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  • Talon Stradley

The Betrayal of Sweden

Talon: Hi, I’m Talon Stradley and welcome back to Playplace.

When we last left our ragtag group of pixel placers, they were recovering from a particularly rough loss at the hands of Colombia University. But we didn’t give up. We kept looking for a spot that we could slot into. Something where a cute yellow console wouldn’t feel out of place. That’s what lead us to what we affectionately called, the ABBA corner. To start this episode off, Andrew Gant.

Andrew: So when we entered the ABBA corner, I’m not sure we even right away knew what it was. I think we probably found a space with similar colors.

Talon: When we found it, it was just an empty blue background with some yellow being constructed on the far left side. Someone identified it, we hopped in, and started constructing our yellow on the right side, but we still weren’t sure who these people were or what they were planning to build. That required a little detective work and some basic Swedish pop trivia.

Andrew: We realized there were names there. It probably very quickly dawned on us after a few google searches or somebody that was a fan that these were the names of ABBA. Oh, ABBA’s from Sweden. Oh wait a second, Sweden is nearby. Maybe this is owned by the Swedes.

Talon: While we were able to identify the group building in this area, we still didn’t know if they would allow us to stay. I don’t know if they thought we were a part of Sweden or not, but they didn’t bother us. We were able to create our Playdate.

One of my favorite parts about the ABBA corner is the impact it had on our Playdate design going forward. For example, they wrote the names of the ABBA members in yellow with an orange highlight on the left side so we added an orange highlight to the left side of the Playdate, giving it a kind of 3D effect that looked really sharp. Or there was the change to our crank.

Andrew: We had a design issue that our crank was bleeding into the territory of a very scary block. I don’t know who owned that block but I knew they had a ton of bots, they were very well organized, it looked like a scary hacker logo. Their colors were black and purple, it was an intimidating block.

Talon: This space was controlled by Turkish streamer, Kaanflix and they maintained a hard border. That meant our two pixel wide crank handle had to be shortened to just one pixel wide. While we were a little nervous about our neighbors, they never made any serious attempt to invade us or the Swedes while we were there. In fact, I would later discover that we started building in that space just after a war had occurred between the Swedes and Kaanflix. The war only ended when Kaanflix spelled out the word “Don’t” in the ABBA corner. Things settled down after that show of force. The Swedes were in the process of rebuilding when we started placing our first few pixels. They likely thought that our yellow pixels were just a part of that reconstruction. While Kaanflix didn’t seem like they would bother us, the canvas was still a changing, growing, and shifting place and there were threats coming our way.

Andrew: As we were enjoying our stay in the ABBA block, there was a Tiger Tail a few blocks over, also owned by the Swedes. But it started taking off. It started growing and it started bleeding into other blocks and it was coming right for us.

Talon: For a minute, we thought this was it. We’re gonna get destroyed.

Andrew: Because we’re such a small community, anything that comes close to us is quite frightening and the tail was coming right for us.

Talon: We used what people we had to build a kind of guiding dam around the corner where the tail was headed.

Andrew: Throw down a couple black pixels to mislead who ever is driving this tail forward. Oh, we’re turning here! Ok! And sure enough they followed the lead they went around our Playdate, and our Playdate was spared.

Talon: The tail wrapped perfectly around our Playdate, giving us a nice black border and an extra layer of protection. This black border, the shorter crank, and the orange highlight were all design changes that came about due to self preservation but stuck with us all the way to the end. We even added some cute eyes to the screen, a reference to the opening animation of the Playdate update videos. Things were looking very good.

Brandon: I think so because we lasted for a while on the ABBA spot. We’re blending in, we’re fitting the color scheme. I think we’re doing OK.

Talon: We went to bed Saturday night hopeful. I stayed up until about 3:00 AM that night maintaining both our own Playdate and the ABBA names as a sign of good will. I went to sleep, hoping we found our spot. But when I woke up…

Andrew: Suddenly we noticed the entire ABBA block getting attacked. We were panicking, we were trying to save our Playdate. It was not working, everything was happening so fast. {maybe cut here} And before we knew it it was— A couple letters appeared and it was the word “update TF2”.

Allie: We noticed we were suddenly getting built over at quite a rapid pace by another community which was two games that use the same engine and both have the sam acronym. So there’s Team Fortress 2 and Titanfall 2 and they’re both neglected by their developers. So their communities grouped together and made a Save TF2 kind of thing.

Andrew: But it was really weird because the Team Fortress 2 block was actually two blocks down and it was pristine.

Talon: This was extremely frustrating and confusing. Why would TF2 make the exact same design in a different place? And why isn’t Sweden defending? We had a lot of questions and Allie went searching for answers.

Allie: So the first step is working out what’s going on. On place you can see who’s placing the pixels so you ago on each person and have a look at what subreddits they’ve been on and see if they’re part of any group. You’d see that it’s the Team Fortress and Titanfall group. So we contacted them, they had a discord for this, and we said “Hey what are you doing? Why are you building on us?”

And they went “I don’t know, Sweden asked us to. Did they not tell you?”

So we’re then like “Oh, um, Sweden. Right. Let’s talk to Sweden.”

Talon: But it wasn’t just talking to Sweden. We didn’t know it at the time, but we were entering into tense diplomatic negotiations with the entire Nordic Union, a discord server of about 8,000 people from countries like Norway, Finland, Denmark, and, of course, Sweden. They were all working together to build, defend, and create these intricate works of art.

Allie: They’re proposing new ideas of what to do, who to attack, where to build, what to build.

Talon: Allie located the Discord, found the Swedish channel, and tried to figure out what was happening.

Allie: You just pop in a little message. Hey, what are you doing? Why are you building on us?

