Video Game Fellowship on r/place is a lesson in community

To place;  to drive

Soapbox articles give our team the opportunity to share personal insights. Kate has been keeping tabs on a Reddit art project for the past few days and has some warm fuzzy feelings to share…

Disclaimer: The very nature of r/place means there may be nasty images, pixel nudity, and various other NSFW things included in the screenshots below. I did my best to crop and censor but I still advise caution!

For April Fool’s Day 2017, the masterminds behind the Reddit online forum community decided to invent something they called “r/place” – a gigantic blank canvas that allowed users to place a pixel every five minutes. The experience quickly grew from people placing random colors to various sub-reddits grouped together to create logos, flags, and other artwork. By the time the r/place web was shut down, a million people had participated, and it became internet legend.

The legend returned in 2022 for r/place’s fifth anniversary, and unbeknownst to users, the canvas was designed to slowly quadruple in size over four days, allowing millions of pixels and new artwork to be placed. art. be made.

So listen up, it’s Reddit. Although the title is warm and fuzzy, I’m not going to pretend that r/place isn’t. also a total clusterfart. Between robots sabotaging the canvas with gigantic, hideous art and flags taking way too much room and colossal banners tricking their fans into defacing other people’s works, it’s been an absolute waste.


Some of them are pretty funny: One of the running jokes is that Canadians just don’t know how to draw a maple leaf because their iconic flag has been transformed into everything from a red spot to a banana. , and the Teammate Among Us has been hidden in every piece of art, if you look closely enough – and there’s a parcel nudity. It’s basically Reddit’s bathroom.

But amid all the chaos and memes, there’s a touching story of communities coming together to represent their countries, their hobbies, and their favorite things. Unsurprisingly for a terminally ill website, a lot of those common interests are video games, and among the flags, masterpieces, and references to things I don’t understand, you can find it all.

There are tiny pixel Kirbies, Minecraft blocks, Pokemon and even Froggy Flesh, all created and nurtured by tiny groups of fierce people who have to keep an eye on their art, protecting it from “griefs” – people who want just ruining things. But it was nice to see even smaller communities claiming their space too: Rain World featured prominently, as did 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 Plays Pokémon was picked up in the wake of r/place: a heady, nostalgic combination of “aw, that’s adorable” and “why though,” plus a hint of “who are these folks with all that free time”. I had very little to contribute myself, so I’ve largely been content to help maintain the integrity of the existing parts against the plague of the single black pixel, but that’s enough to make me feel part of the whole.

hollow knight

Just 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 bigger picture of r/place – means losing sight of grassroots efforts in courses in small communities. The fact that the Hollow Knight community and the Ori and the Blind Forest community have come together to create beautiful art is just as heartwarming as seeing border country flags declaring truces with little hearts between them.

It’s not that r/place isn’t a land grab. Pixelated wars rage in contested spaces, like the four corners of the canvas and the huge German flag stretching nearly the entire length, but between all the scuffles there is a kind of quiet peace.

Honestly, having spent most of my three decades of life riding the information superhighway, I hope you understand why I’m so cynical. The loudest and most frequent voices are negative voices at best and bigoted at worst, and Reddit is one of the best-known places for its communities of both. But a colossal community project like this helps me remember that most people, statistically, aren’t assholes, and some of them are even better: the creatives.

My boy Hat Mouse has his own place!
My boy Hat Mouse has his own place!

I don’t think there are many things in this world that are better for society than the forces of collaboration and creation. Reddit is bad in many ways, but bringing people together is one of its strengths – and I’m glad to see people using this collaborative creation tool for good. If only we could harness this unity somehow, we might be able to end the wars for good.

Console Wars, at least.