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I almost find it difficult figuring out where to begin. If you’ve read many of my reviews you might have noticed that I like to include little history lessons or anecdotes. Introduction paragraphs are important! In the case of Occupy White Walls (OWW hence), my mind is just so full of things I want to say, but let me instead begin with explaining the mission behind the program – and yes, I call it a program, because it does have aspects of a game, but it really is so much more.

The creators of OWW, London based StikiPixels Ltd, decided they weren’t happy with how art is handled in our world. This is understandable: how many people have ever actually stepped foot in an art gallery? I’m lucky enough to live in Portland, Oregon. We have a thriving arts community here, and the first Thursday of every month, galleries open their doors for free. In my almost 40 years of living here, I’ve taken advantage of that… maybe twice? And that’s a pity, because I really do enjoy art (What I don’t enjoy though is people. Specifically noisy crowds of people).

One thing that StikiPixels CEO and founder Yarden Yaroshevski believes is that art should be free and accessible to everyone, not sitting in the storage of the super rich waiting to be presented to an elite select few in galleries. He points out that when you go to a gallery, the art you see on the walls is the merest tip of the iceberg of what that gallery possesses. And who decides what art you see? The gallery owners do. They decide what you’re supposed to like, and what you’re allowed to see.

Screenshot of a yacht shaped gallery in Occupy White Walls

If you’d like to visit this gallery, it is named emerald2 in game.

It was with this in his heart that he set out to create Occupy White Walls. A program that gives you the opportunity to take a chunk out of the internet and use it to create your own art gallery, and then to fill that gallery with what you want to see in it. Galleries begin fairly small, but can grow into massive superstructures.  One player, in fact, created a massive yacht as their gallery, shown in the screenshot here.

But, as I said, you start out small. In fact, you have a couple walls, a floor, and your greeting desk. From there it’s up to you. You’re given a brief but useful tutorial, and a few credits in game with which to begin exploring the expansive library of artworks. You do this with the help of DAISY (Discover Art Intended Specifically for You). DAISY was created to assess your taste in art works, and then expose you to more of what you like. This isn’t exactly a groundbreaking concept; similar algorithms are used on Pandora, Pinterest, and even Steam. Its application in the art world however is long overdue.

So, as you explore DAISY, she takes note of your choices, and then finds more artwork to show you. As you purchase more art, your level increases, and the materials available for you to build with expand as well. In order to gain more money, you simply walk up to your desk and open your gallery (it’s worth noting that your desk also has a digital guest book where people may leave little notes and messages, or feedback about your gallery). Upon doing so, NPCs will begin showing up in your gallery, walking around, examining the art on your walls, and then despawning in glorious explosions of paint (that rapidly fade back into the digital ether from whence they came), leaving behind their entry fee at your desk. The higher your level, the faster you accumulate money, up to a maximum of level 30, when all materials are unlocked.

Material prices generally seem to stay the same, but the price of purchasing art does increase, the more art you have/the higher your level is (as the two are directly linked). Also, each time you expand the actual dimensions of your gallery, which is done a cube at a time, the price of the next expansion also increases. It can get quite costly rather quickly, but whenever I ran out of cash, I would simply open my gallery, then teleport off to another random gallery and explore. This not only exposed me to other people’s architectural designs, but also to new bits of art.

Any piece of art that you observe on a wall, you can purchase, provided you have enough currency. You can also open a window that gives you a closer view of the art object, which is quite useful, as they are all uploaded into the game with their real life dimensions, and some can be rather small. Details about the art piece are often included, such as the name of the piece, the artist’s name, when (at least approximately) the piece was made, and sometimes a historical blurb about the piece.

Close up view of the Lessons of the Kitano Tenjin Shrine art scroll

I absolutely adored reading these curations.

Furthermore, you can usually click the “artist” button to find more art by the person who made the one you’re looking at. The artist page can not only include a little bio about the person, but also their Facebook page, artist website, Patreon, or other social media platforms, meaning that OWW could lead to the sale of actual artwork. Exposure like that is not easy to obtain for fledgling artists, but OWW doesn’t intend to ask for any cut or share of profits made by artists.

How will OWW make their money? Well, that’s a bit up in the air still. The project is still very much in early access, and they’ve only just recently emerged from their rather secretive shell. Currently the game has no monetization scheme at all. Everything that can be accessed can be done so for free. I firmly believe that the developers deserve to be paid for their time and effort, and speaking with Mr Yaroshevski, the folks at StikiPixels do have some plans on bringing in income, but nothing that they’re solid enough on that they’re willing to disclose. The game itself will always be free to play, however, and it is at StikiPixels fundamental belief structure that art, and the art world, should be accessible and fair to access for everyone, and any monetization they do incorporate will follow that foundation.

Back onto the game itself: I really love how each gallery is a work of art in its own right. The architectural diversity is astounding, and the care and intricacy that members of the community put into their galleries is noticeable. Players can even work collaboratively on galleries by granting permissions to friends, who can then build within that gallery. There are even mosaic pieces that you can place in the game and then ‘decorate’ to create pieces of art.

Tile Mosaic recreation of Van Gogh's painting Starry Night

Yeah, that’s a Starry Night recreation there, in mosaic. Wow.

And that is ultimately what I think is the best thing about OWW. It gives a forum for people to express themselves in more than one way. There is an absolutely fantastic community of folks already engaged in the project, and their Discord is often active with people chatting amicably, sharing their RL artwork, or various other aspects of their lives. The developers at StikiPixels are very receptive to ideas, and have even accepted submissions of artwork to be added into the game.

There are a few bugs here and there, but that’s to be expected of any title, and this has less than most early access games I’ve encountered. There are a lot of features that StikiPixels would like to add in the future, such as full VR compatibility (OMG please yes!), but development does cost money.

Another critical feature which the StikiPixels team is trying to figure out exactly how they want to incorporate is the ability for anyone to upload their own artwork. This may or may not be part of where monetization comes into play. Again, nothing is set in stone, but I think Yaroshevski is a very fair minded individual, and I don’t sense that the folks at StikiPixels want to put any sort of undue pressure on artists, who, again, could very well profit from uploading to OWW.

Something StikiPixels may have to deal with, should they open the doors to the public to upload, will be pornography, which is not welcome in the game. The game is 18+, and nude artwork is welcome, but there is a pretty discernable line between art and porn, as Yaroshevski pointed out in an email, and they will have a volunteer moderation staff that will make sure that any inappropriate material is removed and offenders dealt with.

When I look at OWW in a big picture sort of way, what I really see is opportunity. There is opportunity for expression, opportunity for exposure, and opportunity for change. I agree with the sentiment that art should be more accessible, and I can’t wait to see what the StikiPixels team does with their platform going into the future.

Special thanks to the following for submitting screenshots: Emerald, Phillyslim, p1x3ltr4sh, and fritzewalsh!

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