April Fools’ Day is the goddamn worst, and (deep breath) it’s over. But Reddit is pretty good at it, all things considered. Rather than use the day as a reason to announce some giggly new fake feature, the massive forum chose instead to play with their immense base of users. Last year they produced a massive button and asked people to kindly not click it. (They did. They all did.) This year, they produced a massive canvas called r/place (“our place,” perhaps) and allowed each user to modify one pixel every five minutes.
It’s easy to think of Reddit as a hive of bad memes and obscure porn fandoms, and while it is that, it is also a meeting place for seemingly infinite other groups of people, all categorized by common interest. So what would they come together to paint, then? A dick? A pointless cacophony of randomly colored nodes? A portrait of Gabe Newell?
No, instead they swiftly created a luminous, orderly mosaic that at least aesthetically reflects the makeup of Reddit itself. Check out this time-lapse GIF of its creation, which, fair warning, may take a second or two to load:
As Mashable points out, individual subreddits banded together to corral certain sections, even negotiating peace treaties with neighboring kingdoms in order to plot out their own land. Yes, it was a faithful facsimile of the colonization of any new vast wilderness, only without the environmental devastation and displacement of indigenous peoples that so often accompanies it in the real world. R/place itself is now rife with reflections on the experiment, including this time-lapse image of Skeletor smoking a blunt:
Self-mythologizing of the sort Reddit is uniquely good at:
There were also feverish threads about the amount of automatic scripting that allowed the most devoted artists to succeed. In all, though, it’s a benign, colorful way for Redditors to do what they do best: argue among each other about the things that they love. There are still some 80,000 people working on the image, showing how well Reddit knows its audience. It’s only a matter of time before Reddit’s innocent “social experiments” work instead to corral these users into a real-world army intent on annexing a portion of Canada for themselves, where they will elect, like, Alan Tudyk or something as emperor. Until then, though, just enjoy their colorful handiwork.