Everyday Wordplay: The Wordle Craze


Have you been surfing the internet recently and seen a picture of a grid with gray, yellow, and green squares? If you have, then you’ve witnessed the phenomenon of Wordle! The game has ensnared the dedicated word-game fanbase and even picked up some new players along the way. Here’s what you need to know.


What is Wordle?


Wordle was created by Josh Wardle, a Brooklyn-based software engineer. He created it as a gift for his word game-loving partner. While it was originally intended to be a game for just the two of them, Wardle released Wordle to the public in October 2021 after his family’s WhatsApp group became obsessed with it. Similar to Mastermind, a game where you guess a combination of colors, Wordle players type in a five-letter word. The game will tell them whether any of the letters of that word are in the correct place (green square), wrong place but are in the word (yellow square), or are not in the word at all (gray square). You have six guesses of five-letter words, and you only get one play per day. The game has a built-in sharing feature, so you can show your friends your amazing word skills while also protecting the secret of the mystery word. Best of all, Wordle is played on a free website with a white background and zero advertisements. In an interview, Josh Wardle said, “I think people kind of appreciate that there’s this thing online that’s just fun. It’s not trying to do anything shady with your data or your eyeballs. It’s just a game that’s fun.” The New York Times purchased Wordle for “low seven figures” on January 31, 2022.


When Did It Become So Popular?


After its public introduction in October 2021, Wordle’s popularity surged between November 1, 2021, when it had 90 players, and January 2, 2022, when it had over 300,000 players. It continued its surge into mid-January, when The Guardian reported that Wordle had 2 million players.


Why Is It So Appealing To Players?


According to the British psychologist Lee Chambers, Wordle has significant appeal to humans because it stimulates the areas of our brain that process language and logic. It also, like all games, triggers a release of dopamine, the pleasure and satisfaction hormone. According to social scientist and productivity coach Juliet Landau-Pope (referring to Wordle’s built-in sharing feature), “The posts are instantly recognizable, so whether or not you’ve done today’s challenge, you feel like you’re part of the game.” Chambers also says that the aesthetics of the post are soothing because they “bring a comforting level of psychological order even when surrounded by chaos.”


What Other Media Has It Been Featured In And Which Celebrities Play?


As Wordle’s popularity soared, memes and relatable posts began to pop up across the internet. Some notable ones include turning the boombox in the famous “Say Anything” scene into a Wordle box, turning the boxes on the stranded Suez Canal into Wordle boxes, and cross-stitching Wordle boxes (credited to @traceyfanclub). On January 22, 2022, “Saturday Night Live” used a Wordle joke in its cold open. Richard Osman, Paul Sinha, Dan Walker, and Jimmy Fallon are some notable Wordle players.

Sources: The New York Times (1), Insider (2), Mashable (3), Entertainment Daily (4), Bloomberg (5), NBC News (6)