It’s been in early access since 2018, but Occupy White Walls is just about to launch into v1.0. And if you’re an art fan – or indeed an artist yourself – this is a title you’re going to want to keep an eye on.
If you’ve not heard of it, Occupy White Walls is a free-to-play social experience all about curating and enjoying art. Players create their own gallery, choosing pieces of art from a huge library, and displaying them as they wish. Invite other players to enjoy your gallery, and go and visit other people’s. There are no time limits, no goals to work towards and no objectives; how you enjoy your time with the game is entirely up to you.
It feels wrong to call Occupy White Walls a ‘game’, as such. There are elements of gameplay here, of course. It feels a little like a more mature Minecraft or the building mode of The Sims at times in the way you create your own gallery. There’s a range of tools at your disposal, and right from the get-go you’re free to go about creating a personal space. But we feel like only the most devoted players might bother trying to build a truly bespoke gallery.
It’s hard work creating a space, and although Occupy White Walls does sport a solid selection of tools, it requires a lot of patience to build something noteworthy. But the same is true of Minecraft and, to a certain extent, The Sims 4. It’s only ever the most devoted players that are going to really push the building tools to their limits. For those players, their gallery becomes a work of art in itself. For the rest of us, we’ll simply make do with our default warehouse space, maybe tinkering with an extension here and there if the mood strikes.
Ultimately, it doesn’t matter. While some of the galleries you can visit here are true feats of digital engineering, that’s not really the point of the experience. This is about the art, and providing a place for new artists to be discovered (and old ones rediscovered) is Occupy White Walls’ true objective.
As a player, you can bring up a library powered by an AI known as ‘DAISY’ and begin browsing. There are no search tools to use, you’ll simply be presented with a number of random pieces of art. Some might be from classic artists, others might be from up and coming creators. You can purchase them – using in-game currency that you’ll constantly earn as people (and AI) visit your gallery – or simply ‘like’ them. DAISY learns your tastes, and will recommend new art to you based on what you’ve bought or liked.
If you have a very specific theme in mind for your gallery, DAISY’s suggestions will be useful. But if you have an eclectic taste and don’t want to get pigeon-holed into one theme or style, it can be rather limiting. Buy one piece of art featuring a naked body, for example, and you’re going to be inundated with more pieces representing the human form. Though while you can’t search for a keyword, you can at least click ‘find similar’ on a piece of art that you do like.
The act of ‘playing’ Occupy White Walls is only half of the experience. If you’re an artist yourself, there’s another, perhaps more important, reason to engage with the game. You see, it goes hand-in-hand with Kultura, a platform that allows artists to share their work. Through the website and through Occupy White Walls, their work will be recommended by AI, the idea being that famous and non-famous pieces of work have the same likelihood of being discovered. In principle, anyway.
While neither Kultura or Occupy White Walls offers a platform for artists to monetise their work, there is space to provide extra information. A description of each piece of art can be provided, along with an artist profile with links to other social media and storefronts away from the platform itself. The aim is for Occupy White Walls to provide a unique and worthwhile discovery platform for artists to gain new followers and, hopefully, drive traffic and sales to other areas of their work.
The downside to this? Artists have to pay for the privilege to appear on Kultura and Occupy White Walls. It’s only a small fee – $9 USD per piece of art uploaded – and developer KULTURA Ex Machina justifies this in a couple of ways. First, it allows the AI engine and the game to be kept up to date – since it’s free to play and revenue is not driven by advertisements, this is the main source of income. Second, it adds a barrier to entry; basically, it means that any old doodle from Paint, or inappropriate photos are less likely to be uploaded. Not many people are going to want to pay to share their dick pic. Or that’s the hope, at least.
Some pieces of art you’ll come across in Occupy White Walls are more explicit than others, of course. This is an 18+ platform, and so there’s nudity aplenty. That may range from an oil painting showing a bit of breast to a photograph of full-frontal nudity. We haven’t come across anything truly pornographic, and indeed uploading anything as such is against the T&Cs. But that’s not to say the odd dodgy piece of material may slip through the cracks every now and then – such is the nature of an open, public sharing platform like this.
Although it’s been around for almost four years in Early Access, Occupy White Walls still feels like a small, largely undiscovered title. Maybe it will always remain rather niche – after all, the idea of sharing and appreciating art isn’t going to appeal to everyone. But KULTURA Ex Machina has developed something really rather novel with both Occupy White Walls and Kultura – and indeed, the DAISY AI which powers both of them. We’re intrigued to see how it grows over time now it’s out of Early Access, hopefully with a new audience finding and embracing it.
If the idea sounds even a tiny bit intriguing to you, go and give it a go. It is free to play, after all.