A brief tour of r/Place 2022

About five years ago, now internet legend Josh Wardle (creator of Wordle), presented hundreds of Reddit users with a particularly peculiar subreddit—one that took form, not as a forum of text posts, but as a 1000 x 1000 pixel blank white canvas. Slowly, users began to realize that they could place pixels of their own on the canvas, so long as they selected a color and only did so once every five to twenty minutes. Making drawings was a grueling and long process, as one user could only sparsely place pixels, and anybody could draw over anybody else’s pixels. However, a select few users all around the canvas began to realize that maybe something substantial could be made if they only worked together. 

I place this color here, you place this color there. And thus, the social experiment that was the original r/place began. Drawings began to appear around the canvas, colorful pokemon and neon rainbows, coordinated by online friend groups and subreddits and Discord servers. By the time the canvas was finally shut down, only around 72 hours after its initial creation, it was a beautifully chaotic mess of drawings and colors and troll faces, a perfect picture portrait of 2017 internet culture.

The original 2017 r/Place.

The sheer amount of nationalism, memes, beautiful art, and trollish pixels ensured that the original r/place would be written down in the books as an essential element of internet lore, and back in 2017, that’s all people thought it would ever be. Lore, history, not ever to be touched or reopened— a perfect time capsule of late 2010’s Reddit. But this year, on April Fool’s, Reddit presented its users with a new 1,000,000 pixel blank canvas, ripe for making history.

The chaos started immediately. Beautiful community-coordinated art pieces began to overtake the canvas— and just as fast as these art pieces appeared, trolls came to draw over them, whether that be with a vulgar phallic drawing (removed to the best of the moderator’s abilities), or with a striking solid color of cobalt blue. In traditional r/place fashion, war broke out. Every country was trying to have the biggest flag (the French were particularly menacing), every fandom was trying to make the biggest tribute, and every subreddit was trying to make their mark on the canvas. Twitch and Youtube streamers were often the biggest mobilizers, leading thousands of live viewers to quickly take over areas of the canvas, cause chaos, and defend their pixels. In order to have their pixel make it to the end, Reddit users had to dutifully wait to replace their pixel every five minutes, in fear of someone else coming to change its color or ruin their work. The canvas became a beautiful mixture of culture wars, fandom brawls, everyone wanting to leave their mark.

However, every valiant pixel fighter saw the same thing at the weekend’s end: a white color palette. Users could still place down pixels- so long as those pixels erased the work of the canvas- resulting in a beautiful avalanche of white. Many view the canvas that predeceased the white pixels to be the official 2022 r/place end result.

The new 2022 r/Place final canvas.

One could learn the entire history of modern internet culture simply by sitting down and researching every entry on r/place 2022- but doing that would take weeks, months, even years, considering that there are too many pieces of art to quantify. But, just in case you were still curious about some of the history the canvas has to teach, I’ve decided to put together a tour of some of the canvas’s most noticeable keystone art pieces for your reading and learning pleasure.


1. The Runescape Connection Lost Screen (r/2007scape)


R/Place 2022’s Runescape connection lost tribute. (Photo courtesy of r/2007scape)


This piece, found at the very top left corner of the screen, serves as a reference not only to the original r/place, which had an almost identical upper corner, but also to the classic MMORPG (massively-multiplayer online role-playing game) Runescape. Created in early 2001, Runescape was one of the first games of its kind, enabling mass amounts of people to play together online in a fantasy world far separated from the Earth we live on. To this day, it remains one of the largest MMORPGs, a genre of games that has expanded immensely since the beginning of the 21st century. However, due to its age and massive fanbase, many have had the unfortunate experience of running into the game’s “connection lost” screen- which is what this piece in specific playfully makes a jab at.


2. Solidarity with Ukraine (r/PlaceUkraine)


A tribute to Ukraine on r/Place 2022.

Activism absolutely made a difference within the artistic makeup of r/place. One of the largest pieces representing this on the canvas is one large mural of Ukrainian culture, all over a large and patterned Ukrainian flag. This piece served to call attention to the war and violation of human rights happening there. The mural features a variety of things, including the president of the Ukraine, important Ukrainian buildings, and… an Attack on Titan symbol, topped off with an exclamation of “Glory to Ukraine!” in the country’s native language. There are a variety of stories covering the deeper importance of this piece, one of which can be read here. This piece can be found a bit below the canvas’s upper left corner.


3. The French being… the French (r/placefrance)


A tribute to France on r/place. (Photo courtesy of Reddit)

Many countries and fandoms and subreddits fought valiantly for their place within the canvas, but none were nearly as menacing as the French. Coming after their real estate was practically a death sentence for anything built there. Found in the lower-left corner, this tribute to French culture was attacked again and again to barely any avail. Eventually, peace treaties had to be created between the French and other Reddit communities just to get them to agree to downsize a little. If there is anything to be learned from r/place, it is that the internet French care much more for their country than their politicians do.


4. Stonks (r/Superstonk)


Superstonk tribute from r/Place 2022. (Photo courtesy of Reddit)

You may have heard of the GameStop stocks debacle, which caused many members of the 1% to lose a noticeable amount of their profit. R/Superstonk was created to discuss all things GameStop stock, dedicated to trolling rich people who could afford to lose a couple dollars. In the center of the subreddit’s art piece are the two leaders of the movement: a Reddit user with a name I can’t say on a school news website, and Ryan Cohen, the chairman of GameStop. If you love to see stock bros cry, this is a great subreddit to join.


