When Roku streaming device users let their device idle for too long without making a content selection, they’ll find themselves staring at “Roku City”—a screen saver filled with pop culture homages to everything from the Titanic to King Kong. It’s a Where’s Waldo? for the streaming era, and it’s inspiring a new kind of fandom.
According to The New York Times, more than 60 million Roku users are exposed to the graphic, which was originally intended to prevent static images from causing burn-in on certain televisions. (More common in the era of plasma TVs, burn-in is less of a concern on current LED or OLED models.) The design was the work of freelance artist Kyle Jones, now with Pixar, who used an art deco style to fashion a cityscape with nods to cultural touchstones. Avengers Tower from the Marvel Cinematic Universe can be seen; so can the shark from Jaws, Emerald City from The Wizard of Oz, Spider-Man, the Daily Planet globe, and much more.
As James Cameron’s Avatar inspired fans to imagine life in Pandora, Roku City devotees pen tributes to their urban utopia, often musing what life (or rent) must be like in a city where a bursting volcano and a giant robot seem to co-exist with a bowling alley and burger joint.
“My parents met in Roku City, been married 30 years at this point,” one person Tweeted.
“I would actually consider the Metaverse if it means living in Roku City,” said another.
Though it debuted in 2018, interest seemed to spike during the pandemic, when cities were closed but Roku City appeared to be livelier than ever.
“I was talking with another member of the team who shared that it might even be the most viewed piece of art ever since it is just on loop constantly in millions of households,” Jones told the Times. “I can’t imagine that is true, but it’s still pretty wild to think about.”
Roku is delighted by the engagement: The company estimates the term Roku City is mentioned every 11 minutes on Twitter. If you’ve grown tired of it, Roku allows you to change your screen saver options.
[h/t The New York Times]