What is r/place
r/place is a subreddit, the subdomains of Reddit. Nearly everything has a “subreddit”, which is identified by the r/ before it. Here are some of the largest subreddits you can visit, but there are thousands of subreddits that go way beyond weird and wonderful. r/place was created as a part art project, part social experiment to see how collaborative art between strangers developed. The result was simply amazing.
How did it work?
A blank canvas was created and divided into 4 million pixels. Each Reddit user was allowed to place a single pixel of a colour of their choosing every 5 minutes. This went on for 3 days. And the result was a staggering piece of collaborative art. But while the overall picture was beautiful, there were loads of crazy story arcs if you look closer.
Here is a timelapse of the whole 3 days in all its glory.
It is the brainchild of the creator of Wordle
Indeed, this isn’t the first time r/place has taken place. It first happened back in 2017 and was the idea of John Wardle, who was at the time an employee of Reddit.
Over 1 million users took place in the great French/BTS conflict
The heat map shows the busiest section of the map was the bottom left corner, where French users had collaborated expertly to take as their own. Despite the fact they organised well to commandeer perhaps the largest single portion of the canvas, a specific fanbase was not having it. The BTS fanbase, known for their collective action (both god and bad), decided to attempt to put their favourite k-pop band’s logo over the French Tricolour. What ensued was a fascinating game of tug-of-war which was not able to see a true victor as once the canvas had run its course, every new tile placed was white, ultimately returning the canvas to the blank space it once was. But it was interesting to note that the French corner was the first to be wiped out.
One of the main draws of the socal experiment was to see how communities collaborated together. In the face of large communities like those of citiens creating their flag seemed to have a natural advantage, small communites of more niche passions struggled to create more complex art with smaller numbers, and defend their little patch. Survival instincts kicked in and the spirit of mutual respect and survival kicked in and fanbases reached across the internet to mutual allies. Sometimes they made sense, like Hollow Knight fans reaching out to Elden Ring fans. Other times… not so much, like fans of Spyro and the TV show Community. Perhaps the favourite alliance I saw was literal anarchists rallying together to protect, of all things, Stardew Valley. No joke. I love it.
PROTECT THE VOIDMOTHER was the title of many posts towards the end. The argument would be is the absence of art, still art? To the nihilistic contingent of the internet, the answer, nor the question, I guess, matters. Only the void matters. What would just be blackness, developed a face, it spread, consuming, (destroying?), and evolving. But comminities fought back. The forces of many individual communities defending their art from the creeping black was the stuff of classic fantasy stories. By the third day, the large section had become a thing of pure horror, and its fans called it the voidmother with unwavering dedication. Ultimately, it remained a part of the canvas until the bitter end, and its inclusion was just as warranted as any other part, such is the nature of art… possibly.
Spain and France’s top streamers went to war
It would be naive to say bots weren’t involced in this. It’s sad, but what’s the internet without bots, and why should r/place be any different? Now, most countries were using bots to some degree to create, and maintain their flag. But where this became interesting, was when two twitch streamers with a history in e-sports, starting using bots to try and wipe out each others flag. The streamers in question were the Spaniard ibai and his French counterpart kameto. The fallout that ensued was a bitter war of words on various streams that garnered so much attention that the French far-right presidential candidate Eric Zemmour praised the French contingent of the Reddit community for defending the tri-colour. Needless to say, this dampened the whole thing.
This one is pretty hard to get a complete and accurate narrative of since I am not a great follower of either streamer, but from what I know, Destiny, and Hasan Abi are two giants of the Twitch streaming industry. Their realtionship would probably make the subject of an interesting Netflix documentary, and somehow that “drama” (and I do use the term loosely beause these are twitch streamers after all) somehow spilled over into the pixel canvas. So in the frst image, the dog on the left is a representation of Hasan Piker’s, now deceased, dog. This was replaced by a Hungarian flag with a large “D” representing Destiny and the Hungarian flag a reaction to some anti-Hungarian sentiment Piker had allegedly said. This whipped the Turkish American streamer and his community into a frenzy and perhaps the most toxic pixel-proxy-battle took place.
Among us everywhere
At one point, there was a documented 2000 “Amongus” (the name for the simple character’s in the hugely popular “Among Us” game) hiding all over the canvas. Leading to numerous jokes that while niche fanbases to entire countries vie for pixellated dominance, there r/place was truly just a huge homage to the character.
Canada couldn’t make their own flag
Perhaps the funniest vexililogy related story of the canvas history, was that of Canada’s ill fated atempts to recreate their red maple leaf. No other country had quite the same level of difficulty recreating their nations flag as the North-American nice guys. After hours of failed attempts, insult was added to injury when the Germans, whose flag ran beneath the canadian flag, showed their collective ingenuity in a rather tongue in cheek way by recreating the iconic maple leaf with German colours inside their own flag.
OSU had the strongest fanbase
I had never heard of OSU before it took a noticable space on the canvas. But anyone checking in over the three days would have seen the pink circle with the white letters inside was constantly under attack. A few times the logo had completely disappeared only to reform hours later. For large swathes of its exisence, the logo was under siege, but the fanbase held strong. Comparisons to Leningrad, and the Alamo were made, and while this was not quite on the same scale, it was the undoubtedly the equivalent for r/place.
The built a fully working QR code
Don’t scan it. Just dont. It should be enough to know it works, and that people conspired to make a working QR code is enough. You’re going to scan it anyway aren’t you? Well don’t say I didn’t warn you.