Wordle: Why A Simple Word Game Went Viral
It all started on Twitter.
Going into the first few weeks of 2022 and it seemed like everything is turning out to be the same as it was for the past two years of the pandemic- people cooped up at home, with nothing but their computers and phones for company.
But when posts featuring images made up of rows of yellow and green squares started cropping up on people's Twitter feeds, the rest of the world was intrigued. What are these posts about? What do they all mean?
Here Comes Wordle
As it turns out, the posts were coming from this curious little game called Wordle. Lots of folks fell head over heels in love with this simple game, and the posts were them sharing how much guesses they needed to go through to solve the puzzle.
The premise is simple: everyday there is a 5-letter word, and you are given six guesses with which to guess it right. The game provides you with hints as you go- it colors letters that are in the word but not in the right place with yellow, and correct letters that are in the correct places with green.
Despite the simplicity of the mechanics, the game instantly garnered a following of millions of players all around the world. Games that went viral almost instantly aren't exactly a rarity in this day and age (think of Flappy Bird, Temple Run, or Among Us), but Wordle particularly stands out because it is unlike any of those earlier viral games.
Why Did Wordle Go Viral
Wordle started from humble beginnings. It was initially a pandemic project of software engineer Josh Wardle, who made the game (from a prototype he had earlier shelved way back in 2013) for his partner who liked word puzzles. Upon good feedback from his partner as well as his relatives and friends, Wardle continued to share the Wordle website with others. Ninety players played Wordle on November 1, 2021, and just two months later on January 2, 2022, the number of active players jumped to 300,000.
There are a few reasons why Wordle went viral so fast. Here are some of them:
No Need for Special Equipment
Unlike those earlier viral games like Among Us, Candy Crush, or Flappy Bird, you don't need to download anything when it comes to Wordle. The game isn't an app that you can get from the App Store or the Google Play Store, it runs just on the browser. If you have Google Chrome or Firefox on your device, then you can run the game. It runs on all internet-connected platforms, on all devices (e.g. desktop PCs, laptops, smartphones).
No Commitment to Keep Playing
With Wordle, you only have one word to guess per day. Though some don't like this limitation, this mechanic actually helps with the game's longevity. There's no need to spend hours on the game to enjoy it. There's no need to replay levels just because you died on one stage or you want your run to go as smoothly as possible. All you need to do is solve that one puzzle and you're on your way. This also forces players to expectantly wait for tomorrow's puzzle.
There's a Sense of Community
Everybody's solving the same puzzle. If it's a particularly hard puzzle, everybody shares the struggle of solving it. This builds a sense of community among Wordle's players. When you play it, it feels like you have millions of people playing the game with you and experiencing the same struggle as you do.
The sharing of the guesses on Twitter is also a great way to build a sense of community among its players. It can be incredibly fun to see how better (or worse) you are compared to other players when guessing a puzzle.
Released at the Right Time
Wordle was released just at the start of the second year of the pandemic. Most people are stuck at home, and are having a hard time keeping track of the days as they go by. Wordle, with its numbered puzzles, keep people grounded and anchors them to whatever day of the week it is. It gave its players something fun to look forward to each day.