Maple leaf battle: How a Reddit experiment is highlighting Canadian tenacity

Editor’s note: This story has been updated since r/Place ended to show the final Canadian flag design and other completed projects. Scroll down for more.

Is Canada okay?

People on Reddit are wondering as our country struggles to finish its flag on the social media platform’s latest collective and collaborative artwork project.

And the memes have been pouring in.

Reddit's r/Place

Reddit brought back its r/Place subreddit on Friday. The online social experiment allows users to create images by placing a single pixel on a huge canvas once every five to 20 minutes.

The first r/Place began as an April Fools’ Day experiment in 2017, and over the course of 72 hours, more than a million Reddit users placed around 16 million tiles in a shifting, evolving work of art. This year’s experience has already filled a space four times the size of the original canvas.

Because of the time limit, users are encouraged to collaborate and coordinate their efforts to make a single image. Massive subreddits began drawing everything from a giant Ukrainian flag and images of internet celebrities, to re-creating the Star Wars movie poster and classical works of art like the Mona Lisa and The Starry Night by Vincent van Gogh.

Country flags have been particularly popular, and this is where Canada comes in.

(Courtesy Karu Hart/YouTube)

The tiny flag popped up in the early hours of the r/Place canvas going live. A r/placecanada subreddit moderator who goes by the handle TheIrishCanadian said it isn’t clear why that spot was chosen, but people rallied behind it.

He said the Canadian subreddit only had about 4,500 people compared to other countries like Germany who had around 20,000 people actively helping create art.

Reddit users quickly noticed Canada was having trouble with its flag.

The red bars on either side appeared intact, but the maple leaf in the centre wasn’t coming together and morphed between something resembling child’s drawing and a giant red blob.

Then the jokes started, as social media users started to notice the ongoing struggle.

The mentions around Reddit and Twitter were quickly followed by an onslaught of memes.


Reddit's r/Place Reddit's r/Place Reddit's r/Place


At one point it seems Germany got involved, with the country adding an expertly made maple leaf with Canadian colours to its own flag.

Reddit users were quick to poke fun at Canada for another country showing it up.

Reddit's r/Place Reddit's r/Place  Reddit's r/Place

As the weekend progressed and the size of the canvas was expanded, more Canadian flags began to appear.

TheIrishCanadian says a second flag with a slightly different colour remained untouched for quite some time, but once Canadians started going to bed, online streamers encouraged their following to mess with the design.

Reddit's r/Place Reddit's r/Place Reddit's r/Place

But it appears it wasn’t Canada’s inability to draw that was causing the problem, but instead other users actively working to sabotage the flag.

Again and again, attempts to create a picture-perfect flag were thwarted by internet trolls. Multiple times, green pixels started to turn the centerpiece into another type of famous Canadian leaf, and at one point the entire flag was briefly turned yellow and white with a banana in the middle and the word “Canada” transformed to “Bananas” at the top.

Reddit's r/Place

Reddit's r/Place Reddit's r/Place

A heatmap of the canvas clearly showed the Canadian flag as among one of the most popular spaces to place a pixel. The small section in the upper left quandrant showed a maple-leaf-shaped spot as red as the national flag.

But through it all, Canadians and their supporters persisted, with the r/Placecanada subreddit determined to finish the flag before the project was ended by the site’s moderators.

r/Place heatmap

The final designs

TheIrishCanadian says the Canadian community eventually settled on a design and made a final push to get it done before the end of the experiement.

“It kind of lifted our hopes up like ‘oh, we finally accomplished something and it’s decent looking, and we just kind of felt like we won the battle,” he said.

“I think some of some of our admins are still recovering from the weekend. I think I only had about 15 hours of sleep over the four days.”

In the end, the final design did look a lot more like a maple leaf than earlier iterations, and also included small renditions of every provincial and territorial flag and the Métis flag.

Canada flag Reddit r/Place

Other Canadian designs popped up across the canvas, including a section of iconic national animals and stereotypes dubbed ‘The Nature Preserve.’

Another was a parody of Star Wars scenes on the canvas, and included Canadian geese, beaver, and duck lightsaber battles called ‘The Goose Wars.’

r/Place The Nature Preserve

r/Place Goose Wars

Reddit users on the r/Placecanada subreddit celebrated and joked about how they felt so proud of the small designs. Some of the comments included saying Canadians “stood on guard for thee” and after all their hard work a timeline of the project should be turned into a Canadian Heritage moment.

TheIrishCanadian commends Reddit for giving people a welcomed piece of happiness among many sadder world events.

“There was a beautiful design for Ukraine. The artwork which was put into this design was unreal. It definitely took everything away from what’s the world current events,” he said. “”It’s kind of unreal how coordinated people can be to make a work of art. Like, this like just a bunch of pixels and it just comes in as a piece of art.”

“We don’t know when the next one’s gonna be probably… but I think we’re going to work on another design and we’ll make sure we’re ready for the next one,” TheIrishCanadian said. “It was just a beautiful thing.”

Watch the full timelapse of the 2022 r/Place project:

(Courtesy Oximoz Gaming/YouTube)

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