When Disappointment Becomes Death Threats: Examining the Backlash of Facebook’s Purchase of Oculus VR

Earlier this week, Facebook announced the purchase of Oculus VR, and gamers worldwide announced they were no longer interested in Oculus. Facebook is a terrible company when it comes to privacy or gaming or creativity or technology or anything really, besides posting blurred selfies of yourself at some party you won’t remember in three days #drunk #hopemybossdoesntseethis #whyamievenusinghashtagsthisisnttwitter. There are legitimate concerns to be had about this sale, not the least of which being Facebook’s less than stellar reputation with the gaming community. Farmville is the video game equivalent of monkey pox and only slightly less likely to make your friends avoid you at all costs if you come down with a case of it. Some backlash to this merger had to have been expected.

What was not expected, however, was the sheer level of outrage fans and supports of the Oculus Rift would demonstrate. It was like Oculus VR had announced a merger with the Nazi Germany in the world’s worst and first anachronistic merger. There were several ways to respond to the news. You could shrug your shoulders and wait to find out more about what it meant for the company. You could boycott the technology and look for other, similar alternatives that were not purchased by hilariously inadequate companies. Or, you could harass the family members of people involved with Oculus VR and even go so far as to make death threats. Guess which option crazy people decided to board and drive all the way to Overreaction Avenue?

Oculus VR Vice President Nate Mitchell gave an interview to Game Informer about their surprise to the amount of hate they received since the sale and later Oculus Rift creator Palmer Luckey went on Reddit to answer reasonable (and not so reasonable) questions. When one commenter pointed out that they really should’ve expected that the tech savvy fans of Oculus would be unhappy with the purchase by Facebook considering the awful reputation it has with the same kinds of people, Luckey pointed out that it wasn’t just the fact that people were unhappy that made him surprised.

We expected a negative reaction from people in the short term, we did not expect to be getting so many death threats and harassing phone calls that extended to our families.

Obviously this is distressing news and an absolutely awful thing to have happen to someone working on technology and not a dirty bomb. Even more distressing is the way he phrased his sentence. “We did not expect to be getting so many death threats” and not “we did not expect to be getting any death threats”. This means they went into the sale expecting to receive a maximum number of death threats, and we’ve exceeded it. I wish there was a word to convey just how disappointing that is.

Am I disappointed Facebook now owns Oculus VR? Yes. Am I likely to purchase anything made by Oculus VR while other, similar systems are already in development? Certainly not. But do I hope anything bad happens to any member of the company or their family? No, and I feel stupid and embarrassed that it would even need to be said. I am positive that these kinds of people are in the minority and I expect there are really only a handful of particularly loud, particularly stupid people that would take it that far. But even if the death threats were meant as a stupid joke or a hyperbole (which is really the best case scenario), it makes us all look bad as a community. The next time you feel the need to threaten the lives of individuals because your new toy might not come out exactly the way you hoped, instead of posting those thoughts anonymously online I suggest you write them down, sign your name to them, and send them to your local police station. I promise you they will be much more interested in hearing them than anyone else will be.