Thanks to an ever-growing catalog of digital exhibitions, virtual tours and other online cultural offerings, art lovers sequestered at home amid the COVID-19 pandemic have plenty of options for socially distanced creative expression. For those who prefer a do-it-yourself approach to artistic appreciation, consider downloading “Occupy White Walls,” a free video game that allows users to design their own art gallery.
Available on gaming platform Steam, the building experience features 2,200 unique architectural elements—including spiral staircases, art deco lighting and stained glass windows—and more than 6,000 artworks ranging from Old Master paintings to contemporary creations. Daisy, an artificial intelligence assistant curator, is available to help interpret users’ collections and suggest works they might enjoy.
“I always struggle to define it,” Yarden Yaroshevski, chief executive of StikiPixels, the London-based tech firm behind the game, tells the New York Times’ Andrew Dickson. “It’s a massive multiplayer game, a space where people can build galleries and create their own museums. It’s also a platform for emerging artists.”
Galleries created in “Occupy White Walls” range from indoor fields of grass with pixelated art on the walls to dimly lit, marble-tiled rooms and minimalist white-walled halls. Users in search of inspiration can browse the game’s stunning collection of player galleries for examples of out-of-the-box and traditional offerings alike.
“It not only gives you the opportunity to design your own space; you can take inspiration from all this amazing art,” “Occupy White Walls” user Jenna Juilfs tells the Times.
The game offers an array of freedoms unique to the digital realm. One of Juilfs’ galleries floats in outer space and displays photographs taken by the Hubble telescope, while another sits on a pontoon surrounded by water.
Adds Juilfs, “I work in marketing, so it’s a really good way of staying creative.”
“Occupy White Walls” launched on the gaming platform Steam about 15 months ago. To date, the site’s roughly 50,000 users—about a fifth of whom have joined in the past month—have produced galleries spanning some 215 million virtual square feet, according to the Times.
As Haniya Rae wrote for Hyperallergic in April 2019, new users represented by avatars resembling posable wooden mannequins begin the game in a cloudy void. When Rae placed her gallery’s first wall, the game responded playfully, noting, “Good! Walls are essential for art hanging!”
For now, users can only display two-dimensional artworks. But StikiPixels is currently working on an update that includes 3-D sculptures and installations. In addition to adding three-dimensional features, the company hopes to allow creatives to upload their own artworks, paving the way for the platform to serve as a virtual art marketplace.
Yaroshevski tells the Times that he came up with the idea for “Occupy White Walls” soon after founding StikiPixels in 2010. There are multiple video games centered on creating artwork, he found, but few that simulated the experience of curating and displaying collections. (Examples of other art-centric games include “Passpartout: The Starving Artist,” a 2017 release that enables players to envision artistic careers without taking real-world risks, and “Mondo Museum,” a still-in-development museum building simulator.)
“It seemed crazy,” says Yaroshevski. “There are games for everything, even street-cleaning simulators. But not art.”