Reddit has always used April Fool’s Day as an opportunity to connect with users through unique social experiments.
Reddit brought r/place back this year in what was possibly its most ambitious return ever.
What is r/place?
Reddit set out to find out what millions of netizens would collectively create if given a huge, free blank canvas.
The only rule was that you could place only one ‘tile’ (a coloured pixel) and wait five minutes before placing another: organised, non-spammy chaos.
Fun Fact: This idea was conceptualised by Josh Wardle, the brain behind Wordle.
Round 1: 2017
When r/place debuted in 2017, the 1000×1000 pixel canvas was open to creators for 72 hours. Approximately 1.2 million redditors collaborated to create the largest art project in history, painting the million-pixel canvas with 16.5 million tiles.
People collaborated, built alliances and fought battles to defend their territories. Discussions happened in subreddits and private Discord chats. The end result was nothing short of a work of art!
Memorable paintings like Mona Lisa and A Starry Night were recreated.
Innumerable national flags competed for their territories, but ultimately declared truce by sharing hearts at their borders. In the case of Germany vs France, an EU flag was created with a peace dove.
Fandoms sprinkled their pop culture references through the canvas.
And then came the Void and Blue Corner.
The Blue Corner was among the first destructive factions. Starting from the bottom right corner and spreading like cobalt wildfire, they retreated after facing backlash from the community.
The Void, however, had a nihilistic purpose: Destroy every artwork in its path by colouring each pixel black, like a tear spreading through the canvas. Many hated it, while others saw it as a vital part of the r/place ecosystem: Like a forest fire making way for new life.
5 years later: r/place 2022
When the eagerly-awaited canvas was resurrected on 1 April, 2022, some familiar images from the original r/place popped up quickly. Initially the same size as 2017, the canvas expanded to twice its width on Day 2 and was four times the size of the original by the end of Day 4.
The Blue Corner immediately occupied the bottom right corner. The Void started appearing in pockets, threatening to swallow communities whole.
The art that started to emerge included various flags: country-specific flags as well as LGBTQ and pride flags. The Ukrainian flag and an image of President Zelensky, expressed support for the country against the ongoing Russian invasion.
India created their flag and added the Taj, India Gate, tigers and an elephant which rubbed noses with Denmark’s goose. France was busy pouring itself a drink after creating its flag, while Dutch recreated paintings by the masters.
Fans of the popular game Among Us, lived up to their name by infiltrating and adding little imposter crew mates inside the art.
With the exploding popularity of Internet influencers, there’s always a threat that they could use their fanbase to wreak havoc and that’s exactly what happened.
Popular streamer, xQc decided to be an agent of chaos, leading around 100,000 of his followers in vandalising artworks painstakingly created by smaller communities.
Anti-Void: The end of r/place
On 4 April, 2022, redditors on r/place encountered a stunning end. The community was finally left with only one colour tile: white.
With no other choice, they erased all the work they did over the weekend. Millions of users destroying the art they created was a bittersweet reminder of the transient nature of creation and perhaps life itself.
A Time Capsule of Collective Effort
r/place is essentially the Internet’s time capsule. It showcases the evolution of popularity in video games, anime, film, TV series and almost everything.
r/place showed how humans come together to interact with each other. We are all eager to carve our individuality, but at the same time, we are driven to create something greater together. r/place also represents everything we have come to dislike about the Internet and the real world: Toxicity, factions between communities and an influencer culture crushing smaller voices.