Wordle isn’t actually about the words

Wordle (I was so close to getting this in 3)

Wordle (I was so close to getting this in 3)
Screenshot: Wordle

The annoying thing about anything going viral online these days – in this case, the Twitter-compatible pun WordleIt’s just that all the funny metaphors have gotten a bit grim. You can’t talk about Josh Wardle’s hyper-compliant web game “taking the nation by storm” or people “catching on. Wordle error “, since … good.

Still: a lot of people have been playing and sharing Wordle Lately, in a way that in no way invokes other things that people have been indiscriminately sharing with each other lately. And it is, in fact, the rapid transmissibility of Wardle’s game that has made it novel.

That’s not a blow to the actual mechanics of the game, which allows you to play a daily round of Brain with a five-letter mystery word, using suggestions from your previous guesses to narrow your search. Unlike many things associated with Chuck Woolery, the main game of Wordle (derived from games dating back nearly a century of code-breaking quizzes) has aged surprisingly well.

But that’s also not why Wardle’s game has taken off and all of a sudden he’s started clogging up your Twitter account with all those little green and yellow boxes.. Instead of, Wordle it has parasitically attached itself to people’s brains—That still doesn’t reflect depressingly reality, does it? –extracting an element from another classic word game: the daily crossword.

Outside of the genuine emotions of a well-crafted puzzle, the appeal of the crossword It’s obvious: everyone gets the same, and they only get one a day. The end result is a community experience with a healthy foundation of smug competition, one that Wordle cleverly replies. It’s not for nothing that the game really took off in December, when Wardle implemented an easy way to allow players to show their daily intent on Twitter..

Those little green and yellow box graphics are more than bragging too, though that’s definitely there. They are also an invocation of shared struggles, when you look at someone else’s grid and see that further got screwed over by a surprise double letter lurking in a recent puzzle.

What is especially interesting about this is that it helps to highlight what Wordle is not about, which are words. Yes, your vocabulary limits the space of possibilities of the letters you enter, and you must have at least some knowledge of English to find the appropriate solutions. But successful Wordle Playing has much more to do with figuring out how to play with the algorithm of the solution. (Personally, I always start with “orate”, since it gives me data on three of the five vowels; I’m sure there are infinitely better strategies waiting in the bush). It is similar to the way Scratch tests, not of vocabulary or literacy per se, but of memorization of a vast and specific set of letter sequences. (See also: Babble Royale, the other recent big revolution in online word games, combining the elimination mechanics of Battle Royale with Scratch to make a game that is the tense and frantic opposite of Wordleit’s quiet simplicity.)

The real question, of course, is: can Wordle Lastly, or is it just another online fad that is easily shared and removed? That central simplicity is a double-edged sword; On the one hand, each game is a low investment of time and energy, making it an easy inclusion in your daily routine and habit. On the other hand, no one loves to play a solved game, and the more time people have to learn the quirks of the system, the more likely it will come down to a game of Tic-Tac-Toe with an additional 24 letters to use.

For now though, it’s surprisingly nice to have a community experience that doesn’t involve yelling at people on Twitter or, uh, dying. We hope you can hold out for at least a few more weeks. (Or until my streak is broken, in which case, I’m out!)

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