What Is Wordle, And Why Are So Many People On Social Media Playing It?

I have a confession to make. I am one of those people crowding your social media feeds with odd-looking, colorful grids lit up with green squares and a series of numbers around them.

I am a Wordle nerd and am unapologetic about my addiction. (OK, I am a tiny bit sorry for being partly responsible for clogging up your timelines.)

So, what the heck is the deal with Wordle? What is it and how does a simple game that requires everyone to guess a singular, shared word each day become a trending topic daily on Facebook and Twitter?

The answer to that might be harder to figure out than winning the game.

Sure, there are experts who have deep opinions about why this puzzle game has gone viral in recent weeks.

For me, Wordle is about the experience and the feelings that come from playing it. Yes, I used to be an English teacher — another notch in my nerd belt — but Wordle seems to have captured the attention of more than the typical word-nerd types.

What Is Wordle?

Wordle is a free-to-play online game that can be played on a computer or smartphone.  The concept, like many of the best games, is simple: guess a five-letter word in six attempts or less.  There’s a new word every 24 hours and everyone has to guess the same word.

Players start with a grid of 30 empty squares and begin by entering a word.

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If the word you guess has a correct letter in the correct place, that square turns green. Any guessed letters that are in the word of the day but are in the wrong spot will see their square turn yellow, telling you that in your next guess you should try that letter in another spot. Meanwhile, letters that are completely wrong will see their square turn grey.

Players continue to try to figure out the word, using the hints provided by the colors, through a combination of the process of elimination, general knowledge of the construction of words and, somedays, just plain luck. You win the game if you guess the word within six tries.

You’re probably now saying, “That’s all?”

Yes, it’s that simple but there’s a kind of magic that happens within the game. Here’s what draws me back into Wordle every day.

You Only Play Once Every 24 Hours

Good things are worth the wait, right?

Once you play the game and either win or lose, that’s your only chance for the entire day. You can’t keep trying or move mindlessly on to the next level after watching an ad, as many of the online games you’ve wasted time with operate.

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In a world where binging television shows or playing endless smartphone games can be a true time suck — and believe me, I fall down those rabbit holes — I love that Wordle only takes a few minutes of my day.

Each afternoon, usually during my lunch break, is when I play Wordle. It gives me something to look forward to each day that engages my brain. As someone who works from home and is online most of the day, it’s a welcome distraction that doesn’t make me feel guilty.

Wordle Encourages (Mostly) Harmless Competition

Those grids you see posted on Facebook every day showcase a player’s score. It tells the world how many guesses it took for the player to identify the word of the day — or if they tanked and need to wait another 24 hours before facing the next Wordle challenge.

As someone who is known to be a bit competitive, I like challenging myself to see how few moves I need to win the game. I enjoy it when I have a winning streak going. And, yes, I admit to comparing myself with others on my timeline to see how I stack up. But, the cool thing about Wordle is that I don’t get too upset when someone outguesses me. I look at their grid and wonder, “How did they do that in only two guesses?”

This leads me to the final reason why I love Wordle: strategy.

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Players Love Talking About Wordle Strategies

“What is your favorite Wordle starter?”

I’ve been asked that question by fellow Wordle players and it’s the source of much discussion. A good first-word choice (one that uses a good combination of vowels and common consonants) can make or break a player’s chance of winning each day.

How often do we get a chance to talk about something on social media that is not related to the pandemic or politics? Not enough, I believe. Whether someone loves the game just for the quick diversion it provides or loves to dive a little deeper into our language’s patterns and quirks, it’s a nice escape from the craziness that awaits you around each corner online.

For the record, my first Wordle guess each day is “reaps.”

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Sure, Wordle is trendy and might annoy some people because it’s everywhere. But, let us word nerds have our momentary time in the viral spotlight. We’re pretty harmless and just having some fun. It’s not like we’re telling anyone to eat laundry detergent!

Do you play Wordle? What is your strategy?