Soapbox items give our team a chance to share some personal perspectives. Kate has been keeping an eye on a Reddit art project for the past few days and has some warm fluffy sentiments to share…
Disclaimer: The nature of r/place means that some awkward images, pixel nudity, and various other NSFW stuff may be included in the following screenshots. I’ve done my best to crop and censor, but I still advise caution!
In April Fool’s Day of 2017, the minds behind online forum community Reddit decided to invent something they called “r/place” — a giant blank canvas that users could place one pixel on every five minutes. The experiment quickly evolved from people placing random colors to various subreddits teaming up to create logos, flags, and other artwork. By the time the r/place screen closed, a million people had attended and she became an internet legend.
The legend returned in 2022 for r/place’s fifth anniversary, and unbeknownst to users, the canvas was designed to slowly quadruple over the course of four days, allowing for millions of pixels to be placed and new artwork to be made.
So, listen – this is Reddit. Although the title is all warm and fuzzy, I won’t pretend that r/place isn’t Even a total cluster fart. Between bots sabotaging the canvas with gigantic, hideous art and flags raising away too much space and colossal streamers goading their fans into defacing other people’s work, it was an absolute mess.
Some of it is quite amusing: one of the jokes that runs is that Canadians just can’t figure out how to draw a maple leaf since their iconic flag has been turned into everything from a blob of red to a banana, and is the Among Us crew member hidden in every single work of art if you look closely – and there is a lot of from nudity. It’s basically Reddit’s own bathroom stall.
But amidst all the chaos and memes, there is a touching story of communities coming together to represent their countries, hobbies and favorite pastimes. Not surprisingly, for a site that’s finally online, a lot of those common interests are video games, and between the flags, masterpieces, and references to things I don’t understand, you can find anything.
There are tiny pixel Kirbies, Minecraft blocks, Pokémon, and even Froggy Chair, all created and maintained by tiny, savage groups of people who need to keep an eye on their art and protect it from “griefers” — people who only want to ruin things. But it’s nice to see smaller communities claiming their place as well: Rain World has featured prominently, as has Downwell, Baba is You and Enter the Gungeon, and even older games like Earthbound and 999: Nine Persons, Nine Hours, Nine doors.
The feeling I had in the very early days of Twitch Play’s Pokémon was dredged in the wake of r/place: A heady, nostalgic combo of “oh, that’s nice” and “but why,” plus a dash of “who.” are these people with all this free time”. I had very little myself to contribute, so I was largely content with just helping maintain the integrity of existing pieces against the scourge of the single black pixel, but it’s enough to make me feel me as part of the whole.
Much like the internet, there are trolls and assholes who just want to watch the world burn everywhere, but focusing on them — like focusing on the big picture of r/place — means grassroots efforts in smaller communities to lose sight of. The fact that the Hollow Knight community and the Ori and the Blind Forest community came together to create beautiful art is just as heartwarming as seeing flags of neighboring countries declaring truces with tiny hearts between them.
It’s not like r/place isn’t a land grab. Pixelated wars rage in contested spaces, like the four corners of the canvas and the massive German flag that stretches almost its entire length, but between all the scuffles there’s a quiet kind of peace.
Honestly, I hope you understand why I’m being so cynical. The loudest and most common voices are negative at best and bigoted at worst, and Reddit is one of the places best known for its communities of both. But a colossal community project like this helps remind me that, statistically speaking, most people aren’t assholes, and some of them are something even better: creatives.
I don’t think there are many things in this world that are better for society than the forces of cooperation and creation. Reddit is bad at a lot of things, but bringing people together is one of its strengths — and I’m glad people are forever using this collaborative creation tool. If only we could use this unit somehow, maybe we could end wars forever.
At least console wars.
https://www.nintendolife.com/features/soapbox-the-video-game-camaraderie-on-rplace-is-a-lesson-about-community The camaraderie video game on r/place is a lesson in community