The Life and Death of r/Place, Home to the Internet's Greatest Art War (2024)

The Internet brings us together, for better or worse. Whether it’s creating beautiful, crowd-sourced art, standing against Wall Street corruption, connecting with old family and friends, or cyber-bullying me about my video game opinions, there are pros and cons of the World Wide Web™. What is the holy spirit of the Internet's yin and yang act, you might ask? Reddit. On April 1, we saw the long-awaited return of a subreddit that embodied the best and worst of the Internet: r/Place. I'm sure you've heard of it, maybe even seen some of it, and wondered what the hell was going on. Well, don't worry, your resident Nerd-in-Chief at Esquire, has you covered. Here's a rundown of r/Place for dummies.

What is r/Place?

r/Place is a social experiment that launched on Reddit back in 2017. Its founder, Josh Wardle (founder of Wordle, ever heard of it?) called r/Place "a screenshot of the Internet at this moment in time." Five years later, on April 1, 2022, the subreddit made its massive and triumphant return. r/Place offers a giant, open canvas that allows anyone and everyone to place one colored pixel. Each pixel has its own timer, meaning no individual or group can endlessly spam their shapes, which forces either coordination between users (if you want beauty), or absolute chaos, if that's what you're into. r/Place mixes art, teamwork, and sheer randomness into an awe-inspiring tapestry that the designer in me finds truly beautiful.

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Behold: r/Place, in all of its chaotic glory.

Who are the Main Players in r/Place?

It’s a mix between Reddit users and members of other online communities, with heavy participation and mobilization from streamers. Many streamers have rallied their viewers to grab a slice of the canvas. As you can imagine, this resulted in some tense battles for real estate, but also some truly shocking and beautiful coordinated pieces.

What are the Biggest Stories of this Great Canvas?

I’d like to focus on a few top-tier streamers who all took radically different approaches to r/Place. There's PaymoneyWubby, a Just Chatting streamer and up and coming Fortnite “pro,” Ludwig Ahgren, who is famous for, of course, being Esquire's 2021 Streamer of the Year (we hear its the second-most-coveted award in the streamer community) and XQC, a Canadian streamer, former Overwatch Pro, and menace to the r/Place community.

These three, much like van Gogh and Picasso, all have drastically different approaches to their art. We’ll start with Wubby, the technical. Wubby mobilized his army, while Twitch tech darling TT created an in-browser extension. The extension turned an area of the pixel graph into a sort of paint by numbers system. It showed everyone where the wrong colors were, and what colors they needed to replace them with. But only in the said quadrant. This tactic led to not only a crisp emote from Wubby's community, but also a team-up with streamers Will Neff and Mizkif to create a beautiful memorials to Reckful, a Twitch streamer who passed away in 2020. It's truly a masterpiece—and a beautiful example of community and technology working in unison for the greater good.

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A beautiful memorial to Reckful, created with TT’s extension, Pixel Artist, and through a team-up between Mizkif, Will Neff, and PaymoneyWubby.

Meanwhile, Ludwig created some stunning pieces with his community. But their art is more like a visual embodiment of that scene in Whiplash where J.K Simmons loses it. It’s madness. But what they've built is beautiful. Then, there's XQC. The monster. He brought destruction. XQC mobilized his massive audience in coordinated attacks of black holes swallowing art. The art has since been rebuilt. Most is even stronger for it. XQC is the New York back alley artist who calls arson his sculpture. But hell, it sure made things exciting.

These are far from the only people involved. There's been wars between communities, countries, and streamers hilarious and frightening shows of force. One thing that's for sure? This was some of the most fun I’ve had on the Internet in years.

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Kudos to whoever coordinated this beautiful Episode III moment. (Also: can you spot Grogu?)

Miscellaneous Items of Interest

Dick Meteor: A penis that shot through the middle of the portrait, then exploded in, um, a biologically accurate way to destroy anything in its path. This is not the first dick. It will not be the last dick. But it was the most destructive dick.

BGL (Big Green Line): No idea where this came from, or where this was going. But it was an ominous, laser-like green line that people just sort of kept building.

Act of French Aggression: France had its flag nicely planted on top of the portrait, before taking a massive chunk of land in the bottom left area. The French consistently attacked anyone who tried to destroy either region. It was a blast to watch streamers try to learn enough French—or tap into their French knowledge—for negotiation and peace treaties.

XQC ButtGate: Beyond his normal villainous activities, XQC had a change of heart and started building a butt, which was quickly censored by the moderators of r/Place. (Their power was only used previously to monitor hate speech and other similarly heinous drawings.) RIP Butt.

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After an unforgettable four days, r/Place fades to white.

The White Void

On Monday evening, r/Place came to a random, stunning end. The community was suddenly left with only one color option: White. The r/Place community proceeded to erase all of the work they did over the weekend. It was surprisingly sweet and reflective, wonderfully concluding a phenomenal experiment. Like many of r/Place's admirers, I hope it becomes a yearly thing, opposed to something we only see every half decade. r/Place brought new collaborations between streamers, broke language barriers, gave way to more than a few incredible stories, and created some damn fine art while doing it. I can't wait to see what could possibly rival the Dick Meteor next year.

The Life and Death of r/Place, Home to the Internet's Greatest Art War (2024)


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