Why Is Wordle so Successful?

Wordle 245 6/6







Seen that before?

Even if you're not on social media, it's hard to escape posts about Wordle, a simple word game that developed a chokehold on the internet seemingly overnight. You play Wordle by visiting this site and entering a five-letter word into the first row of tiles. Once you submit your word, the tiles flip over one by one to reveal either a green, yellow, or gray background on each tile. If the tile is green, then you have the right letter in the right spot for that word; if the tile is yellow, you have the right letter but in the wrong spot, and if the tile is gray, then that letter isn't anywhere in the word. You continue to guess words until you run out of guesses on your sixth attempt. Here's my Wordle result the day this blog post went live:

Using the above example, I tried SOLER for my first guess. I got the S position right and found out that there was at least one L in the word, but discovered that O, E, and R, some of the most common letters in five letter words, weren't in this one. I then proceeded to guess until I got the word, SWILL, on my last attempt. So, now that you know what Wordle is, it's time to discuss why it became so popular.

Its balance of simplicity and complexity plays a large part. It's easy to play Wordle: anyone who can read and write can play. But it's not as simple as meets the eye ― for those who prefer more challenging puzzles, the game theory behind how to guess and which words to guess proves challenging. The beauty of Wordle is that you can make it as easy or as difficult as you want, with more casual players throwing out random guesses and dedicated players developing strategies to guess as accurately as possible.

Another factor is restricted playtime. The official Wordle site only lets you play once a day, so you have to wait 24 hours to try again. By limiting you to one play a day, the game actually keeps you more engaged than if you could play whenever you want. If you win, you're motivated to keep your streak alive the next day and if you lose, you're incentivized to make it up with a win tomorrow ― it's the classic trap of loot boxes and daily streaks in gaming apps, but without financial consequences.

Lastly, despite these intrinsic draws, social media is the primary reason why Wordle took off. The mystique of the colored boxes draws you in, you're invested by the ability to share your results with a single click, and constantly seeing others' results on your feed motivates you to beat their scores the next day. It's addictive ― but it's also fun and harmless. As long as it stays that way, you'll continue to see those green and yellow colored boxes on your social apps.


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Photo Credit: Associated Press