As major galleries shut their doors during the ongoing health emergency, the designers of art gallery building game Occupy White Walls (OWW) have found themselves releasing their game to the world at an oddly apt moment. After a year in beta, the creator StikiPixels has been planning today’s Kickstarter launch for a while, and yet as many find themselves self-isolating the game is likely to provide some well-timed creative relief.
The gaming concept combines elements of world building and Instagram-like curatorship, wherein players (called “art-curious gamers” by the developers) claim a virtual plot, build a gallery from a library of thousands of 3D architectural elements, materials and lighting effects, and then buy and exhibit art. These pieces can be historical and world-famous, or not; anything from the Mona Lisa to a relatively unknown artist’s work. Players use virtual credits to buy the pieces (only one copy of each piece is allowed per person), and in turn display their taste and personality through their in-game collection. They can also wander round other players’ galleries, exploring the collection and discovering new works.
StikiPixels CEO Yarden Yaroshevski came up with the idea as a way to democratise art, in a more imaginative way than Instagram. “When people see art in galleries they can’t do much with it,” he tells it’s Nice That. “In the game, they can use the art to express themselves.” 15,000 early access players have already built virtual gallery space 336 times the size of the Louvre, 40,000 galleries (some players have built more than one) filled with over 6,000 artworks, and the average individual art collection totals 800 artworks.
“It’s not lofty like the real art gallery world,” Yaroshevski continues, explaining that all art in the game, whether it’s Van Gogh, Hilma af Klint, Rousseau, Munch or one of the many emerging artists, is the same price. Every artwork links to a biography of the artist and links to their site, Instagram and Kultura page, an online platform for the game’s growing art library. “In today’s world we have access to any culture (on Netflix, Playstation, etc.) at any time, but art is stuck in galleries. Our theory is that people are bored of galleries because they are a narrow view. Tate is showing what it thinks everyone wants to see, but everyone is different.”