Museums and galleries around the world have opened up their collections to online visitors, but for creatives who prefer a more hands-on style of art appreciation, a multiplayer world-building game is helping them conjure up the galleries of their dreams. 

Available for free via Valve's Steam platform, Occupy White Walls lets art and architecture enthusiasts build and curate their own gallery spaces, choosing from 2200 architectural assets and more than 6000 artworks with the help of an artificial intelligence assistant. Players can add and remove wings, acquire new pieces, and teleport to other galleries to see what their peers are doing, leaving comments in the guest book at a gallery’s reception desk if they’re so moved. 

A modern white-walled gallery without a roof, under a cloudy blue sky
In the MMO (massively multiplayer online game), gallerists design spaces, acquire art, and determine how their collections will be displayed © Occupy White Walls/StikiPixels

The game went live in open beta in November 2018, but it’s acquired hordes of new users – 10,000 in the past month, according to the New York Times, a 25% increase – since the lockdowns began spreading across the globe. “We saw about a 40% increase in playtime and new players, many from hard-hit countries,” says Yarden Yaroshevski, founder and CEO of StikiPixels, the London-based start-up that makes Occupy White Walls. 

A dark gallery with a tree at the center
There's been a marked increase in both playtime and new users, according to the founder and CEO of StikiPixels © Occupy White Walls/StikiPixels

While COVID-19 surely had an impact, Yaroshevski is quick to note that the company also launched some big updates around the same time; still, the game seems to be resonating with a house-bound audience. “We did a mosaic competition on the theme of social distancing with some very very creative submissions,” he says.

A futuristic gallery with '80s-style neon
Soon the game will support art uploads, allowing emerging artists to get their work in front of an audience of thousands © Occupy White Walls/StikiPixels

In the coming weeks, hopefully by the end of May, StikiPixels will introduce art uploads, allowing any artist to make their work available to in-game gallerists for a small fee. The pieces will be promoted by the game’s art discovery AI, and each artist will have access to their stats, updated in real-time. 

“We want to work for the artists, to help find them an audience,” Yaroshevski told It’s Nice That in March. “No matter how obscure, the art will find fans here.”

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