Wordle: Wonderful or Waste of Time?

First released in October 2021, it began to creep up in popularity slowly, the occasional post in a Twitter feed, comments about having to mute the term “Wordle” from mutuals. Then it became a continuous stream of questions, had you solved today’s challenge? How many tries did it take you? What was the secret? The decision to check it out for myself was one that seemed inevitable.

To those yet to be initiated into its fanbase, Wordle is a five letter-based word guessing game wherein the user is given colour-coded hints. The competitive nature of Wordle is multifaceted in nature, the only way to get hints as to the correct word is by guessing, but if your guesses fail to provide enough hints to find a solution by round six then it’s all over for the next 24 hours. It is not enough to simply solve the Wordle itself, the number of tries it takes you is a make or break to the bragging rights you retain for the rest of the day amongst your competitors. Of course, this clout is only temporary, leaving you chasing your next fix with the new word of the day released at midnight. Enabled by the ticking countdown of the “NEXT WORDLE” counter on the results page. Once you find yourself ensnared in the epic highs and lows of beating the Wordle, this urge becomes impossible to resist.

The creator of Wordle, Josh Wardle, attributes its invention to an interest in puzzles shared with his partner over lockdown. The couple started with The New York Times crossword before looking for something more challenging and then turning to make their own. Yet despite the game initially having a target audience of one, its popularity quickly became explosively viral. It was just a matter of time before the Wordle frenzy reached extremes that can only be described as zany in nature. With parodies such as Worlde (wherein the user must guess the country based on its outline); Heardle (snippets of popular songs), Queerdle (the “yassification” of Wordle featuring words from LGBTQ+ pop culture) and even Quordle (four Wordles at once. Yes, I am aware of how that sounds.) Wordle fervour was here to stay.

In an almost cyclical turn of events, Wordle was quickly acquired by The New York Times. Selling just months after its release this February for over $1 million, this change of hands has failed to dent the website’s popularity. Today the site remains free to play and without advertisements in accordance with Wardle’s original aims, despite some user outrage at the continued use of the original word database due to the inclusion of American words such as “favor” for Wardle’s partner Palak Shah.

As the Wordle fervour continues it’s difficult to say whether this trend is around to stay or if it will join other quarantine-based fads in a forgotten corner of the internet in another few weeks’ time. Personally, I find the website to be challenging to my vocabulary in both a fun and entertaining way. If more people are inspired by it to make educational, ad-free and addictive web games in future as opposed to the latest CandyCrush, the internet will be all the better for it.

Image courtesy of Towfiqu Barbhuiya

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