to cold economic logic. They are misunderstood geniuses. The video game world, very close to VR, offers so many of these stories. Let’s think about Warren Spector, who couldn’t follow his authorial vision for Epic Mickey and, because of the game’s flop, was removed from the company he always dreamt to work with, Disney. And what about Sir Peter Molyneux? Great ideas, a huge visionary and so much experience to make many youngsters and mere executors pale. But, once he started working for a big corporation, his revolutionary ideas were hindered, finally forcing him to move away, while he was even derided for his own ideas. There are countless similar examples, with Hideo Kojima, Metal Gear Solid and his dispute with Konami, or Ken Levine, creator of a masterpiece like Bioshock, whose studio was shut because he didn’t manage to meet the sale objectives.

Palmer’s problem is maybe that he had much greater ambitions than those the company he ended up working for were allowing him. With Jobs’ words, Palmer is crazy enough to understand he can change the world, and this is not okay with an industry which brags to be revolutionary and brave, but actually is afraid to explore new places. The Silicon Valley, in Luckey Palmer’s case, showed to be extremely short-sighted, and absolutely devoid of any form of gratitude. We read so many of Luckey’s declarations, and we were always surprised by this radical dreamer’s lucid madness. For months we have been dreaming, reading the words of a young man who imagined a future where the boundaries between reality and VR could vanish, where any physical limitation could be overcome once and for all, uniting the world, cancelling distances. Virtual reality is much more than a simple technology: it’s a new way to consider existence.

And if we have an idealistic and hopeful young man who wants to make our lives better, we also have the crude reality of a corporation which needs to place a product on the market. The corporation’s big mistake, though, is thinking that you can go ahead without people. It’s people who move mountains, with their ability to change destiny with their imagination. Palmer is living proof of the fact that you just need a vision to make it happen. If you can dream it, you can do it, someone would say.

And now? We don’t know yet. We will never know for sure what direction Oculus would have gone, if Palmer Luckey had been still there. Oculus will be very different from what it could have been, if things would have gone differently, and only time will tell if Facebook’s strategy will finally win. We know the truth, though, and we don’t forget: we need to fight with all our strength the risk of a damnatio memoriae. Without Palmer Luckey, we wouldn’t be here today, and the same can be said by hundreds of companies all around the world, those same companies which are creating the VR market now. If today you can wear a visor and enter in a brand-new universe, you owe it to a young Californian genius. A beautiful fairytale ends, and it’s our duty to remember the legacy that has been passed on to us.

Translation: Francesca Noto

A proposito dell'autore

Guglielmo De Gregori
Editor ­in­ Chief

Dopo aver visto ogni fotogramma di Ghost in the Shell e Blade Runner, la sua vita non è stata più la stessa. Crede nel transumanesimo, aspetta ogni giorno l’arrivo della singolarità e il momento in cui potrà sostituire il suo corpo con una controparte sintetica. Nel frattempo, inganna l’attesa con la fantascienza, i videogiochi e, naturalmente, la realtà virtuale.

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