A Wordle a Day Keep the Doctors Away

Angie Yang ‘24

Recently, grids of black, yellow, and green emoji squares have been swarming the internet. At first glance, it may seem like a randomized mosaic or a secret message, but these are the player’s results of the day’s Wordle game.

In 2021, Josh Wardle created this game for his partner, Palak Shah, who loves word games. Wardle is a software engineer who previously worked at Reddit on social experiments like The Button and Place. The Button began April 1, 2015, and was a button that counted from 60 seconds to 0, it would reset each time it was pressed by a Reddit user, who each only had one press. It ended on June 5, 2015[1]. Place started on March 31, 2017, as a blank canvas that users could contribute to and was completely covered with more than one million contributors when it ended 3 days later [2]. This new project was played between the couple until he shared it with some relatives. Finally, Wardle released the game to the public in late October. On November 1st, only ninety people played the game [3]. This number is starkly contrasted by the 300,000 people playing just two months later and over two million players playing in January[4,5]. With the number continuously rising each day, the rise in popularity can be attributed to Twitter, where 1.3 million tweets about the game from November to January had already aggregated. Alternatives have already appeared with ways to play against others (Squabble), Wordle but with numbers (Nerdle), and even Wordle Taylor’s version (Taylordle). A Wordle app was even created by Zach Shakked but was eventually taken down. When you google the game, a special google doodle appears. Other major brands have tweeted about it like Lego and Smithsonian[3].  On January 31, the New York Times announced that the company bought the game for a price in the low seven figures, raising concerns over whether or not the game with remain free [5].

The game is straightforward. You have six tries to guess the daily secret five-letter word. After guessing a word, the boxes turn a different color. A gray box means that the letter is not a part of the secret word. A yellow box means that the letter is in it, but is located in a different spot. A green box means that the letter is in the secret word and located in that specific spot. When all the boxes turn green, you’ve guessed the day’s wordle. Limited to only one game a day, the game is always released at midnight. 

The simplicity is refreshing. Housed on a website with no ads, no flashing banners, and no links to other websites, it’s a simple game on a plain background that can be accessed for free.  In a world where most games are meant to be addictive, wanting your money and your time, Wordle is the exact opposite. A game that can be played in only a few minutes, Wardle tells New York Times, “It doesn’t want any more of your time” [6].  When asked why she loves the game so much, a student at Ridge loves “how the quick word game expands [her] vocabulary each and every day.” Not only does the game tests a player’s vocabulary, but it also sharpens their deductive reasoning skills, and gives a sense of accomplishment, which is especially crucial in the pandemic.

Since the decline of the infamous “water cooler talk,” some like Stephen Stallings have called Wordle the “Internet version of water cooler talk” [4]. With the added isolation of the pandemic, people have been yearning for connection. The game provides a sense of isolated connectivity, where people play individually but the sharing of results provides a sense of connection and community. As a Ridge High school alum puts it, “I really enjoy getting sent my friends results and seeing how many tries it took them to solve it versus myself.” With its easy way to share results without spoiling today’s word, it provides a road map that tracks the progress and decisions made by the player. People have been discussing their starting words, their strategies, or their lack of. There’s been debate over the best starting word, many arguing words like “adieu” and “audio” are best to start with. With everyone trying to solve the same puzzle each day, people feel a part of something bigger all connected by this singular game. Here’s to tomorrow’s Wordle!