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The Word on Wordle

By Disha Chakraborty

Recently, the browser word game Wordle has taken the world by storm. On November 1, 2021, only 90 people played the game, and within three months, that number rose to over 300,000 daily players, with a jump to millions of daily players.

Wordle is a word guessing game, and the objective is to guess a five letter word within six tries. Following the input of a word by a player, each individual letter of the word is highlighted in one of three colors: dark gray, green or yellow. Dark gray signifies that the letter is not in the answer, yellow means that the letter is in the answer, although is not placed in the correct spot and green means that the letter is in the answer, as well as in the correct position. When the inputted word is highlighted in all green, that means that the word has been guessed correctly. Every day, a new five letter word is chosen for the player to guess.

Source by Kristen Schneider

Students enthusiastically engage in a game of Wordle in the cafeteria, whether it be to discuss that day's Wordle or to work together on how to solve it.

Wordle was created by a former Reddit employee and software engineer who is most known for creating Reddit’s “the button” named Josh Wardle, as a gift to his partner. In an interview with the BBC, Mr. Wardle stated that “last year my partner and I got into crosswords, and I wanted a game for us to play each morning as a part of our daily routine.” The name Wordle came from a play on Wardle’s last name. Eventually, Wardle began sharing Wordle with his friends which quickly became an obsession in his Whatsapp group chats. In October 2021, Josh Wardle released Wordle to the public.

“Wordle is unreasonably popular, since all there is to do is to guess a five letter word in six attempts,” eighth grader Allen Yuan said.

The point on Wordle made by Yuan is one which is shared by many other individuals. The popularity of Wordle can be credited to two things: the restrictions on how much the game could be played and social media. The game restricts that player from playing for very long. “It’s something that encourages you to play for 3 minutes a day, and that’s it. Like it doesn't want any more of your time then that,” said Wardle in an interview with The New York Times. The game is enjoyable and leaves players wanting for more. To be able to play more, players are forced to play the next day. This keeps players coming back every day for more. The lack of advertisements on the game further makes the user experience more positive.

Social media is also a large factor in the rise of Wordle. Many Twitter users have been sharing the results of their game through the use of square emoji grids. It allows for others to see how this user performed in the game without having the answer spoiled. This trend led to many Twitter users, unfamiliar to the game, to question the emoji grids and, eventually, finding Wordle. On December 16, 2021, Wardle announced to his Twitter of the inclusion of a share button, stating that “added a share button to Wordle that generates a spoiler-free emoji grid to you.”

Sometime around late January of 2021, it was announced that Wordle was to be purchased by The New York Times. According to the New York Times company statement, “The Times remains focused on becoming the essential subscription for every English-speaking person seeking to understand and engage with the world, and New York Times Games are a key part of that strategy.” By adding Wordle, the Times leads Wordle’s millions of daily players to the its website.

“New York Time Games play a big part in its origins [Wordle], and so this step feels very natural to me,” said Wardle in a NYT company statement. An icon to the upper left corner of Wordle leads people to a list of other New York Times games which, after playing, might influence players to purchase a subscription to New York Times games.

The purchase of Wordle by the New York Times received a great amount of backlash from fans of the game. Many players were upset by the possibility of Wordle being put behind a paywall, forcing users into purchasing the game, although so far there have not been any statements confirming this happening. As of now, Wordle is free to play. Following the purchase, players were also upset that Wordle had become harder, although this was not the case. To prevent the game from being too difficult and filled with obsolete words, Wardle had his partner sort through the 13,000 five letter English words to choose only the words that she was familiar with, shortening that list to about 2,500 words. The New York Times purchase of the game did not affect the source code of the game.

Following the popularity of Wordle, many variations to the game were introduced by creators independent to the original creators of Wordle. Some of the popular variations include Dortle (seven tries to simultaneously guess two words) and Quordle (nine tries to simultaneously guess four words). However, not all variations included guessing words. Nerdle is a variation to Wordle which gives the player six tries to figure out an eight symbol long math equation with numbers and operations.

“Sometimes in AP Euro, we play the geography variations of Wordle. We’d play Globle at the beginning of class if the answer was a European country or a colonial power,” social studies teacher Dr. D’Orsogna said.


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