What’s Up with Wordle?: The Five Letter Game You Can’t Resist

5 min read

Liz Foster ’22

Bits & Pieces Editor

Each day, a series of green, yellow, and black boxes flood Twitter timelines and group chats across the world. “I got the Wordle in four!” writes one friend; “Couldn’t solve the Wordle, down horrendous” tweets another. The reminder comes at any hour, never failing to send the person on the receiving end scrambling to their web browser to search up the popular brain game. Peer pressure takes a new form with Wordle, forcing the user into playing today’s game for the sake of discussing its difficulty. Bragging rights ensue for the friend whose synapses fired the hardest and solved the puzzle in the fewest number of guesses. The unplayed Wordle takes legs and crawls into your ear, whispering sweet nothings like: “Play me.”  

Hunched over a computer with hours upon hours of other, more consequential work to complete, the average Joe slaves away to the Wordle. Cradled in an iPhone, the Wordle looks up at the player, laughing in all its gridded glory as his brow drips in sweat. He types “GREAT” and is rewarded with two yellow letters: an R and an E. “READS” follows as the Wordle-r shifts the yellow letters to the left and attempts to fill in the remaining gray blanks. The letter A, once again, remains gray and the Wordler realizes he’s made a classic rookie mistake: typing an unused letter twice. Nonetheless, the D turns yellow. The next guess is “DREAM” and each letter spits back that damned yellow—the letter R has been placed in the wrong position again. In a Eureka, A-HA!, moment, the player guesses “ORDER” with immense confidence. The first two letters turn up gray and a frown begins to grow, but as the final three letters turn a glorious green, the Wordler’s lips turn up in a smile. Two guesses to go. Two letters left. With a piece of paper and a pencil, the remaining letters on the keyboard are scrabbled down in an attempt to put together the rest of the word. What could possibly be BLANK-BLANK-D-E-R? With only two guesses remaining, the Wordler reluctantly faces his fate and nervously presses the enter key. The letters flip over one by one; each tile reveals itself as green. The Wordler yells “YES” and lifts a triumphant fist in the air. The feeling ripples beyond the computer and into the air, filling the atmosphere with sheer joy.  

SKILL. MOIST. ELDER. All of these five letter words have haunted the daily puzzle player. The known risk of seeing “X/6” when copying and pasting your Wordle score to a friend is enough to trigger anxiety in even the most mellow of folks. Yet, over two-million people choose to Wordle on any given day. The web-browser game has blown up, garnering an impressive user base over the past month and making a name in the headlines. In late January, the game was acquired by the New York Times for millions of dollars.  

Wordle was created by Josh Wardle as a gift to his partner Palak Shah as the latter was a fan of popular word games. The sweet gesture became a gift to the world after Wordle grids began to pop up on Twitter. Without a link to click through—an intentional choice by Wardle—those interested in playing had to actively seek out the game outside of their social media feed. Its ambiguous intrigue brought in users, but its simplicity kept them around.  

Wordle is unique in that it is a once daily activity. Like taking your prescriptions or a cup of coffee, Wordle is something that can fit into the everyday routine seamlessly. There’s never a bad time to face your battle with six rows of five letters, but that time will always be sacred by nature of being the Wordle time of the day. Other games like Candy Crush Saga are always sitting there, beginning to be played even when you run out of lives. Wordle offers a reprieve from the chaos of the day and the chaos of gaming.  

It demands nothing but your attention for as long as it takes you to figure out, or fail to figure out, today’s five letter surprise. Any FOMO is not from the game itself, but rather the result of friends who eagerly seek your number of guesses. Wordle asks nothing but enables everything. The game is playable across all platforms, free for anyone with access to the internet without cost. The game is the great equalizer, a comfort in times when comfort is needed like no other. Maybe, just maybe, enough Wordle can save the World.  

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