An Open Letter to Oculus Founder, Palmer Luckey
A.M. Darke
20223

Brava for not settling for shrinking back and trolling from the shadows of anonymity, A.M.. Instead, you’ve created a lovely piece of writing and made good use of the power of standing behind your words. I also acknowledge you for successfully creating the project that you set out to do despite the temptation to feel discouraged by the politics of one person (and by extension, of an industry where non-white people and non-males are vastly underrepresented). The ability to find and take the nugget of value in someone else’s viewpoint dissolves the walls that divide all of us. Thank you for the inspiring example.

As a veteran of the game industry, I’d like to share some insights from my past in the hopes it might help others from underrepresented groups move forward in this field. I recognize you are not asking for advice, so please don’t feel obligated to take my advice or to even respond.

I broke into the computer game industry as an artist in its early days — almost 25 years ago — and it was my career for 18 years. I got in purely on my portfolio and my determination to get an interview. After getting hired, I endured episodes of griefing and sexism (a few years before the phrase “sexual harassment” caught on in the corporate lexicon), but the moment I found my courage and engaged the other party in a sincere dialog, the tide turned and it stopped. Fortunately, you are already bolder, more socially-conscious, and more outspoken than I was in the beginning. You’ll do great.

Here’s another important note. I got in with my artistic talent, but it wasn’t enough. The other key was getting a handle on the tech and the tools, and knowing them better than anyone. When the company started appointing me as an art director over teams comprised of all males, some of whom were older than me, knowing the graphics tools so well that I had things to teach them earned me tons of respect and authority. Eventually, I was promoted to serve as head of the entire graphics department.

My guess is that you are on the above track already regarding technology, so I encourage you and anyone else reading this to keep expanding your knowledge into game design and game art direction as well. Make up your own curriculum. Pick apart your favorite game dynamics and game environments and be able to talk with colleagues about why they are compelling or why they don’t work. Heck, don’t limit it to games! You’re entering a new frontier of technology with VR, so study and analyze cinematic art direction, interactive storytelling, set design, and architecture, too! (Those are actually great subjects for traditional digital game designers/artists, too).

I hope to see your name in some credits someday.

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