Facebook buys Oculus VR and why I shop at the corner store.

It’s all over the place by now. I don’t get excited about things. It’s a habit I’ve developed, I don’t claim to have invented it but the jist of it is that the less you expect from people the fewer things you are likely to be disappointed about. Every once in a while though something brings a tantalizingly great promise and everything points to that promise coming to fruition.

I’ve quietly been following Oculus Rift since I first heard about the kickstarter about a year or so ago. It looked GREAT. Notch was backing it, all the makings of a great technology looked like they were coming into place, and best of all it was open, like Wikipedia.(read my previous post on why that’s a good thing) which meant it was no strings attached if you could pay roughly $300 for the hardware. An effort surely, but worth it if you are genuinely interested and it’s something you feel will enhance your life in some way – and it certainly would make gaming a lot more interesting. Now that Facebook has bought it, I feel like I’ve dodged a bullet by not pre-ordering.

I used to have a Facebook account. I don’t anymore because as so many people in so many comment sections have put it: If it’s free and social, you’re not the customer, you are the product, and I will not have my life traded for profit. Used to be that villains would ask: “your money or your life” and people would have the good sense to pay up, somehow that has now changed and they are all too happy to plaster every minute detail of everything they do onto the internet. Companies like Facebook take this information and attempt to use it to make a model of who you are and then sell this model on for profit. I do not understand how people do not see anything sinister about this business practice and how so many continue to knowingly expose themselves in this way.

I live in Romania, that’s poignant because up until 1989 we had the most murderous secret police of the entire communist bloc, save maybe for the NKVD in Stalin’s days. They would spend enormous resources looking for dissent in any shape they could find it and being picked up off the street and shot in a forest on the outskirts of Bucharest for harboring anti communist views was a real possibility if you weren’t remotely famous. Neighbours could be informants, at least one person in your high-school class was one for sure, you could not trust anyone… even family. And here we are today, willingly ratting ourselves out to an extent beyond Beria’s wildest dreams back in the 50s, just so we can look at pictures of cats.

I shop at a corner store downstairs from my building. Two sisters own it. One of them has a daughter about five years old. I say hello when I walk in and they know who I am. Things are slightly more expensive there than in the Cora across the street, by about 5-10%. They have some things I could find for a lot less in Cora. But they don’t have a metal detector at the door, they also don’t scan my body for radioactive tags when I walk out the door just in case I’m a criminal. Bouncers don’t force me to seal my backpack into a one time use plastic bag also just in case I’m a criminal. Sure they have security cameras, but that video only gets watched if something happens, no one is actively watching where in the store I wonder just to see what colours (coulours autocorrect C O L O U R S) I’m most attracted to and what scents entice me the most. No. My money goes toward feeding that kid and putting a smile on her face. They teach me how to do a better job at my own work, and to them each customer really does matter, because their bottom line isn’t a ten digit number and money is a means to an end, not the end itself.

What does this have to do with next generation virtual reality gaming Kirk?

Oculus Rift was pitched to backers as a technology by gamers, for gamers. Independent developers like Mojang flocked to support the concept and bring it to market in a way that would make it self sustaining. It should have become an independent platform to support a virtual revolution showcasing a rejection of big budgets and monolithic money grabbing companies like EA and Sony. What happened was that greed won out yet again. People say that $2.000.000.000 is a lot of money that can be invested into the product and that this is now making Oculus VR a household name. This ignores the fact that Facebook shares make up $1.600.000.000 of the sum. How do Facebook shares help the product? The rest also went to the relevant stake holders in the company. The $2.000.000.000 was not an investment, it was a price. Facebook has yet to invest a single cent into the company and judging by the reaction of gaming communities (Project Valkyrie by CCP – the flagship of Oculus Rift comes to mind here) nails are already being driven into its’ coffin. No one in these crowds would touch anything that has anything to do with Facebook with a bargepole, let alone flog $300 at it.

To turn a profit on this investment Facebook will ask you for “your money AND your life” and from me, they’re getting neither.

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