5. Total Biscuit and THE VOID MOTHER (r/theSwarm)


The center of r/Place’s 2022 canvas.

These two pieces can be found right smack dab in the center of the canvas. One of the two large pieces that can be found here is the face of TotalBiscuit, head thrown back in a laugh- a popular emoji to use on Twitch, and a representation of the platform’s influence on the canvas. The second figure is the Void Mother. She’s coming to get you, and she won’t stop until you’re in her grasp.


6. “Leaves from the vine…” (r/ATLA)


A tribute to Mako on the r/Place 2022 canvas. (Photo courtesy of Reddit)

Created by the Avatar: The Last Airbender fandom and defended by well-known streamer Ludwig and his viewers, this heartfelt piece is a reference to both a well-known episode of ATLA (Tales from Ba Sing Se), and a loving tribute to the late Mako. Mako, voice actor of the well-beloved character Uncle Iroh, passed of cancer not long after recording the last episode of ATLA he was featured in. One of the last times his voice was ever heard on the show was when he performed “Leaves from the Vine”, a heartbreaking folk song with enough meaning behind it to make a grown fire-bending fascist cry. This piece, found on the lower right corner of the canvas, definitely represents the long-lasting impact ATLA has had on many young Americans.


7. Traditional art (r/placeNL)


A recreation of two well known Dutch paintings on r/Place 2022

These two pieces, found on the lower-left corner of the canvas, feature beautifully detailed recreations of two well-known paintings. De Zeven Provinciën and The Night Watch, two well-known Dutch pieces, are sure to draw the eye of any r/place 2022 viewer, due to both their details and their sheer size. Also, applause to the Dutch for adding two actually interesting pieces to the canvas to rep their nation, rather than just adding another eyesore of a flag.


8. Stream Train II


A collage of pixel drawings made by different streamers on r/Place 2022. (Photo courtesy of Reddit)

This collage of a piece, found to the right of the center of the canvas, represents a variety of different Twitch streamers, most of which are connected by the Dream SMP. The Dream SMP fandom, a fanbase centered around watching streams of a Minecraft multiplayer server created by Youtuber Dream, is large and prolific, and their influence can be found all over the canvas- though this piece, made during a long stream train held between many different streamers, is definitely the largest tribute. Punz, Sapnap, FoolishGamers, TinaKitten, and Nihachu comprise just a couple of the streamers whose symbols can be found on the piece. Symbols of other internet celebrities, such as Corpse Husband and 5up, can be found in this piece too.


9. Star Wars (r/starwars_place)


A recreation of a Star Wars poster from r/Place 2022.

This beautifully detailed piece serves as a tribute to one of the largest and eldest fandoms on the modern internet: Star Wars. Taking form as a recreation of the poster for A New Hope, this piece can be found to the left of the canvas’s center. It’s easy to spot and easy to identify, and the sheer amount of black space uninterrupted by a troll’s pixel is truly a testament to the Star Wars fandom’s power.


10. Tribute to Reckful (r/reckful)


A tribute to the late streamer Reckful from the r/Place 2022 canvas.

This beautifully meaningful piece can be found towards the lower-left corner of the canvas. Created as a joint effort between the communities of streamers Mizkif, Will Neff, and PayMoneyWubby, this piece is a recreation of u/Liftaris’s beautiful tribute to the late streamer Reckful. Reckful passed away during 2020, but continues to influence both the Twitch community and his fans.


Honorable Mentions:

  • Flags, flags, and more flags

Flags representing a variety of things can be found all over the canvas. A stripe of Germany and Belgium, a tribute to Italy, a plain American or British flag- they’re practically inescapable. Easy to create (just blocks of color with simple patterns) and easy to coordinate (who doesn’t want to rep their country on the canvas?), nationalism is a surefire way to leave your mark on r/place. A variety of queer flags can be found all over the canvas, too. Gay pride, trans pride, bi pride- you name it. If a community of people identifies with it, it’s here, and it’s queer.


  • The Amongi 

Among Us. Amogus. Whatever you want to call it, the game has cemented its place in popular culture, even if not many people play it anymore. And its characters, known in the game as crewmates/imposters but jokingly dubbed by the internet as Amongi, can be found all over the canvas. If flags are hard to escape, then the Amongi are the final boss. I promise you, if you zoom in too close on any single point in the canvas, you are sure to find one of the over 2,000 amongi somewhere.


11. The Windows taskbar (r/PlaceStart)


A recreation of the Windows start button from the r/Place 2022 canvas.

Starting at the top, ending at the bottom. One cute feature of r/Place 2022 is that almost the entirety of the lower pixels of the canvas take the form of a Windows taskbar. Every big subreddit, game, and developing software has their own button, complete with a Windows start button. By the time you reach this point in the canvas, you’ll probably be ready to hit it and click “shut down”.

There’s a lot to be said about what made it onto the r/Place canvas, and what didn’t. The entire canvas as a whole is truly a masterclass on internet culture, and art in and of itself. The way humans come together to both create and destroy is represented in the subreddit, and there’s truly no better example of internet cooperation. Hopefully it comes back again soon- maybe you’ll be able to leave your mark on it, too.