Talon: It turns out that we fell victim to diplomacy. A trade between TF2 and the Swedish community. The original TF2 sign was just above the main Swedish territory with the ABBA sign being an outcrop a ways to the right connected by a thin flag. In order to make taller designs, and have a more cohesive territory, the Swedes traded the ABBA corner to TF2, taking away our squatter spot.

Allie: Where they built, Sweden wanted their territory. So Sweden asked them to move over their ABBA sign but their ABBA sign had a little Playdate in it so our Playdate got written over.

Andrew: Sure enough, our Playdate was destroyed and thus began the fight to stay within the Swede’s territory.

Talon: At this point our r/place journey took a bit of a turn. Instead of placing pixels, scouting new ground, and defending, we spent the next chapter negotiating. As I mentioned earlier, the Nordic Union discord was very large and very organized. Soon enough, we found a channel for diplomacy where we could make our case. We knew it was a long shot, as we just snuck in there initially, but we had one trick up our sleeve. One solid reason why we should exist on Swedish territory.

Andrew: Remember I’m obsessed with the design of the Playdate and I guess it’s our destiny that it was designed by a Swedish company.

Talon: That’s right, the Playdate was designed by Swedish engineering firm Teenage Engineering, a company most famous for their OP-1 synthesizer, which I use to make sounds like this:


Talon: Fun fact, Teenage Engineering’s involvement is how I found Playdate in the first place. While we knew that the Playdate was conceptualized and produced by the American company, Panic, we were going to milk our Swedish connection and pull on those heart strings to try to get us a new spot in the Nordic Union. Allie visited their diplomacy channel and sent a message.

Allie: Our little Playdate, a soon releasing console designed by Swedish firm Teenage Engineering has been swallowed in the TF2 move. If we could put it where TF2 is currently, that would be amazing. It’s only 10x12 pixels.

Talon: And thus began the bureaucracy of trying to get a building project approved.

Andrew: They started doing a vote on whether or not we could stay.

Talon: And the Swedes voted yes!

Allie: 117 yes votes and 59 no’s. So we were pretty confident that we were saved.

Andrew: The fact that we did win this vote was very reassuring and I think shows that there is hope on the internet sometimes.

Allie: Initially they seemed to say oh, sorry. We’ll give you a little spot.

Brandon: I remember hearing two or three different confirmations that yes their mod team had officially declared that we were being allowed to stay there and we shouldn’t be griefed or removed or anything like that.

Talon: But this is the internet and things move fast. Just as we were in the final discussions to decide on the exact placement… their IKEA sign got attacked. All of the Swedes rushed to its’ defense and our little Playdate, our loss in the land trade, and the official vote all fell to the wayside.

Allie: They seemed to just forget.

Talon: While the mods were very nice and tried to remind the crowds of the vote, public opinion had turned against us.

Allie: I think some more chatting had happened. People had googled Playdate and they’d gone “This isn’t Swedish, it’s from an American company.”

Talon: People were starting to really realize that we were just squatters that whole time. At this point much of the diplomacy is happening in the Sweden specific channel trying to win over and explain our situation to the crowd.

Andrew: It’s like going in front of a court or a judge or an angry mob of people.

Talon: One problem with this was that our whole team spoke English while most of the Swedes spoke, well, Swedish. How did our ambassadors even follow the conversation?

Allie: Oh, uh, Google translate. I had google Translate open on my second screen the whole time. Just copy and pasting most messages that came in. Anything with Playdate or console. They often referred to it as a gameboy as well so you could see what was going on, vaguely.

Talon: Some of the messages were VERY anti-Playdate.

Allie: Let’s do something relevant for Sweden. Fuck Playdate.

Talon: After about an hour, someone posted a second vote regarding the future of our Playdate, completely disregarding the first because I guess Democracy Dies in Discord.

Allie: This poll got pretty much the opposite votes. 115 no’s, and 46 yes’s.

Andrew: Seeing like, sort of the ruthless emojis that were used for whether or not we could stay. There were a lot of thumbs down and then some other emojis that really show anything goes.

Allie: So we were rather distraught. We were all quite downtrodden at that point.

Talon: After nearly a day of not placing any pixels, just translating Swedish messages and trying to convince an online angry mob of something that they don’t agree with, we had nothing to show for it. We didn’t have approval from the Swedes or any other prospects. But what we did have was persistence, determination, cunning… and a 6 hour time difference.

As most of the Swedes went to sleep, I organized a group of US based individuals to slowly and discretely build up our Playdate in an unused corner, right at the end of their flag. Because their user base was diminished and likely fighting off bigger attackers, they didn’t notice our mostly yellow design popping up on their mostly yellow flag. That means that Allie, our London-based, Swedish ambassador. got a nice surprise in the morning.

Allie: Yeah, so I go to bed and I wake up and in a little corner, right on the edge of their territory again, we’ve built a little Playdate.

Talon: Once again, we found a home squatting on the corner of Swedish territory. As the Swedes woke up, they seemed to forget they hated us just as fast as they forgot they liked us. For a moment, we could breathe. But, not for long.

Andrew: From my perspective, we were never ever safe.

Talon: And our last chapter takes a turn.

Brandon: In the Dark Knight where he says you either die a hero or live long enough to see yourself become a villain. The first message I get is just all caps, f*ck you. And I was like, wow, ok. What’s happening here?

Talon: That’s next time on Playplace.


Talon: Playplace is a production of Newton’s Dark Room. It was produced by yours truly, Talon Stradley. Theme music by Brandon Dean. Want to help support the show? Visit for behind the scenes features, content, and merch, including illustrated transcripts with pictures of our various attempts. Thank you to all of our supporters and e xtra thanks to our Special Edition Patrons, Sunny Werner and Crabaret.

Thanks for listening and we’ll see you next week.

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